Dinu Li - The Mother of All Journeys

Dinu Li

Dinu Li is a British based multi-discipline artist working across photography, video, installation, archives, found objects and performance. Throughout his practice, Li places himself in a variety of circumstances, responding to his immediate surroundings in an attempt to understand the many cultures he encounters. Li’s output offers a visceral reaction to the world around us within the context of the times we live in. He explores the nuances of the everyday – its many rituals, routines and patterns, in relation to local and global concerns. Recent works have been situated between modes of representation, the vernacular, specific geographic and historical contexts and the intersection between the personal and the political.

Li’s work has been exhibited internationally, including: the 53rd Venice Biennale; the 3rd Bucharest Biennale; the 2015 DongGang International Photography Festival, South Korea; Bildmuseet, Umea, Sweden; Oldenburger Kunstverein, Germany; Alternative Space Loop, Seoul, South Korea; Danielle Arnaud, London; Chalk Horse, Sydney through Para/Site Hong Kong; Petra Rietz Salon, Berlin; SVA, New York through Artprojx; Rivington Place, London; White Space 798, Beijing and Christian Roellin, Zurich.

He has undertaken residencies with OCAT in Shenzhen, China; ArtSway Production Residency in Hampshire and Chengdu, China; and a Cornerhouse and Space Artists Exchange Residency in Central Asia. His work has been included in publications such as ‘The Photobook: A History Volume III by Phaidon in 2014; The Chinese Art Book in 2013, also by Phaidon; whilst in 2007, his own monograph The Mother of All Journeys was voted in The Sunday Times by Martin Parr as one of ten most important international photography books that year. He has been a guest speaker for Tate Modern, the Victoria and Albert Museum, The British Museum and is Senior Lecturer of Photography at Falmouth University in the UK.

Dinu Li
Project Statement

The Mother of All Journeys

The Mother of All Journeys by Dinu Li, takes it’s inspiration from the memories of the artist’s own mother. Originally told as bed-time stories, his mother’s memories have since become Li’s memories. In 2001, Li worked in collaboration with her, using each other’s recollections as starting points. Embarking on many journeys together, they have attempted to exact the sites of her history. Comparing the actual with figments of their imagination, identifying old haunts transformed in time and the potential of discovering what remain fixed.

Dinu Li’s colour photographs teases out fragmented moments in time, charting rural traditions in a 1920’s China and of communist ideologies during the late 1940’s. Spanning two decades from the mid 50’s, Li turns his attention to a Hong Kong at a stage of transition, morphing from fishing villages into the beginnings of an urban metropolis. Under British administration, it was a time of sweatshops and western influences. And finally, Li focuses on Britain, from a family resettlement in the 70’s era of strikes and de-industrialisation, through to the start of the millennium, of multiculturalism and globalisation.

Aided by family snapshots and Li’s mother’s narration, The Mother of All Journeys triggers a sense of repetition and nostalgia, invoking glimpses of the times we live in. At the core of Li’s work, is a voyage into time, revealing what we remember of a place and what a place might remind us of. It is a sum of the many influences that shape our existence and how identities are formed. Sites loaded with life experiences, lying dormant, waiting to be excavated, examined and reclaimed.