Confusing Public and Private:The 3rd Beijing Photo Biennial

  • Dates:2018-09-28 - 2018-11-28
  • Opening:
  • Organizer(s): CAFA Art Museum
  • Co-Organizer: The Curatorial Committee of the 2018 Beizhen International Photography Festival
  • General Consultant: Fan Di’an
  • Curatorial Directors: Wang Huangsheng, Zhang Zikang
  • Curatorial Team: Hans de Wolf, Cai Meng, Ângela Ferreira, He Yining


Mission and Purpose

“The Beijing Photo Biennial” has received wide attention and recognition in the art industry and related fields, with its previous two successful exhibitions of “Aura and Post-Aura” and  “Unfamiliar Asia”. As one of the brand exhibitions of CAFA Art Museum, this eve... More

Mission and Purpose

“The Beijing Photo Biennial” has received wide attention and recognition in the art industry and related fields, with its previous two successful exhibitions of “Aura and Post-Aura” and  “Unfamiliar Asia”. As one of the brand exhibitions of CAFA Art Museum, this event aims to examine the constant participation of photography in contemporary cultural narrative and the construction of new artistic orders and patterns, since it is regarded as a unique medium and carrier of intervention and application as well as a constantly self-renewing form. We hope to draw on Western classics and cutting-age photographic resources worldwide to discover and support potentially talented young photographers in China, encouraging them to explore the language of photography and expand their ideas; we also hope to make contribution to the development of Chinese photography by promoting and enhancing the influence and recognition of contemporary Chinese photography to a higher level in the international art circles.

This year’s biennial is planned as part of the “thematic exhibition” of the first Beizhen International Photography Festival and will be held simultaneously at the Cultural Industry Center of Beizhen city in Liaoning province and the CAFA Art Museum. Nearly 1000 works of about 80 artists from around the world will be displayed in the exhibition, and a series of academic seminars, forums, art talks and public education activities will be organized at the same time. The CAFA Art Museum will continue to bring advanced modes of thinking and organization from contemporary cultural and artistic circles into the field of photography and image art in China, in an attempt to enhance its cultural depth, academic range, quality of communication and degree of internationalization. Characterized as comprehensive, contemporary, practical and routine, photography is used as a medium of visual expression. We hope to deliver and present the serious and in-depth thoughts of today’s photographers and artists on history, social reality, art and the self, and thus to inspire more people to reflect, recognize and explore photography again. Meanwhile, through this cultural cooperation with local government, we hope to explore a new kind of curatorial system that can make use of the social and public roles of university art museums to promote the cultural development and prosperity of the relatively less developed areas, and to build new brands and platforms for cultural and artistic communication of a new era.



As a newly emerging technology, medium and application, photography has always been associated with topics of publicity and privacy since it was invented. In the early days, photographers took essentially private pictures and viewed them in public spaces, while nowadays everyone can afford a camera phone and with mobile network and social media there appeared the demarcation of image, and in the time of constantly evolving visualization of data in contemporary art, photography has increasingly become an important medium that extends to, participate in, intervene with and helps build people’s public and daily lives. Thus, the public and private characters of photography continue to conflict, confront, integrate and spread between real and virtual spaces, and this constantly changes people’s ways of expression, relationships, behavioral habits while filling up our public and private living spaces. Eventually, with the extensive involvement of photography, public and private spaces, the boundaries between the individual and the group, and the “others” and  “I” are reconstructed and redefined. During the process of these changing relationships, photography interacts and resonates in new ways with a lot of important factors such as history, reality, religion, philosophy, civilization, war, science & technology, politics and human emotions. In such a spatial-temporal environment where the public and the private are mixed, the modes of organization and thinking are extremely complex, and the atmosphere is full of a sense of ritual and absurdity, how can we start an adventure of thought – what kind of world is it? How is it related to us? It may be a Utopia or Dystopia, or even a Heterotopia or Protopia [1], and in their ideological and visual field, the way we deal with the relationship and expression of the public and private by photography will become our common goal that built on a relatively broad, distant and higher point, which is also the main point that inspired us to plan this exhibition. Therefore, this exhibition will center on photography as an interdisciplinary research field as well as its complex coexistence of the social, public and private, and it aims to explore the role and significance of photography in the tensional relationship between the public and the private.

It is worth pointing out that, by drawing on experience and reflect on the insufficiency from the first two photo biennials, the curatorial team hope to present a completely different exhibition this year, in an experimental and challenging way of organization and thinking based on the theme of “Confusing Public and Private”.

[1] Kwvin Kelly once pointed out: “the real Dystopia has nothing to do with the description of it in the movie ‘Mad Max’ and is more like the former Soviet Union: the world was not lawless but filled with overregulated bureaucracies……however, neither Dystopia or Utopia are our destinations: our real destination is ‘Protopia’, more precisely speaking, we have already arrived in a Protopia. A Protopia is not an end but a state of transformation, a process. In the mode of a Protopia, today is better than yesterday despite it just get a little bit better. It is a gradual process of improvement and a gentle form of progress.”


Curatorial team

Hans De Wolf (Belgium)

Professor Hans is engaged in Art History and Archeology studies at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and the Columbia University in New York. In 2002, he received his doctor’s degree with his innovative research on Marcel Duchamp’s work “The Large Glass”, which was regarded as one of the most complicated artworks in the 20th century. Hans also published relevant papers in many international magazines. He has worked as the curator at the Hamburger Bahnhof Museum and the Museum of Modern Art in Berlin for many years and has also given lectures at the Weißensee Kunst-Hochschule Berlin. In 2005, Hans established a doctoral program in Brussel Art –“The Platform” and was appointed as its general director. At the same time, he is also the senior advisor for the Palais des beaux-arts. He is currently preparing a large-scale exhibition of Jeff Wall and already published the related catalogue.

Cai Meng (China)

Cai Meng, Doctor of Aesthetics, is the vice dean of CAFA Art Museum’s research department, associate researcher, curator and associate editor of the magazine “University and Art Museum”. His Master and Doctor’s dissertations both focus on contemporary Chinese photography after 1976, and they explore the internal logic in the evolution of contemporary Chinese photography and the corresponding artistic thoughts and external cultural issues, from the perspective and research methods of art history studies. Cai has been involved in the curating of various exhibitions such as “The Third Guangzhou Photo Biennial”, “Spectacle and Gaze”, “100 Vintage Prints”, “CAFAM Future”, “The Beijing Photo Biennial”, “Contemporary Photography in China 2009-2014”, “Roger Baller: Theater of the Absurd”. In 2013, he established the “Linci Photography Research Grant”, the first of this kind in China and acted as its academic chair.

Ângela Ferreira (Portugal)

Ângela Ferreira, alias Berlinde, is a Portuguese artist and curator, currently is studying her doctor’s degree at the Universidade do Minho in Portugal and the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. Ângela is the co-founder of the Encontros Da imagem (The Portugal Photo Festival) in Braga, Portugal. Based on her professional background and expertise in the field of art photography, Ângela has been writing exhibition articles for various magazines, interviewed international artists, and introduce their works to Europe and Latin America, where she has been commissioned to create contemporary photography works and exhibitions, particularly in Brazil. Ângela is currently a part-time teacher at the Senior School of Media Arts and Design of the Instituto Politecnico do Porto, Portugal, and works in the field of mixed photography studies. She is also the artistic advisor of the Photographic Museum of Fortaleza in Brazil, and the director of the photography project at the department of cultural affairs of Ceará in Fortaleza. 

He Yining (China)

He Yining is a historian of photography and curator. She graduated from the London College of Communication, UAL and gained a Master degree in MA Photojournalism and Documentary Photography. Since 2010, she has been working on writing for photography, art, humanities-related columns and publications while working as a curator, editor and translator. She pays attention to photography as a practice that gets in and out freely in the art field and emphasizes its effectiveness, diversity and interdisciplinarity in responding to and proposing social issues of now and past. She has curated exhibitions for museums, galleries, art spaces and festivals in China and across Europe. In early 2014, she initiated the Go East Project, aiming to promote contemporary Chinese photography through blogs, exhibitions and publications, and helped young photographers to build international platforms of photography and explore the infinite possibilities of photography. Since 2016 she has been appointed as the artistic advisor of Brownie Art Photography.

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