by JC Gonzo
Starting out in theatre as a teen, Zhao Bing Bin dedicated a decade to performance before transitioning into self-portrait photography. Now 25, her role in front of her camera has taken center stage as she has quickly become one of Shanghai’s top young artists to follow.
Zhao Bing Bin, who chose the moniker “Mang” (Blind) to display her work under, focuses on the intimate being recreated in sterile conditions. Mang will manipulate the most minute of details in her studio set-ups allowing us to explicitly see aspects of her private life. Her identity presents itself as a sort of cross between the personal, diarist sense of Nan Goldin or Francesca Woodman and the self-iconization and role-playing of Cindy Sherman.
Mang’s exceptional sense of design and simple beauty makes for an irresistible body of work, catching the eyes of photo and art bloggers all over the world. I shot Mang a few questions via e-mail. Disclaimer – I am posting the interview in its original Chinese and its translation via Google.
01: Are these characters you embody real or fictional aspects of yourself?
My self-portraiture is strictly divided in two, an emotional catharsis which is simply my record. Many observe their surroundings, but I observe them as individuals with emotions in flux. My persona is a visual language represented in the photos. The other is fulfilling a variety of roles – images of autistic children, abandoned wildernesses, inflatable dolls often pop in my mind… Or when I want a sister, I play the sister. Playing the role I imagined is very interesting and enriching. Sometimes when I’m finished I’ll be reluctant to play her again.
02: Why did you leave theater for photography?
I love the theatre, to express yourself on stage. I loved to create a variety of roles and regard it to roles in daily life. I’ve always been a performer, but I lack the time. If I could freeze, it would be perfect. People would know more about me than myself. So I picked up a camera and can act anytime now, as long as the inspiration is fresh.
03: Does living in Shanghai influence your work?
Shanghai is too impulsive and noisy for me. Most of my work is very introverted and private, even with a sense of exclusion at times. This is very much me, like I live in the greater Shanghai environment. In Shanghai I’m weak and young, it’s better to feel lonely and humble. This is what I need.
04: Any other art forms you are exploring?
I like painting, although I draw bad. I still like to.
05: Which artists inspire you?
I have this bad habit… I remember photos that are so exciting I can’t breathe, but I can never remember the name of the photographer. One I do remember, which gives me hope, is Cindy Sherman.
Mang actively updates her site with new work. Keep posted at her website, viewable in English by clicking the top left-hand corner.