• REN HANG interview

    Written by Mari Florer

    REN HANG: “Everybody is the same but different”

    When I met with Ren Hang, he had been in Sweden for four days, preparing for the opening of his current exhibition; HUMAN LOVE , at The Swedish Museum of Photography (Fotografiska), in Stockholm, (17.02.17 - 02.04.17).
    Sadly, he took his own life just over a month shy of his 30th birthday,on February 23, 2017. This was less than one week after I said goodbye and wished him a pleasant trip to Berlin, where he was making a pitstop before headed hometown, Beijing, where his last days would be spent.

    Hang caught me a little off guard at first with a cheeky one-liner that I normally would take offence to, as we were taking off our never ending layers of winter clothes, he says to me, “It feels that we should have sex right now”. Breaking the ice with some giggles, I felt like we both experienced the initial connection like a kind of ritual. I have read that Hang is shy, but this was not the impression I got - and of course not when one sees his art.

    Presumably, his humour and mischievousness is one of the reasons why he was always surrounded by friends wherever he went in the world. Apparently, it was hard to get bored in his assembly. Many of his friends participated as models in his artwork, if you look at the pictures they are quite captivating and provocative, you can tell that he is connected on more than just a superficial level with his subject(s).

    Some of the photos in HUMAN LOVE are more existential, showing naked bodies in front of nature. Others are more conceptual and direct, with rhythm and forms. Hang’s more controversial images are not in this exhibition, perhaps to cater to a wider audience or due to censorship issues in Sweden at such a public venue.

    I understand why Hang preferred to work with his friends, it’s hard to direct someone you are unfamiliar with to perform like he wanted. In some of his pictures it feels like his friends were like his second family - their relation feels warm and intimate with love - HUMAN LOVE.

    Hang did not like to place his art in contexts, so it was difficult to get him to talk about his art. He explained it like this:

    “People are different. Even if I tell you that this is my finger you don´t think the same. Everybody see everything different and we all experience it individual. Everybody is the same but different.”

    I am grateful I had the chance to meet such a talented artist. We met six days before his death, as I read our my notes over, I can't help but to keep thinking, this very well may be the last interview he gave. He didn't seem depressed, he could have been hiding it well, like many people who struggle with depression. He was so alive.

    Interview with Ren Hang, February 17, 2017. Rest In Peace.

    MB: I’m so curious, tell me a little about your family life.
    RH: I have answered this question so many times. My family is a normal family and I´m the only child. My parents are not artists or anything, they have normal jobs.

    MB: Are you happy with the exhibition at the Fotografiska?
    RH: The Museum have been curated HUMAN LOVE almost all by them self. I think it’s good - I like it. Otherwise, I would have changed it.

    MB: Can you tell me about the idea of the exhibition?
    RH: The idea comes from The Swedish Museum of Photography. Not me.

    MB: So, you think I should ask them?
    RH: Yes. (laughs) It’s a really good question that I don´t need to answer.

    MB: Are you always looking for models?
    RH: Always.

    MB: What kind of models are you looking for right now?
    RH: I don´t know. I just use my feeling. Nothing else.

    MB: You must get sent a lot of pictures sent to you.
    RH: Yes, a lot of pictures, everyday! I get 2 to 10 every day from all over, not just asian countries.

    MB: Do you reach out to any of them?
    RH: No, I just look at the pictures - it´s very easy. Maybe I choose 1 of 100. I shoot my friends or friends of friends most of the time. I am more comfortable with photographing friends.

    MB: What kinds of things do they write to you?
    RH: It´s very simple. Name, phone number and: Hey, I want be a model... Some of them write: I love your work and I want to be a part of it…

    MB: Can you tell me a little bit about the creative process behind your photos?
    RH: I never plan before I shoot. I choose a place that looks nice, from a feeling that I get. Sometimes, I have been at the same place before and return to the same spot because I think it´s beautiful. I decide how the models are going to be shaped in my images.

    MB: Do you memorise the places you've been that you like for future projects?
    RH: Yes. I usually try to remember places I like, but unfortunately I forget sometimes.

    MB: How much time do you put into a photo project? How long does it take to shoot a typical project of yours? Hours, days?
    RH: I don´t really think about it, because I don´t work for anyone except myself and my friends. If the photograph is not good, we don´t care. If it´s really good, we don’t care. It´s just a shoot. It all depends on me or my friends mood. If we shoot one hour and we get tired we go and eat or drink and it's over. If we are happy and have a lot of energy,10 hours of working is not a problem.

    MB: I have read that you think that erect penises are beautiful and powerful.
    RH: It´s a half joke and half real. I consider that everybody thinks the same when they having sex with someone. I base it on the reaction of human beings.

    MB: Do you think the same way about vaginas?
    RH: Yes. Open pussy or erected dick, it’s the same.

    MB: Who likes your photos and who invests in them?
    RH: For now, the public collectors, like museums.

    MB: Are you selling your pictures here?
    RH: I do not know. It hasn’t been discussed yet.

    MB: Would you like to sell them?
    RH: I don´t care. If I´m selling that's good because I get money, so why not? If I don´t sell, we have a beautiful exhibition.

    MB: Have you been arrested creating of your art?
    RH: No, but I have learned how to run.

    MB: Are you not scared?
    RH: For now I´m not scared. In the beginning I was a little bit scared. Once, when I was in New York, someone was calling the police. If you get caught in N.Y. you could never come back into the country. But, I ran!

    MB: There is an exhibition here in Stockholm with Ai Wei Wei, at Gallery Forsblom. He has curated one of your earlier exhibitions. How was it to work with him?
    RH: It was easy to work with him. We had a meeting at his place and he said that he loved my work.

    MB: Why did he loved your pictures?
    RH: I didn´t ask. Maybe because I´m good? (laughs) No, I really don´t know.

    MB: When are you going home?
    RH: To China, on the 21st of February.

    MB: What are you going to do until then?
    RH: I´m going to Berlin to dance. I like dancing.

    MB: What kind of music do you like to dance to?
    RH: Techno

    MB: Berlin has such an amazing nightlife scene! Where are you going to go dance?
    RH: Techno at Berghain!

    MB: How would you like people to interpret your photography?
    RH: I don´t want to decide how one should see my photography, and I don’t care if you decide or not. I haven´t lived my whole life for this exhibition, it is only two months of my life - everything will be gone.

    MB: What´s your next project?
    RH: Staying alive.

    MB: Do you want to be alive?
    RH: I wish I would.

  • photography by PATRICK DEMARCHELIER used with the permission of the 

    Condé Nast Publications Ltd. model CAROLINE TRENTINI (September 2007)

    FOTOGRAFISKA Patrick Demarchelier Lumière

    Written by Chelsea Porter

    The Fotografiska is currently showcasing the 50 years old collection of Patrick Demarcheliers remarkable career. The timeless, classic portraits and fashion photography from royalty, actors, musicians and models- all of them have been captured by his friendly gaze and skilled craftsmanship. 

    Lumière Photographic February 24 to May 14 

  • photography by FABIO PALEARI

    Greta Bellamacina is the Queen of Broken Magic

    Written by Mari Florer


    She writes poetry and directs films. She runs the publishing house The New River Press and is currently the new face of the cult British fashion brand: John Smedley.

    Meet the contemporary Greta Bellamacina - the London-born woman who is trying, in her own creative way, to change the world for both women and poetry.

    As a child she spent a lot of time on film sets. When she was thirteen years old, she had her first acting role in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Five years later she was discovered as a model in a lift whilst she was working as an intern at US Vogue. She has modelled for both Burberry and Stella McCartney and collaborated with Vivienne Westwood on a poetry project to help Climate Control.

    This is just the surface of Greta Bellamacina’s world. Her passion for the society and literature just seems to continue to grow more and there are new interesting projects going on right now.

    MB: Where do you live?
    GB: I live in London in Fitzrovia right underneath the BT Tower.

    MB: What’s happening in your life right now?
    GB: I am currently in the pre-production process of making two new feature films which I have been writing over the past year, entitled “Hurt by Paradise” and “Nothing’s Ideal”. Both films draw on the female position in society today. I am really excited to start filming.

    I am also doing a series of poetry readings to promote my new collection “Pershing Tame”.  Last year I did a book tour, performing around Europe and the U.S., reading at The Shakespeare & Company, The Groucho, The Chateau Marmot, Ace Hotel, Neue House and The Albion Beatnik bookshop and others.

    MB: How would your partner or best friend describe you?
    GB: Queen of broken magic.

    MB: Do you like being a mother? Has it changed you in some way?
    GB: I feel incredibly connected to other women. I think as an artist you always want to connect emotionally with everything you make. I have been overwhelmed by the new depth of emotion of having a child.

    MB: You are running a publishing house. Is it a lot of work?
    GB: Yes, The New River Press - it is truly a labour of love. Last year we published our first set of poems, I particularly love Robert Montgomery´s debut collection “Coltash” and Rosalind Jana’s collection “Branch and Vein”.

    MB: Any special book or project going on?
    GB: I just launched “Smear” a collection of contemporary female poetry which I edited. There doesn’t seem to be anything quite comparable in the poetry world. I didn’t feel there was a comfortable place for young women in their teens and early twenties to voice their thoughts, their politics, and their emotions through poetry. I think there really isn’t anything. I found it frustrating myself growing up and I know a lot of poets who get disheartened early on. So I wanted this collection to be open to first time poets. I did an open call on New River Press Instagram and we got hundreds of submissions, I chose the best 20 or so and added about 10 established poets that I already knew. The book is really there to discover and encourage new voices.

    MB: What do you think defines a contemporary poet of today?
    GB: I think like any time it´s about discussing the world you live in now. It´s about staying true to your authentic voice. Not being afraid to cause a riot.

    MB: Could you mention one female contemporary poet we must read?
    GB:One of my favourite poets is Alice Oswald, I especially love her collection Darts. Her writing is so closely connected to nature. She uses images of the world to reflect a group human mind.

    MB: What poem you wrote are you most proud of? What is it about?
    GB:I think it has to be my most recent poem. This Christmas I wrote a poem called “Dartmoor Wedding Song”, it's a meditation on the British landscape in winter.

    Here it is:

    “Dartmoor wedding song
    Dartmoor came with a low fog
    ancient gods all sleeping between
    the sky and the clouds,
    the same as the bed we woke up in
    slopping downwards, a room made for the fallen
    the last breath of a flower
    hung in the direction of rain song

    The air of god dreams roped in the wind
    shaking the locking shadow organs
    making the daytime observe its place to the sun.
    the last land to bewitch
    the trees and groan out the gut of broken stars
    which sit silently on the side of the road still stung,
    free angels, ebony bird tombs

    born again to moors, forking the heartlands
    washing in the mystery of love
    and the ferrying images of you pushing the pram
    up the hill towards me, barely a shape
    grappling with this idea of distance
    in the communism of Sundays
    and the abandonment of paradise.”

    MB: How do you think a modern future library looks like?
    GB: I wrote and directed “The Safe House: A Decline of Ideas” a documentary about the decline of the British public libraries. Whilst filming I discovered that rather than replacing libraries with central libraries we need to keep them local. We need to have a curated cannon of books for all age groups. The future library is a temple of learning, a place for self-education.

    The film is available to watch online with Curzon Home Cinema.

    MB: Are you still working as a model?
    GB: Yes, I am currently signed to VIVA MODEL MANAGEMENT in London and Paris. They represent me on their talent board.

    MB: Which job as a model (or actor If you prefer) do you remember the most? Why?
    GB: At the age of eighteen I got into the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. I have really special memories of performing the bride in “The Blood Wedding” by Federico Garcia Lorca. It was the first time I really felt completely at home.

    MB: Are you going to Paris or London Fashion Week 2017? In case you do, do you have any favorite designer you specially like?
    GB: Yes, I will be going to Paris to support the Each X Other fashion show. I did a collaboration with them last year. My boyfriend, artist/poet Robert Montgomery has collaborated on their new show, entitled- “The City is Magical Sculpture of The Group Mind”.

    MB: What’s in your wardrobe? What sort of garments or labels?
    GB: Turkish born designer Dilara Findikoglu - everything she makes is a piece of art. I also love The Vampire’s Wife and Shrimps.

    MB: If you could change one thing in the fashion world tomorrow - what would that be?
    GB: A lot of clothes on the high-street are made in sweatshops with child labour. I think this needs to urgently change.