October 29, 2012  |  Artists, Collection & Exhibitions
New Photography 2012: Birdhead

In the audio slideshow above, the Shanghai-based artists Ji Weiyu and Song Tao, who work together under the collective name Birdhead, talk about their installation in MoMA’s New Photography 2012 exhibition.

I first saw Birdhead’s work in the 2011 Venice Bienale. It was a large installation of snapshot-like color and black-and-white photographs of the artists, their friends, and their life in their hometown of Shanghai. In contrast to technologically complicated and over-produced photographic works that take on the scale and ambition of painting, Birdhead’s installation seemed fresh, raw, vibrant, and young. I was intrigued—who was Birdhead?

Birdhead. Image from The Song of Early Spring. 2012. Gelatin silver print. Image: 35 7/16 x 42 1/2″ (90 x 108 cm). Courtesy the artists and ShanghART Gallery, Shanghai. © 2012 Birdhead

Ji Weiyu and Song Tao have worked as Birdhead since 2004. Their work has always been rooted in their hometown—they capture facets of a fast-changing metropolis, the lives of their friends and community, and fleeting moments as they unfold. They do not distinguish who makes which picture; both artists compulsively photograph on the streets and in dwellings and come together to edit the pictures to form large grids. They also print their own photographs and publish books. For them, images are a language unto themselves. In Birdhead’s world, no one image is elevated above the rest. Rather, an accumulation of images speaks to lived experiences. While Birdhead’s work is rooted in the here and the now of present-day Shanghai, we can all recognize our own experiences in these passing moments.

New Photography 2012 is on view in MoMA’s third-floor Photography galleries through February 4, 2013.