Autumn in the Forbidden City

HongLei1

Hong Lei, Autumn in the Forbidden City: Eastern Veranda, 1997

HongLei2

Hong Lei, Autumn in the Forbidden City: Western Veranda, 1997

There is a eerie nostalgia to Hong Lei’s pair of photographs, Autumn in the Forbidden City: Western Veranda and Autumn in the Forbidden City: Eastern Veranda. In both images, the dark, mangled corpse of a bird, draped in long strands of jade and pearl, is sprawled in the foreground. Rust red columns stand behind the bejeweled roadkill, serving as silent witnesses to the bird’s death. The hazy, monolithic silhouette of the Forbidden City looms in the background. The photographs appear vintage, with their scratches, bleached background colors, and symbols of an ancient empire. Yet the blood-red ink splashes, violently splattered onto the surfaces, give the photos a sense of immediacy. Decaying luxury and power, embodied by the Forbidden City in autumn, is juxtaposed with the eternal, imminent fact of death. These photographs serve as chilling reminders on this chilly autumn day here in our own city.

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