“[Leong’s] History Images frames the tragic beauty resulting from global modernism’s disdain for history and evinces all that recurs in Leong’s other works, including a series of oil paintings: the loss of historical space, the nuances and specificities of cities around the world, and the hierarchies represented by urban architecture.”
The Artist on his work from a lecture series at ICP.
“The photographs in History Images are of histories, in the form of cities in China, either being destroyed or created at this juncture in time. They are of past histories, in the form of traditional buildings and neighborhoods, urban fabrics, and natural landscapes, in the process of being erased…
…They are of the absence of histories, in the form of construction sites, built upon an erasure of the past so complete that one would never know a past had ever existed. And they are of the anticipation of future histories, yet to unfold, in the form of newly built cities…
Cities are the largest, most enduring, and most encompassing documents of history, uniquely recording the variations and residues of time.
Substantial urban change is generally expected to span over prolonged periods: decades, generations, centuries. The evidence of these changes is usually gradual and cumulative; residues of history are slowly left in built form, giving physical shape to the accretions of time.
There are moments in history, however, that accelerate the rate of urban change: warfare, changes of regime, transformations of social structure, economic prosperity. These moments force societies to evaluate their relationship to their own history and their attitude to their future, in turn affecting their relationship to their environments.
China presently finds itself in one of these moments, as its recent transformations in politics, society, and economics have triggered changes to its cities to a degree not previously seen in its contemporary history. . .” — Sze Tsung Leong