Chinese Happy Heads in Brussels

Exhibition “Chinese Happy Heads in Brussels”

Benoit+Bo (东波西波 in Chinese) are a true international collaboration, the fruit of two cultures, two sensitivities and two pasts. Benoit is French and Bo Chinese. Using their combined heritage, knowledge and worldviews they create hybrid, contemporary visions, a mix of Asia and Europe, China and France.

Benoit+Bo (东波西波) started contemporary photography in 2003. In their early works, they used different digital collages in their photographs to express not only the rapid changes ongoing in China but also individuals’ quest for identity in our modern society. For them, digital photography is a tool through which they can both express and reflect on the complexity of the needs of our contemporary world.

In order to preserve anonymity while bringing various cultural symbols to their pictures, Benoit+Bo use a large variety of make-up styles inspired for instance by the oriental Beijing Opera, but also by more western references such as clowns or even punk make-up.

In 2011, then on their way to participate to the Biennale di Alessandria on contemporary video and photography, they made a stopover in Hong Kong. While wandering in a street market close to their hotel, they discovered a stall selling big doll head masks, soon to become the “Chinese Happy Heads”. Both artists were immediately charmed by the doll heads’ warm and friendly expression. The heads naturally carried strong oriental features and connotations, and were easy to identify as part of Chinese folk culture. From then on, Benoit+Bo decided to use the “Chinese Happy Heads” instead of the usual makeup in their work. Later, in order to give a more modern appearance to the doll heads, they added colors and various patterns to them.

In 2015 Benoit+Bo moved their art studio from Shanghai to Brussels, and naturally came along the idea of taking pictures of the inhabitants of their new city wearing the “Chinese Happy Head” in their daily life. From the first pictures people were very enthusiastic, attracted by the visual effect arising from placing such symbol of strong oriental culture in a western daily life background.

The visual effect also comes from the expression of the “Chinese Happy Heads” themselves, who display a radiant smile just like we do when in front of the camera. The bodies of the participants naturally become one with the “Chinese Happy Heads” they wear, the overall impression is a conflict between this “natural” visual effect and our rational understanding.

This series of pictures brings both the public space and the private sphere into question. Indeed, today, social networks are omnipresent; our private space is becoming smaller and an increasing number of aspects of our personal life appears on this open digital space. Entering people’s home and taking pictures of their private space is a way of making it public, available for everyone to see. However, when wearing the “Chinese Happy Heads” anonymity can be preserved. At the same time, the absence of a recognizable face allows the viewers to concentrate on other details present in the picture, such as the body language of the person which can also reveal his or her personality.

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Exhibition:  Chinese Happy Heads in Brussels
From March 29th to April 21st 2017
Monday to Friday according to the opening hours of the Center.

The program is subject to change. Follow our Facebook page to stay tuned !