Junli Chen’s series Richard is about school bullying and corporal punishment. Unusually presented as pranks, the objects he photographs are allusions to his personal anecdotes at the Guangzhou boarding school in southern China where he stayed for twelve years. Whether it’s bottles of coca cola filled with urine, snacks prohibited in class or the pillow planted with needles, each of his objects tells a dark story whose gravity the artist prefers to minimize.
The use of colors in the artist’s work reflects his personal situation as color blind, he discusses his meeting with a professor who, without scruples, reminds the artist it’s a barrier to enter a university of art in China and to flourish. He refers to the American photographers Neil Winokur and Christopher Williams who offer ambiguous photographs which beyond the industrial and commercial aspect can leave room for many questions.
Two traumatic stories best represent the Richard series. The first concerns a girl who gave birth in the dormitory and threw her baby out of the window for fear that the cruel supervisor of the dormitory would see the scene. The second story took place in middle school. He recounts the time when his roommates urinated on his bed and the failure of his supervisor. This episode calls into question the education system in China which makes the superiors responsible and minimizes the malicious acts of the students and their damage.
Victim of abuse during his youth and rejection by his peers, Junli Chen does not advocate activism in itself but just wants to tell his story through strong and childish images in bright colours.