For The Bearable, photographer Zhe Chen documents her own struggle with self-harm, constructing an indexical account of her years’ long experience with the addiction. When the artist was compelled to share her private lamentations publicly, she found her confession became an escape from isolation.
Where patterns of self-harm are normally kept confidential and closely-guarded, Chen breaks the silence. In asking that we confront her hidden trauma, she invites us to ask the same questions that she has battled with in solitude. Decontextualized from the moments in which they were borne, Chen’s wounds evidence her pain without offering any easy answers. Here,
Decontextualized from the moments in which they were borne, Chen’s wounds evidence her pain without offering any easy answers. Here, slow-burning impulses are frozen within a single instant, and frenzied emotions are condensed into rectangular frames.
The Bearable sees Chen’s injuries in a way that is both intimate and detached– we see her body but rarely her face. In this way, the series avoids making definite claims, opting instead for a heightened ambiguity that draws us ever more deeply into her reality, where she no longer stands alone.
The Bearable is now on view at Unseen Photo Fair.
All images © Zhe Chen