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Photographer Scans Every Item He Consumes Over 14 Years, Builds Astonishing Collages

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My Things No.5, 2005

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My Things, Booking Keeping of 2007-08

Since 2001, Beijing-based photographer Hong Hao has been recording every single item that passes through his fingers over the course of each day, those he uses and those he discards. In a practice that he describes as a form of “bookkeeping,” he scans each object one by one, saves the images, and returns to them once more to weave them together into labyrinthine digital collages.

Hong Hao’s My Things was born of the artist’s curiosity about modern living and consumption; it became his way of stepping back from and appraising the detritus that accrued throughout his routine. He saves each individual image file until he has amassed enough to make a collage; from there, he will arrange them by type or by shape. Each composited vision, he suggests, becomes an index of the extraneous goods have become enmeshed in the fabric of our existence; from even the time he began the project until now, our lives have become more fueled by the unquenchable thirst for “stuff.”

Though they are doubtlessly aesthetically pleasing, there’s an anxiety in Hong Hao’s painstaking compositions. The photographer’s obsessive commitment to holding onto and documenting these peripheral objects yields images that are at once ordered and frenetic, hypnotic and disorienting. My Things isn’t the collection of a compulsive or a hoarder; quite the opposite, the artist admits that he has no special emotional ties to the items he scans. For Hong Hao, archiving his goods has become a way to contemplate himself and his rituals in a detached and clinical way, of re-evaluating what’s essential and what is not. It is, he says, “like a yogi’s daily practice.”

Hong Hao is represented by PACE Beijing.

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My Things, Book Keeping of 2004-05

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My Things No.7, 2004

All images © Hong Hao

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