2017 – 2018
2017 – 2018
In collaboration with Amelie Kahn-Ackermann
Images and self-images of young Chinese women
in China's megacities
In our photos we show young women in the Chinese metropolis, for whom their appearance is the central theme of their lives. The work portrays a morbid plastic world that triggers alienation at first sight. At the same time, beneath the surface, the yearnings and loneliness of a generation are loneliness of a generation.
In dealing with external appearance, pragmatism prevails in Chinese society, as in many other areas of life. Beauty promises success in one's career and on the marriage market. The desire for a presentable appearance is not only an issue for the younger generation. It is not uncommon for parents to express concern that their child will have a hard time finding a partner because he or she is too ugly. External flaws, a broad face, bad skin or a thick nose, are addressed with a directness unthinkable in Western mores, not only to one's own children, but also to distant relatives and acquaintances. The external and self-imposed pressure to conform to current beauty ideals is particularly evident in China in the success of plastic surgery. In addition to countless official beauty clinics, semi-professional providers undercut each other with dumping prices for cosmetic surgery. This means that even less affluent Chinese women can afford an "Eiffel Tower nose," a slimmer face or heart-shaped lips. The cosmetics industry is booming at the same rate. Supposedly high-quality creams and tinctures are used to combat large pores and acne caused by air pollution and other environmental factors. Many Chinese women are willing to invest a large part of their fortune in cosmetics, because to this day pure, white skin is a status symbol.
Since the collapse of socialist ideals and the disappearance of an ideological structure regulating every area of the lives of Chinese citizens, there has been talk of a "vacuum of values" in China. Cultural uprooting, accompanied by globalization and rapid economic growth, has led many Chinese into a state of inner disorientation. The result is a lifestyle geared exclusively to earning money and consumption. The vacuum of values provides particularly fertile ground for the interplay of self-expression and self-alignment that is spread globally via social media. Social media has penetrated almost all areas of life in China and, especially for many young Chinese, constitutes a refuge and a second-order reality that is sometimes ascribed even more significance than the physically tangible world. The selfie is already included in all cosmetic interventions and changes. The lack of reverence in dealing with one's own appearance and that of others enables a fictitious marketing of the beauty cult and leads to an almost limitless mania for self-optimization.