Ting Cheng

The young photographer constructs charming asylums, creating playgrounds for lonely souls - and all this probably developed from feeding ants with salt as a child

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The Taiwanese photographer and artist Ting Cheng isn't bothered about capturing real memories. Instead she constructs surreal encounters in which the viewer becomes both participator and spectator. After studying Fine Arts in Taipei, Cheng came to London to dive into the topic of Image and Communication at Goldsmith College. Building a connection between the body and the space around it, Cheng captures everyday objects and situations in snapshots that seem positively otherworldly. The photographer talks to Dazed about getting into trouble, and escaping reality...

Being an outsider is really essential for me. The feeling of alienation urges me to step aside from my own body. It drives me to express this inner desire of exploring and discovering

Dazed Digital: Your images give the impression of a dreamer, trying to escape this asylum called life. Why does this concept fascinate you so much?
Ting Cheng:
As human beings, we learn from playing, we gain experience through trying. While I am not particularly good at planning, I am the queen of playing and trying. Inside the game, we are the controller. We press and release. We continuously select and restart, trying to break through the barriers that we encounter. The game will never be over, because despite all the set-backs that we’re facing, we will always continue playing and seeking those little victories. I indeed wish I could transform myself from a traveller, an outsider and a dreamer into a present experience maker.

DD: What is the best advice you've gotten so far?
Ting Cheng:
'Feel free to howl' – David Shrigley

DD: What is your earliest childhood memory?
Ting Cheng:
I was a typical annoying kid when I was two years old. I didn’t want to play alone and always disturbed my mom when she was busy cooking. One day, my mom found a solution, she created a game. The game was feeding ants on the balcony with salt. I fed ants with salt for several years until I was able to invent my own games and play alone.

DD: What was your first passion and how does this passion manifest itself today?
Ting Cheng:
Being an outsider is really essential for me. It is the main inspiration for my work. The feeling of alienation urges me to step aside from my own body. It drives me to express this inner desire of exploring and discovering.

DD: Can you explain your creative process?
Ting Cheng:
In lots of my work, the site of the body is a medium. It builds a connection of the space between my body and the space outside of it. Through the process and practice of photography I can live through my body, experiencing the world around me through completely different agendas.

DD: What is your art theory?
Ting Cheng:
Be honest, and get into trouble. Break all boundaries as theories are non-existent.

DD: Your works give the audience a sense of a narrative idea but leave the story open to be yet written. How would you prefer your art work to be perceived and experienced?
Ting Cheng:
I always wanted to develop an open non-story structure that everyone can have a chance to take part in‭. ‬The best idea would be, that we are both participators and spectators. We are all directors, actors and audiences.

DD: What does photography mean to you?
Ting Cheng:
I am a day dreamer and a visual thinker, so I turn to photography to communicate my feelings, thoughts, dreams and desires. I use photography to expose and document the absurdity and oddness of everyday life. Photography for me, is almost a way to prove my very existence. It is a way to escape from an ordinary and mundane reality, replacing it with a new reality.

DD: To look at your picture gives hope that the door to fairyland actually exists. How important is escaping reality for you personally and as a professional?
Ting Cheng:
The image of the world has existed within our consciousness and cognition. If I am not satisfied with the reality I find myself in, I can reorder and reshape the map of the world through my imagination. Even more, I can build up a new reality. My work gives me an alternative to rethink and question the possibility of space and the relationship between our bodies and the objects that surround me.

DD: What does Taiwan mean to you?
Ting Cheng:
Taiwan is like a milk tea mixed with different flavours and textures of jelly and bubbles. Everything is mixed. It might be a bit weird and difficult to understand the taste though. However if you are brave enough, it’s worth to have a try. Everything could be the first experience of your life.

Text by Alexandra Plesner

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