The Bearable & Bees is a two-part project that documents, researches and explores the psychological labyrinth around self-inflicted harm. The Bearable records the artist’s own dark, though occasionally euphoric, history of self-affliction while in Bees, photography becomes a vehicle of exchange between the artist and the others. Identifying the physical self-destruction of her subjects as an act of spiritual cleansing, Chen Zhe expanded her photographic observations with a collection of letters, dairy entries, online chat histories, quote fragments and scribbles. Referring to bees as they sting to self-defense, leaving ‘their lives behind them in the wound’ (Virgil, The Georgics), the project is Chen Zhe's closing statement of her long contemplation on the disquieted souls, the wounded bodies and the elusive link between the two.
The Bearable & Bees has been exhibited worldwide and won numerous awards such as Inge Morath Award, Three Shadows Photography Award, Flash Forward Emerging Photographer, Xitek New Talent Award and Photographer of the Year, Lianzhou Photography Festival etc. The Bearable & Bees is also featured in TV documentaries produced by ARTE, France/Germany; NHK WORLD, Japan and Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, China. The publication Bees & The Bearable was awarded the Best Photobook of the Year by Kassel Fotobookfestival in 2016.
Chen Zhe’s practice is often restored as an ongoing process of exploration, discovery, and research. In her early work The Bearable and Bees, where the physical self-destruction of her subjects is identified as an act of spiritual cleansing, Chen searched after the possibility of “another way of telling" by expanding her photographic observations with a collection of letters and journals. In her current project Towards Evening: Six Chapters, Chen uses dusk as her motif to continue her quest of the visible and the speakable, in this case, to explore the ambiguous meeting point of visual representations and language.
Chen Zhe (b.1989, Beijing) received her BFA in Photography and Imaging from Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles. Her works will recently be featured in exhibitions at The 9th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT9), Queensland, Australia and Tokyo Photographic Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan. Her works has been exhibited at OCAT Museum Xi’an, Xi’an (solo, 2018); CAFA Art Museum, Beijing (2017); The 11th Shanghai Biennial, Shanghai (2016); Power Station of Art, Shanghai (2016); Minsheng Art Museum, Shanghai (2016); Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing (2013); and Three Shadows Photography Art Centre, Beijing (2011).