“The cottage where I was born was still ‘breathing’ when I returned for the first year,
a kindergarten when I returned for the second year,
and a retirement home when I returned for the third.”
In 2015, Chinese artist Wang Yingying traveled to Guantao County in the Hebei province in northern China. This is the region where she was born, and where her father spent 17 years in exile. Denounced as a rightist, her father was sent to Guantao where he was later introduced to Wang’s mother. Eventually, her father was rehabilitated and the family moved to Beijing. Then, in the 1980s, Wang’s parents divorced – at a time when divorce was still uncommon in China. She became estranged from her father, came face to face with questions about her self-identity, and did not see her birthplace for many years.
In “Where My Heart Settles Down”, Wang records her journey back to her birthplace. With the help of old photographs, memories, written notes and letters and loose threads, she explores Guantao – a place that feels familiar and foreign – as much as her own identity and her relationship with her family. At the same time, Wang begins to document the last remaining years in the lives of her parents. In unsentimental yet touching photographs, she pierces together her memories and reflects upon her past, all the while keeping the present sharp within her sight.
“Their paths never crossed again after their divorce in the early 1980s. I tried to stop viewing myself as their child and began to observe them as an equal grownup in order to heal the emotional wounds caused by their divorce and to become reconciled.”
― from Wang Yingying’s afterword