Exhibition of projects by two innovative young artists opens at Daniel Blau

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Exhibition of projects by two innovative young artists opens at Daniel Blau
Sofia Valiente, “Mike”, 2013 © Sofia Valiente, Courtesy Daniel Blau.

LONDON.- Jing Jin City and Miracle Village are new photographic projects by two young contemporary artists, Andi Schmied and Sofia Valiente, which Daniel Blau presents concurrently in a unique exhibition in January 2015.

Andi Schmied and Sofia Valiente are both interested in communities and social spaces, but have very individual approaches to documentation and intervention. Andi is concerned with architectural and urban spaces, whereas Sofia’s work depicts human faces and relationships. The artists each spent time living in the places they photographed. These procedural and artistic comparisons are particularly apparent and compelling when the projects are viewed together.

Andi Schmied’s Jing Jin City comprises photographs of Jing Jin, which is situated about an hour’s drive from Beijing. The city is home to a development of 3,000 luxury villas, alongside a Hyatt Regency hotel, golf courses, entertainment complexes and the other usual trappings of a wealthy suburban town. The villas form part of an initiative by the local district government, which envisioned Jing Jin as a “new city” built to embody ideals of environmental sustainability as well as material comfort.

Construction began in 2002, but the majority of the properties remain uninhabited. Andi occupied a number of these empty buildings in January and September 2014. She created sculptural and architectural installations in the spaces, which she then photographed. In one photograph, window panes are balanced against each other in pyramid-like structures around a bare concrete room. In another intervention, Andi took cut grass from the front lawn of one of the houses and brought it into the living room, carpeting the cold floor with bristly yellow-green foliage.

The Jing Jin City exhibition shows a selection of Andi’s photographs alongside a glossy catalogue produced by the district government, which portrays lavishly furnished family homes and a thriving community.

Andi’s project is being presented in dialogue with Sofia Valiente’s Miracle Village. The small community of Miracle Village is located on the outskirts of a rural town in an impoverished area of Palm Beach County, Florida. It is currently home to over 100 sex offenders, who for legislative reasons have been unable to find housing elsewhere. The law obliges offenders to live a minimum distance of at least 1,000 feet from any place where children congregate, such as schools or bus stops. In practice, this is very difficult to comply with, and many of these individuals struggle to find a place to live and to re-establish themselves in society.

The village was founded by a Christian ministry and seeks to help offenders who have no place else to go. The range of crimes committed varies - from serious offenses to consensual teenage relationships that had an age gap. The men are mixed in age, from various ethnic backgrounds, and they are all coming to terms with living with the permanence of the “sex offender” label.

Over the course of a year, Sofia Valiente befriended, lived among and photographed the residents of Miracle Village who have shared their stories of estrangement, solitude and rehabilitation with her. Her work gives insight into what life is like in a community of deeply alienated individuals. A book of Sofia’s Miracle Village photographs was published by Fabrica in 2014. This publication also includes handwritten letters and testimony from village inhabitants, which provides vital context for the photographs.

Andi Schmied trained at UCL’s Bartlett School of Architecture, and spatial concerns infuse her work, which incorporates video, photography, installation and sculpture. Her interest in psychogeography and urbanism is manifested in her Jing Jin City project. She was recently awarded a residency at OUTPOST in Norwich. She is based in Budapest, Hungary.

Sofia Valiente is a fine art graduate from Florida International University in Miami, Florida. She recently completed a one-year scholarship at Fabrica in Treviso, Italy where she developed her Miracle Village project under Fabrica’s Editorial Area, which investigates social and cultural changes through long-term journalistic projects. She is based in Florida, USA.

Jing Jin City and Miracle Village are remarkable projects by two innovative young artists who are investigating the margins of society.

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