I see my practice as manifestations of vulnerability, of defiance, and of my beliefs. Caught between my hometown Ningyuan and the U.S, Natural Impersonation explores the construction of sexuality and identity in the context of the repression and censorship of homosexuality in China. Engaging in the dialogue of how this “inappropriate desire” can be manifested and subverted through photographic representation, I construct alluring and voyeuristic scenes inflected with fantasy, trauma, fetish, and violence through staged portraits of close friends, family members, myself, and still life made with low value objects I collected from dollar stores. By introducing the private realm of same-sex romance and intimacy into a public sphere against the backdrop of a heteronormative and phallocentric structure, my photographs reexamine how the exteriorization of homoerotism is made visible and accessible in a state of grotesque masquerade and performance, which consequently mimics a proximity to an alternative reality that challenges the rigid and stereotypical codes of gender roles, identity construction, and traditional cultural values.
Zhidong Zhang (b. 1996 Hunan, China) is a lens-based artist currently resides in Boston, MA. He holds a B.Sc in Applied Mathematics from Central South University and an MFA in photography at Massachusetts College of Art and Design. His work investigates the intersection of representation, identity construction, and the role of imagery in contemporary culture.