Christopher Henry Gallery is honored to present “Zero,” a solo exhibition by photographer Khiang Hei commemorating the 20 year anniversary of the Tiananmen Square uprising. Hei’s photographs tell the story of humanity and the struggle for freedom in a society of censorship.
The title ‘Zero’ refers to the number of search results found in Google China commemorating the June 4th incident at Tiananmen Square. Historically Tiananmen Square had seen its share of protests before 1989, including a rather significant uprising 90 years ago on May 4th in which the student revolt led to drastic changes in the political and intellectual landscape. What made the1989 uprising unique among the many others throughout the square’s history was its broadcast around the world and its subsequent censorship. Hei, a Cambodian photo student in Beijing at the time, was present from the beginning on April 15th when a small civilian gathering took place around Monument to the People’s Heroes to mourn the reformer Hu Yaobang. As a student himself, Hei was more than just a journalistic voyeur at an historic event, he was an impassioned observer. His ability to capture the intensity of the moment as it grew from a student to a national movement is evident in the iconic images captured throughout its duration. As the numbers swelled within a month to over 100,000, it began to spread from students to workers to civilians. Hei’s photographs capture that infectious spirit of Liberty in the square as even children began to join in the activities. As the crowds grew the communal spirit of the gathering took on a darker tone, leading the Chinese government to declare Martial Law. On June 4th, 1989 tensions boiled over as violence broke out as the Chinese military attempted to clear the square resulting in the June 4th massacre. The bright light of Liberty was extinguished by the dark cloud of an oppressive, authoritarian regime. What started out as a documentation of ideals turned into a nightmare of crushed hopes and dreams.