Jing Jin City and Miracle Village at Daniel Blau London

Jing Jin City and Miracle Village are photographic exhibitions due to open concurrently at Daniel Blau gallery, by contemporary artists Andi Schmied and Sofia Valiente. While both projects are about communities and social spaces, the projects have very different and 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.

Andi’s project will be 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 hundred 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.

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.

The exhibitions will take place at Daniel Blau, 51 Hoxton Square, London, N1 6PB. There will be an opening event on Thursday January 15, 2015, 6-8pm. The exhibition will then be open from January 16 to February 13, 2015 (Tuesday – Friday, 11am – 6pm). You can find out more here.