Shengze Zhu | What Has Been Will Be, What Will Be Has Been | 2019 22.09. – 13.10.2019 | Photoforum Pasquart


What Has Been Will Be, What Will Be Has Been, video still, digital video, 2019 © Shengze Zhu

Over the course of ten months, film director Shengze Zhu followed ten Chinese livestreamers, so-called “anchors”. Livestreaming, which initially remained an amateur practice, has now grown into a million-dollar industry. Before the authorities in China renforced monitoring and censorship of online content in 2017, livestreams were viewed by over 400 million people. What makes these real-time broadcasts so attractive is not passive observation, but rather the possibility of actively commenting or even interfering with the actions through a chat. Instead of concentrating on influencers who earn money through their real-time shows, Zhu chose to follow unknown people who long for human contact and closeness through livestreaming. Her work thus condenses the everyday stagings of her protagonists to create a collective portrait of a digital generation for which the online and offline worlds have become inseparable. As spectators of a second order we observe much more than the mere self-presentation on the Internet: Zhu’s video reveals the highly social practice of new forms of observation, which include interpersonal interactions – and thus the satisfaction of needs such as attention, comfort and exchange – in their dispositive.