By Thomas Rose

Weiji, an idiomatic term that might be considered a concept rather than something definable, implies that when encountering difficulties there are often many options one can take. The idea of a crisis, real or insinuated can often take us from our normal course and redirect our attention to alternate ideas, requiring us to rethink our assumptions and open our minds to new opportunities. As such, the students from the Schools of Photography at the Beijing Film Academy and the Art Department of the University of Minnesota have constructed visual analogies to the concept of Weiji or Crisis = Opportunity.

By Thomas Rose

Weiji, an idiomatic term that might be considered a concept rather than something definable, implies that when encountering difficulties there are often many options one can take. The idea of a crisis, real or insinuated can often take us from our normal course and redirect our attention to alternate ideas, requiring us to rethink our assumptions and open our minds to new opportunities. As such, the students from the Schools of Photography at the Beijing Film Academy and the Art Department of the University of Minnesota have constructed visual analogies to the concept of Weiji or Crisis = Opportunity.

The course of history is replete with examples of world, and national crises’, from the struggles for social justice to the fall of empires. The past three years have brought to public attention environmental and economic challenges that have shaken our confidence and our sense of security. In turn, such issues bring to our own door crises' that are often the direct result of these seismic shifts, a crisis such as job loss are devastating because it is difficult to see the opportunities that lay ahead. We posed these issues to the students, asking them to respond to the world around them, whether that was the larger world or the world of their own daily lives.

The images seen here reflect the deep and often difficult transitions that today’s student’s feel in their everyday lives. As our two cultures move into the 21st century the rate of change and development often outstrips our ability and willingness to understand the change. However, it is critical that we make ourselves aware of the coming changes and to learn from the mistakes of the past, while not forgetting our own values and histories. The collaborative discussions held on the project in Minneapolis and Beijing have proven to be both informative and revealing and I believe that the images seen here reflect that.  Each of the students selected an aspect of the topic relevant to their experience and used it to open their thinking to others in the collaborative process.

The range of work visualizes aspects of the contemporary world we live in, asking questions such as how we manage the flood of refuse, how we treat the environment, and more. Some created dream-like new worlds built on the decay of old ideas using new photographic technologies, and others reflected on personal loss and the pain of separation form friends and family. 

This collection will remain on display at the Regis Center for Art located at 405 21st Avenue S., Minneapolis until October 14.  For directions visit www.umn.edu/twincities/maps/RegCtrR/.

Editor’s note: Thomas Rose is a professor in the Art Department of the University of Minnesota.

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