Ao Kim Ngân [aka yatender] – Untitled (2014)

A healthy human body can forgo eating for roughly a month and a half.

Dehydration will kill you in under a week–and this assumes a cool ambient temperature and minimal activity.

Hunger can be deferred; thirst commands an immediate response.

That’s the distinction that occurs to me browsing Ngân‘s work.

Her light fall series is obviously homage to Lina Scheynius’ preoccupation with documenting light. While the above is likely prefigured by Traci Matlock‘s mirror self-portraits.

Both Scheynius and Matlock are endlessly talented photographers. However, in a sense, in the realm of internet famous image makers, wearing such influences on one’s sleeve is potentially problematic.

That’s where Ngân distinguishes herself from thousands of other upstarts: her photos possess an unusual gravity. To get a feel for it, check out the stuff she’s shot of dancers in Ho Chi Minh City; not the way her single, static frames bristle with a sense of flowing, dynamic momentum.

Her personal work features less emphasis on momentum and more on stillness. In that way, it’s in line with Schneyius; however, unlike Schneyius there is a very profound sense that the stillness is in itself requires taxing concentration, is an exercise in willpower.

And this is where we get back to hunger vs. thirst. The work Ngân emulates is–in its sexual politics–interested in the overlap of representation and identity as a means of not only authorship but also as a relationship between the female gaze and the visualization of something not unlike hunger.

The lines between material and flesh in the image above, the delicate touch of the obscuring flowers here and the light on the knees, the position of hands and the texture of the dress and sheets here.

The subverted eroticism in the work is too intensely rendered, too pervasively interpenetrative to fit the framework of hunger. Even thirst seems entirely too willing to wait for fulfillment. This works walks a razor wire line of hope and frustration stretched between expectation and not fulfillment but forever expanding expectations.

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