7 April 2024

Tales From the Wind

Timjune Tianjun Li dissects
human-nature coexistence


by Kate Mothes

Timjune Tianjun Li grew up amid rapid expansion of a small city in China, in a neighborhood surrounded by an old wooded area. “The forest used to be a playground, a friend, a witness, and the roots of my childhood,” he says. A local escape, it provided respite from the quickly urbanizing environment, and when the artist moved to Finland as an adult, he looked back fondly on memories of exploring the area.

After China’s national lockdown during the pandemic, Timjune visited home but was stunned to find the forest had been razed to the ground. Development was underway to make room for a new amusement park. “The loss I experienced was a catalyst for my exploration of grief and its complex relationship with the world we inhabit,” he says.

Timjune explores the contrasts between the built environment and natural areas in an ongoing project titled Today, Tomorrow, and Tales of the Wind, a series of photography and sound works exploring the coexistence of nature and humanity in the Anthropocene. The project questions the human relationship to nature in the wake of unprecedented urban development around the world, which often come at the expense of delicate and increasingly vulnerable ecosystems.

The artist is fascinated by the concept of utopia and its contradictions, simultaneously a perfection people strive for and something that already existed in nature but we ourselves destroyed. “Relocation became not just a physical journey but an exploration of place and identity, revealing the complexities of utopia as both a tangible and imaginary construct in the Anthropocene era,” he says.

Timjune is enthralled by the expansive forests in Finland, which cover nearly three quarters of the country, from populated areas to the most remote northern reaches. “I marveled at the abundance of urban forests,” he says, “among the finest in the world. However, this newfound admiration was tinged with a sobering realization that even these forested realms were not immune to the encroachments of urban planning. It was through engaging with activists mourning the loss of forests and nature that I became aware of the urgent need to confront the challenges we are all facing.”

Eerie light and spectral forms or patterns emerge in many of Timjune’s photographs, distorting landscapes and juxtaposing human-built structures with wide-open, icy vistas. Often devoid of trees altogether, he taps into a sense of loss—a void where the forest once stood—both in his current home in Finland and through the inexorable loss in his hometown in China. Like a nostalgic slide show, he has projected images onto screens of fabric or paper in temporary installations accompanied by sound, studying the interconnections of memory, environment, and the human experience.

Find more on the artist’s website and Instagram.

All images © Timjune Tianjun Li

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