Ranran Fan’s surrealist images are both political, intimate, and multidimensional. Through her work she explores oppressive systems and our own complicity within them.
Ranran Fan could be described as a surrealist inventor. Her work is edgily balanced between intimate and political, nonsensical and imperative, goofy and tragic. “I make images as solutions to deal with predicaments I encounter in daily life,” says Fan. She undertakes this problem solving through Rube Goldberg-esque semiotic tinkering. In the process, she reveals truths about herself—as well as our complicity in the systems that create the problems—with unflinching honesty.
Fan was born in China, where she studied science as well as art. Her multicultural and multidisciplinary perspective may have something to do with her exceptional ability to manipulate meaning across milieus and media. Complexity is packed into deceptively simple pragmatism, resulting in intellectual and emotional surprises. “My solutions explore the absurd existence of the free individual under an oppressive political environment,” she says.
For example, a photographic series and installation titled Rightfully Paranoid tracks Fan’s efforts to elude digital surveillance through a bewildering set of heuristics. The resulting images follow a tape-wrapped Fan through a labyrinth of portals and Instagram posts. She indicates true time and place with red yarn, like a digitally savvy Theseus.
Postcard Disposer Manual demonstrates a method for handling the paradoxes of regret. In the video, we are shown a postcard mentioning an upcoming marriage from somebody Fan “used to love.” Fan’s narration vacillates between pride and horror while she operates a complicated, pulley-controlled periscope. The postcard harbinger of what might have been is taped above a bathroom door. The viewing device allows for inconvenient but accessible obsessing.
In a self-portrait titled My Doctor, Fan very efficiently tackles the problem of missing a religious figure in her life by posing as her own spiritual guardian. Garbed in scrubs and bearing tools of photography and medicine, the avatar has dual identities: “a surgeon to take care of my physical body and an artist to look after my mental health,” explains Fan.
Fan is pursuing her MFA in Studio Arts at the University of New Mexico. She has been nominated as a SITE Scholar at SITE Santa Fe and received several awards, including Student Award for Innovations in Imaging at Society for Photographic Education (U.S., 2019) and the Shiseido Photographer Prize at Three Shadows Photography Art Centre (China, 2018).
Albuquerque, NM | ranranfan.com | ig: @ranran_narnar