Lanxi Ruan

Filmmaker | Photographer

Soft Animal 柔软动物

“You only have to let the soft animal of your body, love what it loves.” – Mary Oliver, Wild Geese

During the lockdown of 2021, Lan-xi took to the streets of Berlin with her friends, developed this series of photographs at night. Away from her homeland, China, for an extended period, the artist’s exploration became a personal narrative reflects themes of nostalgia, belonging, and feelings of displacement.

In her series, she attempts to capture and transform her psychological state into a surreal and dreamlike tale. The protagonists in her photographs are portrayed as creatures and animals isolated in nature, seeking refuge from an unseen predator or even embodying it themselves. Through their interactions with the surroundings and moments of childlike playfulness, the artist constructs a new realm, a mysterious playground where solitude and danger coexist.

In 2023, the series is compiled into a dummy photo book titled Soft Animal, drawing inspiration from the words of American poet Mary Oliver in Wild Geese : “You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.” 

“Photography holds a deeply personal place in my life. It is an instantaneous and intimate process, where my photographs become extensions of my body, emotions, and memories. Yet, it is not always easy to confront my own work. There are moments when I am surprised to find myself exposed.”

Embracing a childlike perspective, the artist prioritises authenticity and directness over judgement or criticism. The creation of this series during the pandemic provided her with a unique opportunity for self-reflection and internal dialogue.

“It all began in 2021, almost everynight I had went for a walk. At some point, I noticed this absolute silence, a specific kind of stillness, where my mind found peace, and my vision sharpened in the darkness. Memories and past events resurfaced with vibrant clarity, becoming the very essence of my work. Despite belonging to a culture that often focuses on the grand narrative, I have long searched for a personal narrative of my own. It was only by distancing myself from my homeland that I gained a clearer understanding of my identity and origins.”

Feature on Fotograf #44 empathy, view link