Interview with Theo, organized and written by Yi Xiaocuo
Photographer Theo Santana has walked the earth freely but never encountered the level of security checks and surveillance like in China’s Xinjiang. He shared these photos online at the end of 2018, including his bizarre experiences such as Chinese policeman installing tracking software onto his phone as well as having to report his identity even when eating at a village restaurant.
Through Theo’s lens, we see in great detail what anthropologist Ann Stoler describes a “[ruination]… persists in material debris, in ruined landscape, and through the social ruination of people’s lives.” To many locals and exiled people who bear witness to this present day, Xinjiang has become a strange, desolate planet where they themselves have become aliens: mosques are either emptied or demolished; debris of consumption and desire litter the land and water, while the machinery of modernization occupies the center of focus; elders and children seem to be the only ones spared—albeit temporarily—underneath a murderous atmosphere; the strangers who claim to be “relatives” come to your homes and wear your culture as if they own it, but also put handcuffs on you and make you disappear.
Many, many light years away, in a place that we call home, now there is a strange planet filled with industrial plants, plastic bodies, and imperial troopers.
Shared with the photographer’s permission (Sep 14, 2019).