“1 2 3 2 1” is a 304-page photo novel by Yao Yuan, that juxtaposes images created during and after Nagakura Nami’s pregnancy and the birth of her child, across 2017-2019. In parallel with images of Yuan’s personal life and journeys between Japan and China, “1 2 3 2 1” contemplates ancient allegories and worldings within the contemporary condition through a queer intimate vision.
The book portrays multitudes of cinematic cityscapes and natural sceneries, vigorous colors and mundane daily moments, containing the coexistence of rough emotions and banal transience. It ponders on an array of subjects such as time, memories, gender, borders, identity, spirituality, nature, healing, care, reality, magic and mystery. The book speaks in the visual language of poetry and metaphors.
"Through the making of the photo project that eventually led to this book, I felt a certain undercurrent of mystery and awe, melancholy and joy. Seeing the world through ancestral myths and a brand new lens of another living being, a blank slate that is filled with curiosity and possibilities, puts many things into perspective, at the same time raises many questions, for the present, past, and future to come.
Our imaginations and ways of living have been shaped by the ego-driven male gaze and power-hungry patriarchs for so long on this earth, as a species we are now standing in front of a conjuncture, finding ourselves in dire need of new paradigms and alternative narratives. In Taoist cosmogony, all things carry Yin and embrace Yang; reach harmony by their balance. 'Unity begets duality, duality begets trinity, trinity begets creation." Yao Yuan