February 12–16, 2004
Over the past five years, Chinese media artists from Beijing and Shanghai to Hangzhou have gained access to the latest cameras and computer technology, and are producing vivid, original work. Their startling actions performed on crowded Chinese city streets, diaristic works with the flavor of “reality TV,” and narratives caught between tradition and utopian dreams portray China now. Although media art has received official acceptance in China, with prominent exposure in the Shanghai Biennial and the Guangzhou Triennial, work continues to flourish in an extensive alternative network that does not receive government endorsement. The tapes selected for this exhibition include works from what has traditionally been China’s underground art network, as well as from biennials in Venice, Istanbul, Havana, and Cairo.
Organized by Barbara London, Associate Curator, Department of Film and Media.
An Estranged Paradise. 1997–2002. China. Directed by Yang Fudong. A quiet meditation on peace, love, melancholia, and boredom, this video tells the story of a young man living in a small town in China with his fiancée. For no apparent reason, he begins to suffer from disaffection and restlessness, which threaten to undermine his life. But his malaise lifts as the rainy season comes to an end…. 76 min.
Thursday, February 12, 7:00; Saturday, February 14, 3:00
Actor’s Lines. 2002. China. Directed by Zhang Peili. A whole new twist is added to footage appropriated from a 1964 film by Wang Pei, Soldiers under Neon Lights, about a young soldier enthralled by romance who gets tutored in the superiority of patriotic love. 20 min.
Living Elsewhere. 2000. China. Directed by Wang Jianwei. Unfinished mansions on the outskirts of Chengdu, in Shanyuanli Province, become home to a community of feisty squatters. They prepare meals on open fires, and a few entrepreneurs grow vegetables in yards that one day might sprout flower beds. In Chinese, English subtitles. 40 min.
Teahouse. 1997. China. Directed by Wang Jianwei. Old and new China come together in a rural teahouse, where people gather and exchange information as they have for centuries. In Chinese, English subtitles. 20 min.
Shouting. 1998. China. Directed by Xu Zhen. The artist walks down Shanghai’s crowded sidewalks with his camera, disturbing the order by emitting startling shrieks, and filming the process. 4 min.
The Happiest Winter. 2002. China. Directed by Liang Yue. In this video styled somewhere between MTV and “reality TV,” the artist wakes up and draws the viewer into her daily life. 10 min.
The Ghost Upstairs. 2001. China. Directed by Liang Yue. Witty diaries reveal the intricacies of daily life. 4 min.
Program 98 min.
Thursday, February 12, 8:30; Sunday, February 15, 5:00
Seven Intellectuals in Bamboo Forest, Part 1. 2003. China. Directed by Yang Fudong. Reminiscent of traditional brush and ink drawings and 1920s Shanghai cinema, and based on the story of seven talented individuals from the Wei and Jin Dynasties, this work addresses the dramatic changes Chinese society has undergone over the past century. Contemporary youths gather together in the bamboo forest to drink, sing songs, and play traditional Chinese musical instruments, in the hope of escaping earthly life. In Chinese, English subtitles. 30 min.
Paper Gun. 2002. China. Directed by Lu Chunsheng. These cartoonlike adventures taking place on Shanghai streets give a new spin to the traditional gangster movie. 15 min.
Rice Corns. 2002. China. Directed by Yang Zhen Zhong. The war between the sexes is portrayed here by a rooster and a chicken competing to see who can consume the most rice. 8 min.
I Will Die. 2001. China. Directed by Yang Zhenzhong. Strangers on the street are asked to confront their mortality by facing the camera and repeating, “I will die.” 12 min.
San Yuan Li. 2003. China. Directed by Cao Fei, Ou Ning. Set in the city where the 1841 Opium War took place and where drug trafficking became notorious during the 1990s, this video by two Guangzhou artists captures the pulsating rhythms of life along the river. 40 min.
After All I Didn’t Force You. 1998. China. Directed by Yang Fudong. Romance flounders in the nitty-gritty of daily life, in this video by Shanghai artist Yang. 3 min.
City Light. 2000. China. Directed by Yang Fudong. A group of sophisticated young men enjoy life with the ennui-laden affectation of fashion models. 10 min.
Program 118 min.
Friday, February 13, 6:15; Sunday, February 15, 7:00
Dance with Farm Workers. 2002. China. Directed by Wu Wenguang, with Wen Wei. Documentarian Wu and choreographer Wen collaborated with a corps of thirty farmers from the provinces to chart their transformation from awkward innocents to savvy performers at a public event. In Chinese, English subtitles. 57 min.
Friday, February 13, 8:45; Monday, February 16, 4:00
Utopian Machine. 2002. China. Directed by Zhou Xiaohu. In this witty satire in claymation, a newscast opens with a group of putty-faced politburo members self-importantly deplaning and then pontificating at assembly meetings. 10 min.
Broken Mirror. 1999. China. Directed by Song Dong. The artist destroys one reflected scene to reveal another hidden behind it. The act of destruction becomes a moment of revelation. 4 min.
Face 1 (Part 1 of 10). 1995–96. China. Directed by Li Yongbin. A poignant portrait created in one single take, in which the artist, trying to make visual whatever is on his mind, mysteriously transforms an image of his own face. 62 min.
Program 76 min.
Saturday, February 14, 1:00; Monday, February 16, 2:00