Recent films and videos
1.10.05 - 15.01.06
Solo-exhibition of the Chinese artist Yang Fudong (Beijing 1971) who lives and works in Shanghai.
Yang Fudong (b. 1971) is part of a generation who have daily lived through the radical changes in contemporary Chinese society. A recurrent theme in his work is the loss of emotional feelings and anomie among this younger generation of Chinese. Eight of his films and video works and two photo series are being shown in the exhibition in Stedelijk Museum CS.
Yang Fudong’s work reveals, in a sometimes ironic manner, the difference between the characteristically traditional and Maoist China and modern, more Western influences. In doing this he makes use of various styles: tableaux vivants and slow images from nouvelle vague films and hilarious blow-ups of reality, as in films by Jim Jarmusch. Yang Fudong’s work however has no narrative lines: it remains visual impressions, full of close-ups or wide panoramas, with which spoken texts now and then raise existential or philosophical issues.
For example, in his films entitled Seven Intellectuals in Bamboo Forest, Fudong shows young people who are on their way to nature, then in close-ups their lives in the city, or about life in rural areas. He himself says of this series of films, ‘What I film is the life of contemporary youth, almost aloof. It has no concrete passage of time. Sometimes I think that life presently changes even more greatly. Many people seem to have become ‘non-believers’. They have lost their faith in everything.’ Seven Intellectuals in Bamboo Forest consists of two parts. The third part is probably going to have its premiere in Amsterdam.
The large installation Close to the Sea, consisting of ten simultaneous projections, shows an epic story of two lovers on the beach, and at the same time the pair’s shipwreck. Musicians are to be seen on the side screens, performing a symphony for wind instruments on the rocks along the coast. The whole is paradisiacal and threatening at the same time. Can the love come to further flowering and maintain itself? Can happiness survive a – in this case literal – shipwreck?
Yang Fudong lives and works in Shanghai. His idiosyncratic films and video works are presently being shown to great acclaim in museums all over the world.
The exhibition in Stedelijk Museum CS is a component of the Amsterdam China Festival>>, which is being held from September 30 through October 25, 2005.
A catalogue, published by the Vienna Kunsthalle, accompanies this exhibition. This catalogue will be on sale in the Museum shop after September 30. (86 pps., ISBN 3-85247-056-0, German / English)
An article by Maarten Bertheux, curator of this exhibition in Stedelijk Museum CS, will be included in Stedelijk Museum Bulletin 4/5 2005. The Bulletin will be on sale in the Museum shop and costs € 5,00.
SMCS on 11
Lectures and film presentations, among other events, will be organised to accompany the exhibition as part of SMCS on 11.
？ Yang Fudong, Honey
The First Intellectual
In this photo series Yang Fudong offers a
commentary on the split world in which
many well-educated young people in
China find themselves. On one hand the
younger generation profits from China’s
economic success, on the other hand
they wrestle with the question of what
political, social and moral values are still
meaningful within it.
There is a world of difference between
this image of the new intellectual and the
famous photograph from 1989 of the lone
student standing up against the tank on
Yang Fudong regularly makes use of
characteristic film genres. For example,
City Lights is a mixture of the detective
film and slapstick. A young, well-dressed
office clerk and his doppelg？nger move
in unison along the street and around the
office. Like pre-programmed robots they
fit perfectly into their apparently ideally
organised environment. The day is entirely
dominated by work, but the evening
provides space for dreams and creative
thinking, allowing a schizophrenic situation
to arise. In their heroic conduct the
two gentlemen sometimes develop into
two gangsters who engage in a form of
Close to the Sea
This installation makes the viewer aware
of the impossibility of watching all the projection
screens simultaneously. Stories
play out synchronously and asynchronously.
The central projection screen
shows two scenes alongside each other:
a young couple riding a horse along the
coast, and a couple who try to save themselves
during a shipwreck. Here an initially
idyllic world is disrupted; the strident
sound of brass instruments reinforces the
atmosphere of disharmony.
In two separate spaces two almost identical
cinematic narratives unfold. Because
of the wall separating them, we can not
compare the two, and must call on our
Both spaces also contain a glass display
cabinet with a suitcase full of books and
neckties, and four small video monitors in
it. The tangible objects and the monitors
appear to connect with the large projections
on the wall.
Flutter, Flutter… Jasmine, Jasmine
The images in Flutter, Flutter... Jasmine,
Jasmine are both an illustration of the
words of the romantic song, and a commentary
on it. We see a young man and
woman in a large city, dreamily staring.
Just like the song, they reflect hope, idealism
and emotional purity. But the changes
in the city proceed rapidly, and it is a question
whether their ideals and feelings will
remain untouched by this.
This video appears to be a humorous
stylistic reference to spy films. All the
clichés – tension, eroticism, grave,
cigarette-smoking men and atmospheric
music – are present. The woman wears
fishnet hose and a fur coat with her
military uniform. This ambiguity of
se duction and deceit is not only the earmark
of espionage, but possibly also a
metaphor for the present ambivalent
situation in China.
Backyard - Hey, Sun is Rising!
Four men engage in acts simultaneously.
They smoke, yawn, massage themselves
and practice military exercises in a city
and in a park. The seriousness with which
they perform these acts contrasts with
their pointlessness, which creates the
effect of slapstick. Yang Fudong reveals
that because of social changes, certain
rituals have become totally meaningless.
Seven Intellectuals in Bamboo Forest
The decline of interest in meaningful
experience is a recurrent theme in the
work of Yang Fudong. Here he has young
urbanites with Burberry jackets and
briefcases withdraw to the mountains to
admire the beauty of nature. They stare
dreamily at a mountain stream and gaze
deeply affected at apple blossoms. The
artist suggests that the young urbanites,
well educated and economically independent,
are still in search of profundity
Liu Lan tells a story about the break with
tradition in China. An intellectual in a
white suit meets a traditionally dressed
woman in the countryside. Despite their
mutual love, their lives seem incompatible.
A woman’s voice sings a folksong,
‘Why are people in love always separated
from one another?’ The film’s atmosphere
is melancholy and the landscape veiled in
mist. Here Yang Fudong shows his
connections with Chinese landscape
Seven Intellectuals in Bamboo Forest
In this ‘sequel’ to Seven Intellectuals in
Bamboo Forest (Part 1), the seven young
intellectuals form a sort of commune in
an urban apartment. The five men and
two women talk, make music, eat, drink
and have sex. A decadent, hedonistic
atmosphere prevails. At home the actors
pass each other without making any clear
contact and seem to be seeking the meaning
of their actions. Only sporadically is
there contact with the city around them.
Yang Fudong’s intellectuals are entangled
in the discrepancies of the old and
new worlds, at the crux where traditional
social values and personal freedom collide
with one another.
Don’t worry, it will be better…
This photo series looks like an advertising
campaign, with apparently successful
young people as models. Or are these film
stills, with actors in tableaux vivants?
Full of hope and expectation, these
modern men try to close the gap between
life after the Chinese Revolution and the
rapidly advancing capitalist society.
Yang Fudong: Recent films and videos
October 1, 2005 – January 15, 2006
Opening September 30, 5:00 p.m.
The Chinese filmmaker / artist Yang Fudong (b. 1971) experiences the radical changes in contemporary Chinese society daily. The alienation that these changes are creating is a recurrent theme in his work. With an amalgam of nostalgia, romanticism and parody, he mixes traditional Chinese values and the influences of Western film and video culture into idiosyncratic but also very recognisable images.
Seven of his films, two of his video installations, and two photo series by him are being shown in the exhibition in Stedelijk Museum CS. This project was organised in cooperation with the Vienna Kunsthalle.
In his films and videos, Yang Fudong usually works in a narrative fashion, without that having a foundation in conventional dramaturgy. There is no clear story line. Scraps of dialogue or a commentator’s voice feed the viewer with rich associations. The protagonists in his work are generally young people waiting for things which are still to come, sometimes in a state that borders on downright boredom. In these works Fudong comes close to the Nouvelle Vague, to Jean-Luc Godard, for instance, who also offers a sharp look at his generation of young quasi-intellectuals. The collage-like style, in which text, images and movement are independent of one another, is also something that Yang Fudong shares with Godard. He employs recurrent and varying suggestive pictorial images such as close-ups, tableaux vivants or landscapes, with composed music or a narrative voice in the background. The parallels between Yang Fudong’s work and recent, internationally successful Chinese films are unmistakable.
In the first two films of the planned cycle Seven Intellectuals in Bamboo Forest, in part one Fudong shows young urban people who are on their way to experience nature. In part two we see the same group in an urban situation, where they eat, talk and have sex with one another in their apartment. He himself says of this series of films, ‘What I film is the life of today’s youth, almost with detachment. Sometimes I think that life presently is changing ever more strongly. Many people seem to have become non-believers. They have lost their faith in everything.’
The overwhelming installation Close to the Sea, comprised of twelve simultaneous projections, shows the epic love story of two lovers on a beach, and at the same time the – literal – shipwreck of the pair. On the side screens one sees musicians on the rocks along the coast, performing a symphony for wind instruments. The whole is paradisiacal and threatening at the same time. Can love blossom further, and hold its own against adversity? Can happiness go on the rocks?
In addition to these works, the exhibition includes the films and videos Liu Lan, Backyard – Hey, Sun is Rising!, Honey and Flutter, Flutter… Jasmine, Jasmine, a parody on the contemporary Chinese video clip. The photo series Don’t worry, it will be better and The First Intellectual offer a picture of young Chinese urbanites as ironic as it is melancholy. In consultation with Yang Fudong, the installation Jiaer’s Livestock has been added to this selection of works, which had previously been seen in the Vienna Kunsthalle.
The exhibition in Stedelijk Museum CS is a component of the Amsterdam China Festival, which runs from September 30 through October 25, 2005.
A catalogue, published by the Vienna Kunsthalle, accompanies this exhibition. This catalogue will be available in the Museum Shop from September 30. (86 pages, ISBN 3-85247-056-0, Ger/Eng, € 19,95)
Three articles related to the exhibition, by Maarten Bertheux, Ingrid Commandeur and Saskia Dubois, are included in the Stedelijk Museum Bulletin 4/5 2005. This double issue is for sale in the Museum Shop at € 7.
SMCS on 11
In connection with SMCS on 11, on Thursday, September 29, Yang Fudong will engage in a discussion with Gijs van Tuyl. Begins 9:00 p.m. For more information, see www.stedelijk.nl
Press preview on Friday, September 30, 2005, at 11:00 a.m. For information and reservations, go to firstname.lastname@example.org
More information and visual materials: www.stedelijk.nl/press or tel. +31 (0)20 573 2656 or 2662.
Stedelijk Museum CS
Post CS building, 2nd storey, Oosterdokskade 5, Amsterdam
Open: daily from 10:00 am through 6:00 p.m.
Entrance: Euro 9,00; reduced fee: Euro 4,50; children 0-7 years and MK: free
Info & travel directions: www.stedelijk.nl