The retrospective given Chinese contemporary artist Yang Fudong by the Berkeley Art Museum has ended, but an interesting postscript to it continues.
Chen Fong-fong, J.S. Lee Memorial Fellow at UC Berkeley, has combined classical Chinese
paintings and a 2005 video by Yang, inviting us to seek continuities between old and new Chinese art.
With sound but no dialogue, the video describes crossing paths of villagers trying to escape
to the city as city-dwellers try to escape to the country.
Chen and I spoke in the exhibition.
Q: I see humor in Yang Fudong's video, but is there any in these traditional
A: I think there is. This scroll deserves further study because this subject matter, "Searching for Demons in the Mountains," features these demons - lady demons. I find the depiction of them quite shocking, though I don't think for people in the 16th century, it would have been humorous. It's a legendary story about Chinese gods. ... I found the video interesting in presenting costumes and tools as images of the identities of people. You could see comedy in those, but he uses them to reflect something serious in contemporary society.
Q: Was Yang thinking about antique paintings when he made this video?
A: I don't know. But we viewed some of them together when he was here. He has seen a lot of classical Chinese painting, and maybe he can recall some of the images.
Q: Is there anything in the paintings analogous to a video soundtrack?
A: There is a professor at Harvard University studying symbols of sound in Chinese painting. He came to see this exhibition and he thought he saw something in one of the album pictures that might be called a soundtrack effect. ... Text sometimes evokes visionary imagination, so that could have some kind of sound effect as well.
by Kenneth Baker
Related Artists: YANG FUDONG 杨福东