Posts Tagged ‘chinese history’

History in Progress, with Gaps: The National Museum of China, Part Two

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

By Shelly Kraicer

Visitors seem dazzled by the might of painterly propaganda in the "90th anniversary of the CCP" painting exhibit.

A major function of the National Museum of China is its definition and display of Chinese history under the Party. This section, somewhat romantically entitled “The Road of Rejuvenation” takes up a major part of NMC’s northern section. I walked through it all, from the Opium War to “China in Space.”

Inside the Grand Hall. If it looks like an elegant version of a terminal, it's because the German architects specialize in airports.

First, we enter a sculptural antichamber. This has got to be one of the weirdest immersive sculptural environments I’ve ever seen. An enormous entrance hall has been clotted with what looks like baked clay (I guess it’s depressingly expensive bronze that preserves the original rough slapdash clay “style” of the sculpture). On the left, scenes of feudal China (somewhat more beguiling than depressing, to my eye). On the right, scenes of modern China under the Leadership of the Party (really bleak and ugly, a lot of it is weirdly blank but one can make out a kindergarten model style mini-HK skyline, a high speed train rushing across the Tibetan plateau, and a fast cosmic ball of something, whirring with lumpy clay energy. In the middle, brutally (or, rather, I should say boldly) cleaving past and future in two is a sleek perforated sculpture, designed like a retro jet age style symbolic representation of what must be the progressive force of the Chinese Communist Party (think 1930s deco aggressively angled car hood ornament the size of a small jet). Suitably ideologically seasoned, I entered the Road of Rejuvenation galleries.

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Heavenly Culture, with Product Placement: A Tour of the National Museum of China, Part One

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

By Shelly Kraicer

The gallery of Ancient Chinese art in the National Museum of China may be the new highlight of anyone's visit to Beijing.

Beijing’s new National Museum of China opened in March 2011. It’s been steadily expanding inside since, opening more and more galleries to the public. Recently, the galleries of ancient art were finally opened, so I decided it was time to make a thorough visit (I’d been once before in early May just to take a look at the building) and see how the Chinese nation choses to present itself in a grand museum setting.

First of all, the setting. It is very grand. Super gigantic-grand. Reports in Western media describe an amusingly direct series of phone calls by planners of the National Museum of China (NMC) to western museum experts. Sample questions: “What is the floor space of the Louvre?” “What about the British Museum in London?” Clearly, the architects’ brief included making this the Largest Museum In The World (to match Beijing Capital Airport’s Terminal 3, the Largest Building In The World; the Great Wall, and so on). Apparently they succeeded, and out of the shell of two older museums on Tiananmen Square, the Museum of Chinese History and the Museum of the Chinese Revolution, the National Museum of China is being born, a giant monument to China’s fabled 5000 year history, and as we shall see, to the faithful guardianship of this immense history by the Chinese Communist Party. “Is being born” because the NMC is still a work in progress. Vast swathes of the building are still uninhabited, forthcoming galleries uninstalled. But I would estimate that at least half of the Museum is now open, more than enough for a full day of provocative and sometimes entrancing museum-going.

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CinemaTalk: A Conversation with Lu Xinyu

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

dGenerate Films presents CinemaTalk, an ongoing series of conversations with esteemed scholars of Chinese cinema studies. These conversations are presented on this site in audio podcast and/or text format. They are intended to help the Chinese cinema studies community keep abreast of the latest work being done in the field, as well as to learn what recent Chinese films are catching the attention of others. This series reflects our mission to bring valuable resources and foster community around the field of Chinese film studies.

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Lu Xinyu (photo courtesy of UCLA International Institute)

Lu Xinyu is Professor and Director of the Radio and TV Department, School of Journalism, Fudan University, Shanghai, China. Professor Lu is widely regarded as the leading scholar on independent Chinese documentaries. Her influential book Documenting China: The New Documentary Movement (Beijing, SDX Joint Publishing Company, 2003) was the first book to systematically theorize the New Documentary Movement in China from the beginning of 1990s. She spent the past academic year as a visiting scholar in the department of cinema studies at New York University.

Selected Publications by Lu Xinyu:

Books:

  • Writing and What It Obscures (Guangxi Normal University Press, 2008)
  • Documenting China: The Contemporary Documentary Movement in China (SDX Joint Publishing Company, Beijing, 2003)
  • Mythology. Tragedy. Aristotle’s Art of Poetry: New Concept to Ancient Greek’s Poetics Tradition (Fudan University Press, Shanghai, 1995)

Papers and Articles:

  • “The Power and Pain of Chinese New Documentary Movement”, Dushu No. 5, 2006.
  • “Ruins of the Future Class and History in Wang Bing’s Tiexi District”, New Left Review, 31 Jan/Fab 2005. London.
  • “Tiexi District: History and Class Consciousness”, Dushu No. 1, 2004.
  • “The History of Documentary and the Document of the History”, Journalism Quarterly, Winter, 2003.
  • “A Memorandum about Contemporary Chinese Documentary Development”, South China Television Journal No. 6, 2002 and No. 1, 2003.
  • “Began from the Other Side: New Documentary Movement in China”, Frontiers No. 3, 2002.

In this interview conducted by dGenerate’s Yuqian Yan, Lu Xinyu told us about her current work during her visit in New York and how she was attracted to independent Chinese documentary from an aesthetic and humanist background. Starting from Aristotle’s poetic concept of “tragedy”, she led us to understand the New Documentary Movement as a unique art form that depicts the tragic life of ordinary people in the rapidly changing Chinese society. The interview was conducted in Chinese. Full English transcript after the break.

Play the Podcast (in Mandarin Chinese) (Time: 16:43)

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Download it here (right-click to download). (File Size:7.7 MB)

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Tiananmen Square in Film

Thursday, June 11th, 2009

Last Thursday marked the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square tragedy. We didn’t want to let it go without some making mention of it within the context of cinema and media. Fortunately Gina Telaroli at Take Part published a wonderful piece that explores some features and documentaries that deal with the incident, with embedded video excerpts of each film. These films include PBS’s Frontline documentary The Tank Man, documentary The Gate of Heavenly Peace, and Lou Ye’s Summer Palace. She also explores how the tragedy might inform the work of Jia Zhang-ke.