Posts Tagged ‘liu xiaodong’

CinemaTalk: Interview with Professor Eugene Wang on Chinese Art and Film

Sunday, September 25th, 2011

By Michael Chenkin

Professor Eugene Wang

Eugene Yuejin Wang is Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Professor of Asian Art at Harvard University. We recently spoke with Professor Wang about his interests in Chinese art and Chinese film, the areas of intersection between these two fields, and his interest in painter Liu Xiaodong, who is the subject of Jia Zhangke’s documentary Dong. Dong will screen Monday 9/26 as the opening film of the 11-film series on Chinese independent film at Doc Films in Chicago. In this conversation Professor Wang reflects at length on the way Liu and other artists work in relation to the idea of nationhood, especially in regards to national disasters such as the 2008 Beichuan earthquake in Sichuan. Wang pays particular attention to Liu’s 2010 work “Getting Out of Beichuan,” which Wang considers “marks a new stage and possibly a new turning point in the contemporary Chinese art scene.”

A native of Jiangsu, China, Wang studied at Fudan University in Shanghai (B.A. 1983; M.A. 1986), and subsequently at Harvard University (A.M. 1990; Ph.D. 1997). He was the Ittleson Fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies in Visual Art, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (1995-96) before joining the art history faculty at the University of Chicago in 1996. His teaching appointment at Harvard University began in 1997, and he became the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Professor of Asian Art in 2005.

He has received the Guggenheim Fellowship, Charles A. Ryskamp Fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies, and postdoctoral and research grants from the Getty Foundation.

His book, Shaping the Lotus Sutra: Buddhist Visual Culture in Medieval China (2005) has received the Academic Achievement Award in memory of the late Professor Nichijin Sakamoto, Rissho University, Japan. He is the art history associate editor of the Encyclopedia of Buddhism (New York, 2004).


dGF: I understand that a lot of your past research focused on Medieval Buddhist art and visual culture. Recently you have been researching Chinese film. Where did these interests arise? In addition, is there any synergy between inquiries into Buddhist art and Chinese film?

Eugene Wang: Before I started researching medieval art, I was deeply engaged in Chinese film. I actually wrote a script and published a few essays. Film has always been one of my side interests. I’m always intrigued by how people screen disparate images together. You have a set of images. They may or may not have a relationship with one another. Somehow you string them together and you have an image flow. In cinematic terms it would be called montage. If these images are on a wall, such as in Buddhist caves and wall paintings, then you have an iconographic program. There is something very interesting about the visual logic underlying this flow of images.

Artist Yang Weidong’s New Project Asks What Chinese Really Need

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

By Isabella Tianzi Cai

Yang Weidong interviews a subject for his documentary project "Signal" (Photo: Yang Weidong)

A work in progress by Beijing artist Yang Weidong was recently shown in Hong Kong. Named “Xu Yao” or “Need” in Chinese and “Signal” in English, the documentary comprises of roughly 20 minutes of edited video interviews that Yang conducted with 237 notable Chinese subjects over the past three years. Yang asked each person the same question: “What do Chinese people need most today?” Among the interviewees were director Jia Zhangke and contemporary oil painter Liu Xiaodong, who appears as himself in Jia’s documentary Dong.

The premiere of Yang’s unfinished film project coincided with the publication of the first book in a series, also by him, named Li Ci Cun Zhao: 500 Wei Zhong Guo Ren De Xin Ling Ji Lu (Di Yi Juan) [For the Record: 500 Chinese People’s Inner Thoughts (Volume I)]. On July 22, 2011, he was invited to hold a press release for the book at the Hong Kong Book Fair, which was also the venue for the first public screening of “Need.” This event has been recorded in full by the Social Record Association (aka SocREC) of Hong Kong.

The concept for Yang’s project can be traced in the Chinese documentary tradition. Back in 2000, independent filmmaker Ju Anqi made There’s a Strong Wind in Beijing, in which he and his crew famously confronted people in both public and private space in Beijing with the same question of whether they thought that the wind in Beijing was strong. Though absurd, this question sometimes opened up the conversations, tricking people to divulge what was really on their mind. Compared to Ju’s film, which is certainly more spontaneous and experimental in nature, Yang’s “Need” is more serious and urgent in tone, and the reason must be traced to Yang’s initial motivation for the project.


Childhood Friends, Now Major Artists: Liu Xiaodong and Wang Xiaoshuai

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

By Kevin B. Lee

”]China Daily reports on a recent public reunion between two high school buddies, international award-winning director Wang Xiaoshuai and acclaimed oil painter Liu Xiaodong, that took place at the Shanghai Museum:

When Wang Xiaoshuai realized he could never paint as finely as his high school pal Liu Xiaodong, he gave up painting and turned to filmmaking.

Liu was one of the few students from the Central Academy of Fine Arts to have a solo exhibition right after graduation. Wang, however, went through some years in low tide working in Fujian Film Studio in the early 1990s.

Since then, Wang has won many international awards for his movie productions, including the Silver Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2001. His latest project, Chongqing Blues, competed for the Golden Palm at last year’s Cannes International Film Festival.

Liu himself is no stranger to film, having worked as an artistic collaborator with independent Sixth Generation filmmakers in the 90s, and later serving as the subject of Jia Zhangke’s documentary Dong. Recently, he is the subject of another documentary, this time by Hou Hsiao-hsien, that follows Liu as he returns to his hometown in northeast China.

At the talk Liu addressed criticism that his work takes advantage of his subjects, making millions of dollars from painting portraits of the poor and exploited. “This is hardly avoidable as we live in a commercial age,” Liu said. “Society commercializes a person incredibly quickly. As an artist, I have to be alert about being commercialized too.”

Dong is available as part of the dGenerate catalog.

Jia Zhangke’s “Dong” Reviewed at Not Coming to a Theater Near You

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

Dong (dir. Jia Zhangke)

By Ariella Tai

As part of a larger feature on the films of director Jia Zhangke at Not Coming to a Theater Near You, Leo Goldsmith focuses on “Jia’s first documentary proper;” Dongavailable for purchase or rental through the dGenerate catalog. Goldsmith discusses the ways in which this multilayered documentary meditates on the shifting landscapes of China, both literal and economic, as well as the roles and responsibilities of the artist in these times. Goldsmith observes that Dong is,

partly about the effect the [Three Gorges Dam Project] has had on the people of the region. … Fengjie, home to the Qutang Gorge, is captured by Jia’s films as it vanishes: landscapes seem to dematerialize in the distant fog while, in the foreground, buildings are ripped apart by the hands of dozens of shirtless laborers.

The film is also, in large part, about artist Liu Xiaodong as he paints the day laborers in Fenjie and eventually travels to Thailand to complete portraits of young sex workers in Bangkok. The role that he occupies as an artist in contemporary China is as important to the film as the physical sites he visits:


The Chinese Artist’s Life, Then and Now: Wu Wenguang’s Bumming in Beijing and Jia Zhangke’s Dong

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

Dong (dir. Jia Zhangke)

Published as part of Dong Week at dGenerate Films, a series of articles on Jia Zhangke and the art world in China.

By Isabella Tianzi Cai

Among the remarkable films of Jia Zhangke, Dong (2006) is perhaps a less well-known entry. In this hour-long documentary, Jia follows renowned avant-garde realist painter Liu Xiaodong as he works on his famously large canvas works, capturing demolition workers on China’s Three Gorges Dam and sex workers languishing in the urban squalor of Bangkok, Thailand. Jia allows the camera to go in and out of Liu’s life fluidly, framing the artist’s presence within his surroundings, highlighting the relationship the artist has within a given social environment.

Dong is unique among Chinese independent films in how it demystifies the creative process and explores the artist’s role in society. At the same time, it can’t help but evoke another important documentary about artists in China, one that is credited for launching the New Documentary Cinema (aka the New Documentary Movement) of the 1990s. That film is Wu Wenguang’s Bumming in Beijing: The Last Dreamers (1990).


Jia Zhangke and China’s Art World: Announcing Dong Week at dGenerate

Monday, November 8th, 2010

This week the dGenerate blog is spotlighting Jia Zhangke’s rare and underappreciated film Dong, which is one of the newest additions to the dGenerate Films catalog. To commemorate the film’s availability, this week we are posting articles related to Jia as well as on art and artists in China, the central theme of this film.

Additionally, readers are welcome to send in links to their favorite or most relevant articles on both art in China and Jia Zhangke. Please share your links in the comments section.

In Dong, China’s greatest living filmmaker Jia Zhangke (Platform, The World) travels with acclaimed painter Liu Xiaodong from China to Thailand as they meet everyday workers in the throes of social turmoil. Read a full description of the film from our catalog.

Here’s what Shelly Kraicer had to say about Dong in Cinema-scope, while also discussing Dong’s companion piece, Still Life:

As Jia maps it, cinema does not divide neatly into fiction and documentary.Dong creates a subjective world, as much inside the mind of the artist Liu as outside in objective space. Still Life digs deep to reveal an underlying reality, mobilizing sophisticated formal strategies to create images of truth. These same strategies demand – or, rather, construct, during the process of watching – viewers who are ready to watch, absorb, and feel this vision. It is a vision of a man-made hell, of the monumental and limitless destruction left behind by a society rushing to tear up its foundations and gut its history. And it is a vision of embodied resistance – an individual, physical resilience that can spark an impossible, miraculous, but tangible hope in a world that seems to offer none.

Watch the trailer for Dong: