YANG FUDONG: One half of August
After the resounding success of his first exhibition at Parasol unit foundation for contemporary art in 2006, the foundation is dedicating a second major solo exhibition to the renowned artist and filmmaker Yang Fudong, one of the most important artists yet to emerge in contemporary China. It presents three new works: Fifth Night
, 2010; One half of August
, 2011; Ye Jiang (The night man cometh)
, a video-installation composed of seven synchronized projections, is shot supposedly in the streets of Shanghai’s old town at night, revealing some commotion in which carriages, rickshaws and vintage cars are driven. A stage has been built and a tramcar is being frantically repaired. Unrelated characters perform their own activities, some engaged, others bored as if awaiting some event, all lack any interest in or compassion for one another. Yang Fudong uses 35-mm cameras to film the same scenes from different angles, with variations of scale and depth of field. This highlights a character’s simplest action or subtle expression so that what a viewer might perceive as separate instances are actually all part of a single scene. As in most of Yang Fudong’s works, all is left open-ended, with no beginning or end. Without conclusion, the search for spiritual life continues.
One half of August
is an eight-screen, black-and-white, HD video installation, for which Yang Fudong projects scenes from earlier works (particularly from Seven Intellectuals in Bamboo Forest
) onto architectural elements, props, structures and objects built for the purpose. He also includes artefacts, uses light, and inverts external space. This creates new realities that challenge one’s vision and mind, and expands our understanding of the world. This first derivative of Yang Fudong films, almost an attempt at three-dimensionality, poses the question: Am I watching a film or a film of a film? Issues of the subconscious, reality and dream are also clearly present. The title A half of August
refers to the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival, which is about rites, tradition, art, poetry, everything that puts human beings to the fore. Usually starting on the 15th of the eighth Chinese lunar month, in 2011 the festival began on 12 September, the launch date of Yang Fudong’s exhibition at Parasol unit. Yang Fudong highlights with his beautiful title a fine collaboration with Parasol unit and his second exhibition there.
The single-screen work, Ye Jiang (The night man cometh)
unfolds in a frozen winter landscape. At first one might try to read the film as a linear narrative, but as images succeed one another it becomes clear that Yang Fudong is once more questioning the destiny of man. In it a wounded and forlorn warrior is seen after a battle, apparently now questioning his path in life. In this dramatic and hyper-realist film, three ghost-like characters appear to personify the chaos of feelings and thoughts that surface and clash within the warrior’s heart and mind as he swings from enthusiasm and happiness to disappointment, grief and despair, thus revealing what takes place in a man who is required to demonstrate strength and courage in times of war and crisis.
Born in 1971 in Beijing, Yang Fudong lives and works in Shanghai. Recent exhibitions include Marion Goodman Gallery, Paris, France, (2011) and Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation, Sydney, Australia, (2011). Other one-person exhibitions include National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens, Greece, (2010); Hara Museum, Tokyo, Japan, (2009); Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver, USA, (2009); MuHKA, Antwerp, Belgium, (2009); Zendai Museum of Modern Art, Shanghai, China (2009).
Tuesday 18 October, 6:45pm for 7pm start
Chinese Cinema: Springtime in a Small Town, Tian Zhuangzhuang (2002) 116 mins
‘Beautifully acted, exquisitely considered, spellbindingly tender, utterly involving’ – The Guardian.
Winner of the San Marco Award, Venice Film Festival 2002, this romantic drama follows the passionless marriage of Liyan and his beautiful wife Yuwen whose dreary lives are interrupted when Yuwen’s childhood sweetheart comes to visit.
Wednesday 19 October, 6:45pm for 7pm start
Chinese Cinema: Street Angel, Yuan Muzhi (1937) 91 mins
Considered a classic of the leftist film-making era Street Angel combines melodrama and comedy to tell the story of two sisters who have fled from the war in Northeast China to Shanghai, where they are coerced into a life of corruption.
Thursday 20 October, 7pm
Back to beauty: Yang Fudong’s aesthetics in a post-realist China
Specialist in Contemporary Chinese Art and lecturer at Sotheby’s Institute, Dr. Katie Hill will explore the work of Yang Fudong. Hill recently conducted the conversation with Chinese artist Ai Weiwei at Tate Modern during his Unilever commission ‘Sunflower Seeds’ and is currently co-editing a special issue of the journal Visual Art Practice on Contemporary Chinese Art and Criticality.
Thursday 27 October, 7pm
CLOSE-UP: Photography workshop
Part of The Big Draw 2011
An exciting practical photography workshop hosted by photographer Lynn Weddle. The evening will involve discussion around the cinematic close-up in the work of Yang Fudong and a practical session exploring the pose, body language and expression within the photographic portrait.
Friday 4 November 2011, 9:15am–5pm (with wine reception until 7pm)
The Politics of Visibility: Mediating the Global, Local and the In-between
A collaboration between Parasol unit and City University London, this one-day conference brings together artists and academics to examine the relationship between art, media, transnationalism and power taking the work of Yang Fudong as it’s starting point. Speakers include Professor Chris Berry (Goldsmiths), Anthony Gardner (Courtauld), Janet Harbord (Queen Mary), Turner-prize nominee Isaac Julien and Juliet Steyn (City University London). Please note that the conference programme is subject to change. Spaces are limited, booking essential: politicsofvisibility.eventbrite.com
About Parasol unit:
Founded in December 2004, Parasol unit foundation for contemporary art is a registered educational charity in England and Wales and a not-for-profit institution that operates purely for the public benefit. Every year the foundation organises four thought-provoking exhibitions of works in various media by contemporary artists, and also sets up a variety of other artistic projects. Each exhibition is accompanied by a publication and related educational events. The foundation does not bear the founder’s name, and its exhibitions are not derived from the founder’s collection. Admission to exhibitions is free of charge.
Parasol unit operates like publicly funded institutions in London. Currently about 60% of the funding is provided by the founder and 40% through Gift Aid, charitable organisations, private donations and the sale of merchandise. The exhibition space has been put at the disposal of the foundation free of charge by the founder. Thanks to this new model between private funding and public support one of London’s most vibrant contemporary art spaces has come to exist.
Courtesy of the Artist and Galerie Marian Goodman, Paris / New York; ShanghART Gallery, Shanghai.
© Yang Fudong.