Films about art and films by artists. If artists are the Others in society, they also outline a different side to society by pointing out the absurdity, alien aspects and strangeness of ‘normal’ phenomena. With an introduction by the independent film-maker and curator Ou Ning.
R: Wang Xiaoshuai, China / Hong Kong 1997, 97 min., English subtitles
Performance-artist Qi decides to turn his own death into his final and greatest performance. A documentary film.
On the longest day of the year, he wants to melt a huge block of ice with his body heat and die of hyperthermia in the process. But what will happen when and after he dies? While he is gradually departing from life, his fellow human beings react in very different ways: from total incomprehension to smiling mildly at his plan.
R: Cao Fei, China 2004, 8 min.
COSPlayers was filmed in Guangzhou (formerly Canton), where private capital is the motor propelling rapid, uncontrolled urban growth. Cao Feis’ actors are teenagers who identify so closely with the heroes of Japanese cartoon films that they dress like their favourite characters and fight out dramatic battles on the roofs of grey skyscrapers. The tragic thing about these scenes is that, despite their classy costumes, the COSPlayers (short for costume players) are stuck in the dismal, polluted surroundings of a Chinese megacity in the 21st century. Their fantasies will never help them to escape their lot.
R: Cao Fei, China 2002, 8.52 min.
The dog-like office-workers portrayed in this brash pop-style video are barely distinguishable from their human equivalents: ‘We love whips; we need to bite; we dare not bark. We work tamely, faithfully and patiently like dogs. We can be summoned or dismissed at the bidding of our master and understand his intentions clearly at once. We are surely a miserable pack of dogs and we are willing to act as beasts that are locked in the trap of modernisation. When will we be daring enough to bite our master, to take off the masks, to strip off the furs and be a real pack of rabid dogs?’ (Cao Fei)
San Yuan Li
R: Ou Ning, Cao Fei, China 2003, 40 min., English subtitles
‘The city, which is expanding at a truly phenomenal rate, devours the patriarchal structures of the rural society it finds in its path, sucking into its vast belly the modest lives of the peasants and seasonal workers. People equipped with digital cameras wander like rag-and-bone men along the paths and lanes of the former village of San Yaun Li, and roam across huge building sites and rubbish tips (composed of the ashes produced in the consumption of urban energy) in search of poetic images. The film returns to a documentary form that was developed in the 1930s, as in Symphony of a City, for instance, in an effort to capture the architecture and the human ecology of the place in a style that thrives on concentration and speed.’ (Ou Ning)
San Yuan Li was commissioned for the 50th Biennale in Venice.