Yang Fudong "The General’s Smile"

Hara Museum of Contemporary Art (Tokyo)

poster for Yang Fudong "The General’s Smile"

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The Hara Museum of Contemporary Art is pleased to announce the first solo exhibition in Japan by Yang Fudong, a Chinese film artist who has been highly active on the international scene in recent years. As an artist with a strong attachment to 35mm film, Yang creates films that are noted for their unique, finely grained textural quality and the use of highly refined and perfectly composed imagery. His films--at times documentary in tone, at times theatrical--depict fragments of contemporary Chinese society, transforming at dazzling speed, and the people who live within it. This exhibition introduces the magic of Yang Fudong’s world by presenting a number of his cinematic gems, some being shown in Japan for the first time. These include General’s Smile (2009), a large-scale video installation about the universality of human life presented in a scene of a banquet held for a senior military officer, and Seven Intellectuals in Bamboo Forest Part 3 (2005), one part of a series that depict well-educated, modern-day young urbanites as they reveal their inner thoughts in various situations modeled after the popular tale of seven famous intellectuals in ancient China who seek refuge from the world in a bamboo forest where they engage in intellectual discourse.



From 2009-12-19 To 2010-05-23



postnearlyman: (2010-02-23)

The Intriguing Ambiguity of Yang Fudong

I’m delighted to be back in the company of one of China’s leading contemporary artists Yang Fudong since his impressive first solo exhibition No Snow On the Broken Bridge in 2006 at The Parasol Unit, England, London.

Indeed, The Hara Museum of Contemporary Art presents The General’s Smile, Yang Fudong’s first solo exhibition in Japan. The selection of works on display span the past ten years of Fudong’s audiovisual practice including short films, a feature length film and multiple-channel video installations.

The tumultuous noise of a 35mm film projector beckons the viewer into a small room showcasing Fudong’s black and white short film Backyard – Hey, Sun is Rising! (2001). Men in suits carry out numerous preposterous acts as the slapstick humour and in-camera editing recall the early films of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. It quickly becomes evident, however, we’re witnessing Fudong’s idiosyncratic perception of modern China rather than archive footage from a bygone era.

In fact, this dichotomy between tradition and modernity is continually revisited throughout Fudong’s practice and the exhibition’s centerpiece work, The General’s Smile (2009), is no different. The huge video installation, complete with long dining-room table, presents an absurdly opulent ‘western’ banquet. Multiple monitors behind the diners and two larger projections fill the gallery space, depicting scenes of public acclamation and private withdrawal.

An ageing military General features in numerous instances throughout. On one screen he’s with a breathless young woman, in others he plays his piano alone or is sleeping alone. His personal account expresses optimism for the future of his country whilst contemplating the hardships of the past. Yet scenes of sex, sleaze and lust featuring the youth (and future) of China juxtapose these sentiments. Does Fudong suppose newfound wealth and power has led China on a course of grotesque consumerism and dubious morality?

Film short The Half Hitching Post (2005) and the stunning feature length Seven Intellectuals in a Bamboo Forest Part 3 (2005) continue Fudong’s propensity for intriguing ambiguity. Although there is little to no spoken narrative throughout the films, the compelling use of sound and (particularly the latter’s) mysterious, dream-like cinematography hypnotises its audience.

In contrast, the social realism of video installation Blue Kylin Part 1 (2009) highlights the multifaceted approach to Fudong’s practice. Multiple monitors present a dusty and somber Chinese work site portraying the hardships of everyday working life. Numerous video ‘portraits’ of workers stand face-to-face with the viewer, emotionless and silent.

The artist, who lives and works in Shanghai, defies definitive ‘readings’ of his works and rather opens up to the viewer a multitude of possible meaning. Unraveling the (admittedly overly at times) complex political and social commentary of Fudong’s homeland, however, reveals the video installations to lack the piquancy of the films on display. Yet, be in no doubt, the intriguing ambiguity of Yang Fudong is wonderful place to be.

jinno: (2010-05-17)


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