In the film Mosheng tiantang (An Estranged Paradise), 1997-2002, at the beginning of the rainy season a young man complains of a general malaise and, worried, tries to determine its origin. Numerous consultations with doctors at the local hospital fail to yield any answers. His behavior leads to the deduction that in reality he is suffering from paralyzing boredom, a condition that alienates him and prevents him from entering into a true relationship with daily existence. His inaction contrasts with the fleeting vision of another man, perhaps mentally unstable, who flails and shrieks and seems to react to life with rage.
Not autobiographical, but connected to the artist's personal history, the plot of Yang Fudong's first film describes the weakness of the human condition, man's inability to understand the meaning of reality and to relate to it, identifying with a profound existential melancholy, an inevitable negative consequence of life in China today. The artist's subsequent works, in film, photography, and video, delve into these sorts of themes, placing at the center of his artistic investigation the complex relationship between the new generation of Chinese intellectuals and the profound changes of a political, economic, and social nature that are taking place within their country. Born in Beijing in 1971 and residing in Shanghai, Yang Fudong belongs to the same generation he portrays in his projects, and his work can be interpreted as a critical voice that is analyzing, in real time, some of the concerns that animate intellectual debate in contemporary China.
For his first exhibition in an Italian museum, on the occasion of his solo show at Castello di Rivoli, Museum of Contemporary Art, Yang Fudong is presenting a preview screening of two new video installations entitled Dengdai she de suxing / Waiting for the Snake to Wake Up, 2005 and Jiaer de shengkou / Jiaer's Livestock, 2002-2005.
The installation Waiting for the Snake to Wake Up uses a double projection and a series of plasma screens to stage the story of an escaped soldier, dwelling on the final days of a military man who has chosen a fate different from the one that had been imposed upon him. In Jiaer's Livestock the parallel stories of two men indicate different relationships with the world. In both works, a dominant role is given to the landscape, an element that links the contemporary urgencies described by Yang Fudong to the iconography of the ancient tradition of Chinese painting. As in many of his works, the ambiguity of meaning is intentional and manifests an opening toward possibilities of reality and, at the same time, the difficulty in relating to a society going through radical changes, within which each individual is searching for a role and an identity.
In addition to An Estranged Paradise, the exhibition includes a selection of the principal works in film that the artist has created to date: Liu lan, a story that brings to the large screen the poetry of an ancient painting, and Houfang – hei, tian liang le / Backyard. Hey, Sun Is Rising!, a work that presents the paramilitary activities of a group of men united by a goal, the meaning of which is unknown to them. The films being shown also include the first two parts of the series Zhulin qi xian (Seven Intellectuals in Bamboo Forest). Part of a pentalogy, which the artist is currently completing, the two films describe the apprehensions of a group of young men and women, using the story of seven poets and artists who lived in ancient China to relate the contemporary urgency of freedom and independence.
Text by Marcella Beccaria
(translated by Meg Shore)
the author and Castello di Rivoli Museum of Contemporary Art, Rivoli-Turin, Italy
Published on the occasion of the exhibition Yang Fudong, June 2 – July 24, 2005, at Castello di Rivoli, Museum of Contemporary Art, Rivoli – Turin, Italy