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Coal Spell

Alternative Visions

Tuesday, November 18, 2008
7:30 p.m. Collisions in Forms: Experimental Videos from Shanghai and Beijing
Cao Kai, Deng Li, Lu Chunsheng, Sun Xun, Tan Tan, Tian Miaozi, Yang Fudong, Danielle Ye (China, 2002–2008)


Curated and Introduced by Steve Anker


Steve Anker was artistic director of San Francisco Cinematheque from 1982 to 2002 and is currently dean of the CalArts School of Film/Video. Anker has made three trips to China since 2006, and helped create CAFA’s M.F.A. Program in Experimental Film/Video.

The impulse to break from linear narrative genres and create concentrated fields of visual, often ambiguous, expression has only begun to be realized during the last ten years in China. Appearing sporadically in Shanghai and in Beijing, experimental video has gained increasing presence in many Chinese galleries and a few art academies. Tonight’s program offers a small selection of work from a group of Shanghai artists who have become active in the international art world. In addition, I have chosen several pieces, both by students and by the co-director, from the new M.F.A. program in experimental film and video at Beijing’s Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA). (Beijing previously had little experimental filmmaking.) Weaving through many works is a head-on political critique that is sometimes understated and implied (Coal Spell), but at other times harshly blunt (The Day of Kwun-yin’s Birthday). The old and new often mingle or collide: hauntingly (Qian Men No. 1 Hotel), with gentle appreciation (The Shape of Air), or with conceptual whimsy and irony (City Light, A Square Which Is Loaded with Nuclear Power Is Coming to America).

—Steve Anker

Qian Men No. 1 Hotel (Tan Tan, 2008, 16:32 mins). A City with Visible Landscape (Tian Miaozi, 2008, 10:50 mins). The Day of Kwun-yin’s Birthday (Deng Li, 2008, 13:49 mins). The Shape of Air (Danielle Ye, 2004, 11:06 mins). Cult. Revo. 1969 (Danielle Ye, 2008, 5 mins). Chinese Words. War (Sun Xun, 2005, 2:12 mins). Lie (Sun Xun, 2006, 7:20 mins). Coal Spell (Sun Xun, 2008, 7:56 mins). Channel China I, Part 2 (Cao Kai, c. 2002, 4:25 mins). A Square Which Is Loaded with Nuclear Power Is Coming to America (Lu Chunsheng, 2007, 4 mins). City Light (Yang Fudong, 2000, 6 mins, Courtesy Marian Goodman Gallery, New York)

• (Total running time: 88 mins, Color, Digital video, From the artists unless otherwise noted. Thanks to Danielle Ye, program director of the China Central Academy of Fine Art’s M.F.A. Program in Experimental Film/Video; Katy Martin, filmmaker and co-curator, with Denis Zhu, of two series on recent Chinese experimental videos for Anthology Film Archives; and Denis Zhu (Zhu Haijian), creator and chief curator of the long-running experimental film series 12+ at MoCA Shanghai.)