I'd been hearing rumors for a while that the area known as Red Town (hong fang) hadn't succeeded as a creative art cluster. That just isn't true. Today I took my daughter Sarah to visit the Minsheng Art Museum. They were holding an exhibition on 30 years of Chinese video art. This is a must-see for anybody interested in contemporary Chinese art.
The title of the exhibition is "Moving Image in China: 1988-2011." The warehouse-like museum is dark inside and each room and alcove is fixed with a screen showing a different video artwork.
Upon entering the museum one is greeted with Zhang Peili's famous 180 minute film of a pairs of gloved hands breaking and gluing together a mirror. This is considered one of the classic films in the video art movement in China. The son of a surgeon, Zhang Peili has always had a fixation on gloved hands and on fixing broken things.
The wierdness continues as one traverses the main floor of the museum. In addition to strange repetitive images of bodies, crowds, and faces, each in their own little box, one hears sounds. There is a strong sucking noise coming from one room. One enters to find water being sucked into the mouth of a face projected onto a pan. Called "Baby Talk," this video installation by Wang Gongxin is meant to reverse the viewpoint of a small child being nourished by his parents. Already spooked by the bizarre images and the dark museum, my seven-year old daughter was freaked out by this exhibit and started looking for the exit.
It didn't help that next to this one is a film by Shanghai artist Xu Zhen called "Shouting." Made in 1998, this film examines how crowds in the city react to a person screaming at the top of his lungs. The shouting was eerie and echoed through the cavernous hall.
We had to leave the museum after that, but on the way out we spotted a video of girls primping themselves in a mirror. Filmed clandestinely by Cui Xiuwen in 2000 in the ladies room at a Beijing disco (or possibly a KTV hostess club?) this is a fascinating piece of voyeuristic filmmaking called "Lady's". Sarah was spellbound and we stayed for the duration of the film, as girls dressed and undressed, adjusted their breasts, counted their money, and talked with their lovers on the cell phone.
I hope to return before the exhibition ends on November 27, this time preferably with adults rather than children, and see more of these fascinating and pathbreaking video artworks.
After our brief visit to the Minsheng Art Museum, we visited the gallery next door, whose collection of oil paintings were more appropriate for children. Here are a couple of shots of some of the artworks there.