Photos capture moody edge of social change

By Kelly Chung Dawson in New York ( China Daily ) Updated: 2013-12-13 09:38:01
Photos capture moody edge of social change

Yang Fudong's works reveal images of the rapdily changing country's anxiety and hope, like this one in The Evergreen Nature of Romantic Stories. Photo provided to China Daily


Photos capture moody edge of social change

CAFA instructors display art

Photos capture moody edge of social change

Excellent animal photographic works

Yang Fudong's staged photographs often feel like stills from film noir - strikingly dreamlike in the stories they imply. In the series Ms Huang at M Last Night, a lovely young woman and her admirers are depicted in black-and-white in various scenes that emulate the voyeuristic eye of a paparazzo.

"Sometimes I think that pictures are films," Yang says. "That one picture is only one image in a larger story. You can look at both photographs and larger films independently, but for me the most interesting thing is the existence of the image itself."

That series is among an expansive exhibition spanning 20 years of photographs, video installations and films no won display at the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. Yang Fudong: Estranged Paradise, Works 1993-2013 is the first mid-career retrospective for the artist, who first shot to prominence with his 2002 film An Estranged Paradise, a meditative psychodrama based loosely on the American director Jim Jarmusch's 1984 film Stranger than Paradise.

Curated by the Berkeley museum's own Philippe Pirotte and Beatrix Ruf of Switzerland's Kunsthalle Zurich, the exhibition showcases Yang's thoughtful exploration of themes evident in all his work: the interplay between anxiety and indifference, remembering and forgetting, and a mood of discontent he believes to be the mark of a rapidly changing society.

"Yang Fudong's career spans a period of change and brings a powerful artistic perspective to life in China during this momentous era," Pirotte says.

"In particular, Yang's work expresses the aspirations and anxieties of his own generation, born during or just after the 'cultural revolution': unmoored from both traditional culture as well as the guiding principles of Communist orthodoxy, this generation has yet to find its bearings in a culture that celebrates consumerism and rampant growth."

His subjects appear against a changing backdrop, uncertain about the future.

"They tend to be young people in an old country, young people who, in other words, embody a long cultural history while their own experience of life is still relatively fresh," Rey Chow writes in the accompanying catalog.

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