Projections. A LOT of projections. And even, projections inside projections.
The second major solo exhibition by Chinese artist and film maker Yang Fudong at Parasol Unit is a display of dense monochromatic, projected moving images, stylized to draw from the classical and the modern, the images portraying the painterly and the digitial.
The first room contains Fifth Night, a new seven-screen video installation, featuring synchronized images, of the same scene, shot from different angles. Ghostly, lonely, characters wander from screen to screen, around a scene supposedly representative of Shanghai at night. Men and women, of various ages and class, seem to pass through each other. The characters do not speak; there is only the melancholy thud of a hammer, broken fragments of a whole, listlessly searching for something.
Upstairs, another new piece, One Half of August is an eight screen installation, which attempts to create three-dimensionality. It’s a more technical piece, compared with Fifth Night, interested in examining reality, dreams and subconsciousness via this disorienting effect of projecting film inside film; excerpts of earlier works are projected onto architectural props, constructions and objects.
The exhibition concludes with what appears to be a more conventional cinematic format; a single screen projection that seems at first to have a linear narrative, but soon dissolves into a surreal, symbolic exploration that again refers to the search for spirituality, and the destiny of humanity, drawing on motifs from Chinese traditions, with a dose of surrealist European filmmakers; the painted white faces, the highly stylized shots recall Cocteau and Buñuel.
What Fudong is very good at is reshaping film, into his own brand. He has a clear aesthetic and the video-installations here are packed with breathtakingly beautiful sequences, shot with a perfectionist’s eye – and it is a quality that has made him a successful artist in an international level, notably collaborating with Prada, and showing around the world including at the Venice Biennale. But you cannot help but feel that Fudong has sacrificed some of the emotional impact of his work in creating this aesthetic; there is something about his work that just leaves you cold. His passionless figures and highly artificial landscapes don’t leave you with anything much, except a few resonant images of constructed beauty.
-- Charlotte Jansen, a writer living in London.
All images courtesy Parasol Unit, London.
Images: Yang Fudong: Fifth Night, 2010, HD video Installation, 7 screens, Black and White, sound, 10’ 37’’. Courtesy of the Artist and Galerie Marian Goodman, Paris / New York ; Shanghart Gallery, Shanghai; Yang Fudong, Ye Jiang (The night man cometh), 2011, 35mm film transferred to HD, 1 screen, Black and white, 13’, Courtesy of the Artist and Galerie Marian Goodman, Paris / New York; ShanghART Gallery, Shanghai.