Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Useful Life 2010

Beginning September 9th and lasting until November 5th, ShanghART Gallery presents an exhibit curated around the theme “Useful Life.” Featured artists are Yang Fudong, Yang Zhenzhong, and Xu Zhen. I found Yang Fudong’s film “The Fifth Night” to be especially memorable. Upon entering “The Fifth Night” exhibition space, I was instantly struck by the presentation: seven large screens simultaneously played black and white film. Yang refers to this technique as “multiple eyes film” as it allows the viewer to experience one scene from seven vantage points. At first glance, this was disorienting as it was impossible to follow the film’s plot. This loss in comprehension was replaced though with heightened senses that drew awareness to individual movements and expressions. Even the most mundane actions became nearly monumental, examined carefully and followed slowly. The “multiple eyes film” technique is in part a result of Yang finding beauty in randomness. Since true randomness cannot be created, Yang found it in the cameramen’s subtle adjustments, and the actors’ slight reactions to the multiple lenses. As I continued to observe the film, I attempted further to dissect the theme, but found myself enthralled with the drama of pending moments. Even the smallest steps gave way to a near ominous feeling. This mood forces the viewer to slow down, to observe the drama of time. Finding perfection is randomness and change is indeed a characteristic of a “useful life;” however, the over-plasticity of the actors counteracted this. By reducing the human element, the viewer was distanced from the scene. The overall effect brought attention to time and movement, but in a near surreal world.

Meredith Rankin

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