“ one of those rare gems, a work that comes out of the heart and from real experiences and genuine talent”
In May 2002, we brought to Vancouver for the first time the Academy Award nominated director of Sunrise Over Tiananmen Square Shuibo Wang. We presented a program of screenings, a directors workshop and a public artist talk. We featured SUNRISE OVER TIANANMEN SQUARE (1998) and SWING IN BEIJING (1999). Both works present an unconventional view of China post-Mao with historical references to the tremendous cultural upheaval that has been experienced there. They are intimate and personal, and present a unique vision of the intellectual and cultural time that the artist finds himself within.
“Sunrise is a film about the modern history of China through a personal journey, the journey from the Red dream to American dream, for me Tiananmen was the result of the American dream. The film's title is a line of the most popular children's song of our generation in China, which is about our love of Mao. Sunrise is not black or white, it is grey, from a neutral perspective, a personal confession. I was a romantic red artist, never a real activist, and I've changed so much, 13 years later I understand more of the dilemma in China, and understand more about Western democracy.” Shuibo Wang
Wang is an artist of our time, involved in the disastrous 1989 pro-democracy movement that resulted in the Tiananmen Square massacre. With this failure, he resigned from the Communist party and, like many of his comrades, he turned his back on Maoism and fled China. His transformation to living and working as a new world artist has been an extraordinary journey. It has been a giant leap from communism to democracy, from social realism to modernism, from conventional representation forms of visual art to experimental film animation and digital video documentaries.
Coming from a tradition of fine arts, he was trained in classical techniques, specifically painting. Indoctrinated at an early age as a Red Guard, his artistic talents were applied to the making of official art for the Chinese government in the grand tradition of communist realism. He was an accomplished propaganda artist and subsequently a proud professor of visual art at the leading university of Beijing. Turning his back not only on his country but also on his traditional use of art medium, he dropped the paint brush for a video camera. His journey in the new world has been forging a new cultural revolution from within.
This personal long march is the subject of the award winning SUNRISE OVER TIANANMEN SQUARE. This first time director was awarded a Gemini for best history and biography in 2000 and his film was nominated for an Oscar, the Academy Award for Documentary Short Subject in 1999. SUNRISE, produced by the NFB, makes innovative use of kinesthetic animation techniques (camera over still art). Samples of his works made during his time as a Red Guard are featured in SUNRISE.
In his second work, a digital video documentary, SWING IN BEIJING, he returns to China and turns his critical focus on to the avant garde art movement in the post Tiananmen Square era. This hour long documentary takes us inside the Beijing underground art scene. It captures the successes and failures of sudden fame and glory, idealism pitted against the rapid rise of capitalism socialist style. Swinging the pendulum we get a sweeping view of all that is good and bad from the frontier of a new Chinese society. We get access to political drive and rhythm of punk music, body art, controversial installations and performance art.
Growing up in the post GANG OF FOUR period, he is from the disillusioned generation, growing up being told black is white to only find out later that black is black. He and his peers are the current Chinese avant garde, the first generation to use modernist art styles to speak out loudly. It is because of his experiences, insights and connections that SWING IN BEIJING is such an extraordinary documentary. It comes from the perspective of an insider/outsider. It is because he is an artist, not a journalist, or a documentary filmmaker, that makes what he does, ”authentic”. SWING IN BEIJING is one of the best, insightful and accessible documentaries on the “second cultural revolution” in China.
His new work in progress Floating Dreams, his first dramatic feature film, is about a Chinese Canadian filmmaker trying to make a film in Canada and in China about the story of three Chinese migrants coming to Canada illegally using snakeheads. It was presented as part of his artist’s talk and directors’ workshop in script format.
We presented his work in Vancouver in May 2002 as part of Asian Heritage Month Festival. Co-sponsored by Pacific Cinematheque, Vancouver Art Gallery and Video In Studios. Funded in part by The Media Arts Section of The Canada Council.
FREE EXPRESSION: THE LONG MARCH TO MODERNISM
ARTIST TALK at the VANCOUVER ART GALLERY
Wednesday May 29 at 7:30pm
SUNRISE OVER TIANANMEN SQUARE and SWING IN BEIJING
SCREENING at PACIFIC CINEMATHEQUE
Thursday May 30 at 7:30pm
DREAMS + WISHES. From Mao to Oscar
THE PEOPLE’S WORKSHOP for Film + Video Directors
at Video In
Saturday, June 1 from 1 - 4pm