Spring Workshop presents the world premiere of “Duilian”, a film installation that is the culmination of a decade-long research project by visual artist and filmmaker Wu Tsang.
The multi-media exhibition centers on“Duilian”, a newly-commissioned experimental film that interprets the life and writings of the famous Chinese revolutionary Qiu Jin through visual and martial arts.
Combining magical realism, documentary, and kung fu genre, the film portrays a side of Qiu Jin that is rarely seen in the mainstream, focusing on her private life and a community of strong women who surrounded her.“Duilian” decodes and deliberately “mistranslates” official narratives about Qiu Jin, as a way to question the role that language and storytelling play in the construction of history.
A legendary feminist, Qiu Jin was executed as a traitor during an uprising against the Qing dynasty, which ultimately led to the end of centuries of imperial rule and the founding of the Republic of China. Nowadays her portrait is displayed in the Communist Museum in Shanghai, a rare female hero amongst men. Her revolutionary life and poetry are widely celebrated in novels, films, and plays, yet the details of her personal life are less examined. In 1906, Qiu Jin left her husband and family to study abroad in Japan, where she joined the “Mutual Love Society”, a secret group of radical sworn sisters, which in the film is embodied by a group of martial artists (“sword sisters”), who initiate Qiu Jin into their world of desire and revolution.
The film integrates choreographed performances with narrative scenes featuring the main characters Qiu Jin (played by performance artist boychild), and her intimate friend, the calligrapher Wu Zhiying. The story takes as a starting point the fact that queer histories are often invisible or coded, and must be “read between the lines” of official history. Tsang’s ongoing project explores the mythologies that queer people construct out of remarkable histories such as Qiu Jin’s and Wu Zhiying’s, and the desire to manifest alternative narratives through film.
Duilian is the result of Wu Tsang’s two three-month residencies at Spring Workshop in 2015 at the invitation of Mimi Brown, Founder and Defne Ayas, Curator-at-large. The project is developed with Christina Li, Director, and produced by Jessica Kong, Communications and Programs.