Yang Fudong is a video installation artist and filmmaker who is representative of Chinese contemporary art. He has used media of expression including photography, video and movies to examine the reality of Chinese society from the perspective of “an archaeologist of the present.” His films, which show a deep painterly sensibility resembling that of Chinese traditional painting in the literary artist’s style, have received attention not only on the international art scene but also in the motion-picture world for their lyrical, dreamlike mise-en scènes and unique poetic structures. From experimental films originating in the tradition of historical avant-garde art, to “expanded cinema,” which became possible due to television, video and the new multimedia visual environment, the experiences of viewer-oriented visual imaging culture gave birth to video installation works, which are movies exhibited in art museums instead of cinema.
Over the past 15 years, Yang Fudong’s films have evolved into video installation art in which footage taken with a 35mm camera is edited into diverse multi channel videos and projected on multiple screens placed in a three-dimensional space. Through such video installation works, spectators can participate in active criticism and experience a different kind of emotional enjoyment from that of the cinema. Yang Fudong has achieved prominent status in the area of “hybrid filmmaking,” where movies and installation art are combined, along with, for example, Isaac Julien and Doug Aitken.
The Coloured Sky: New Women II is the sequel to New Women (2013), and is the first digital film in color produced by the artist. New Women was an homage to the silent film with the same title produced by director Cai Chusheng in 1935. The two films in Yang’s New Women series are both based on the Shanghai modern style, which sprouted under the influence of Western culture as it was introduced into China in the 1930s. While the first New Women, filmed in black and white, pursued the world of ideal beauty transcending superficial beauty through sensual nude women, the sequel boldly introduced non-realistic and idealized colors in the stage settings, thus transforming the private space of childhood into a surreal state of being. Though The Coloured Sky: New Women II portrays the desires of young women dreaming to become models or movie stars, and implies an unstable future, the artist demonstrates his consistent pursuit of “aesthetics of existence” in this work as well. Five screens installed horizontally or obliquely on the four walls of the exhibition space, each painted in red, blue, pink and purple, show scenes of the sun, ocean, seashore, game playing and food. Long takes, which are long to the extent that one may perceive them as frozen scenes, remind us of tableau vivant. The five screens, arranged in a somewhat oval shape, never come into sight all at once, no matter what vantage point is taken by the spectator. As they move around continuously to appreciate the video images, spectators are given the opportunity to newly reorganize the fragmented images, colors and sounds they perceive, and to experience them in their own way within the special mode of combined time and space. The non-realistic world of The Coloured Sky: New Women II, which makes it seems as if we are looking into a kaleidoscope, deconstructs the linear narratives of realist representation films, and creates a realm of images, presenting the possibility of a world consisting of plural realities.