The Arts Report + Yang Fudong's Fifth Night


Tonight on the Arts Report,  we learn about the Songfire Festival from the Vancouver International Song Institute (but mostly what an art song is), Sara Lapsley sketches out Vancouver Draw Down (good pun) and we have the curator and artist from the Orr Gallery’s Facing the Animal in studio!

It’s a few weeks late but here’s some thoughts from my tour of Yang Fudong: Fifth Night running until September 3, 2012. The title refers to the filming of the piece on Friday at 5am, when “dreams are strongest” in Chinese numerology. For more info and my notes, read on.

For a brief introduction check out this information from the Vancouver Art Gallery website.
“Fifth Night is a recent multi-channel video installation by Chinese artist Yang Fudong. One of the most important and influential artists to emerge in China since the late 1990s, Yang Fudong produces sophisticated film and video installations that engage the cinematic traditions of both Hollywood and experimental film while referencing the changing cultural conditions of contemporary China.

In Fifth Night, the artist captured a single scene from seven different vantage points; he then pieced this footage together to compose a fractured whole that plays out across seven screens. The result is a poetic, layered and disjunctive narrative that poses a sense of dislocation that is reflective of the new China, a position that hovers between traditional ideologies/values, and recent modernization. This will be the first presentation of this critically-acclaimed work in Canada.

Organized by the Vancouver Art Gallery and curated by Daina Augaitis, chief curator/ associate director. In conjunction with Yellow Signal Vancouver, a metro Vancouverwide presentation of new media works by contemporary Chinese artists, initiated by Centre A. Yang Fudong: Fifth Night is the thirteenth installment in NEXT: A Series of Artist Projects from the Pacific Rim, presented by TD Bank Group.”

I took a curatorial tour with a reporter from the Vancouver Sun and he wrote a very nice description with some quotes from Yang Fudong and the Curator. I’d like to share some of my notes as well.

One thing the article mentions is the necessary participation of the viewer in the art piece. Because of the size of the installation the viewer must choose their frame of vision, and which segment of the 7 panel video projection to choose. The events in the panels happen simultaneously and the disconnected but interrelated movements – seemingly out of time – echo the relationship between the youth of China and their country. The piece is about 10 mins, and so you can re-cut again and again, walking along with these characters, piecing and re-piecing together their stories – much as they themselves seem to be doing.

Yang Fudong is inspired by oil painting, and his film reflects the textures he finds in the art. He also wished to question of “useful” v. “wasted” footage. In his approach, there is no wasted film as it is all one take. (I would ask, what about the unused takes? ) Hiis approach is to have the viewer be the editor. He tells a story through a “set deck” of instances, that occur within a “dreamscape” between fact and fiction, history and fact etc.

One interesting fact is that the setting is in fact a movie set in high use – but behind the walls are office spaces. This indeterminate/multiplicity of space makes it the perfect set for Yang Fudong’s goals. It also lends itself to the questions of “looking” and “watching” both in art and in culture, Chinese or otherwise.

For those who aren’t as visual, the soundscape is very subtle and poignant – the sounds are diegetic yet muted, making watching the piece a surreal experience, both connected and disconnected from what you are seeing. The repetition, symbolism and fractured realism of the piece leads us to the connected exhibit Again and Again and Again.

This exhibit drawn from the VAG permanent collection features local poster art reproductions to ceramic fruit the Warhol’s famous Marilyn Monroe series.  The most moving to me was Song Dong’s Fill in the Sea, 1997 from the collection at the VAG.  The artist writes the years of the UK occupation of Hong Kong on beach stones, photographs the stone, and throws them into the water – needless to say there may photos in the collect.  It captures serial and physical nature, repetition, static, movement, cyclical time,  hand craft and mechanical reproduction: the underlying themes of the exhibit.

You can hear more about my tour and the exhibit by listening to the June 6th, 2012 edition of the Arts Report.–ArtsReport