In keeping with the documentary theme,
I just came across Robert Andanto’s The Rising Tide: A Documentary on Contemporary Chinese Art (2008). Don’t know quite how I missed this one. It is quite an excellent piece of work, or at least it seems that way from the 4 + minutes I’m able to view on Youtube.
Of particular note is the somewhat hysterical (in the best sense of the word) view of contemporary China. This is, of course, rather ironic, given that the an apocalyptic view of Chinese state (with heady reference to Zhuangzi towards the end of the clip) is itself the source of vibrancy of the art that is on display. In other words, this may be dark days of Chinese society, but its clearly bright beginnings for artists who document the demise. Thus, the more dire and “braindead”, the more exuberant and, simply put, beautiful the response becomes.
Another observation would be that Andanto’s “work” is actually the work of Chinese artists, videographers, photographers and others. They are of course not only duly credited, but actually the subject of the documentary. We assume that the rest of the video includes more of Andanto than the artists and society he endeavors to document. Still, as far as the Youtube clip is concerned, we have largely a filmmaker’s sleight of hand, substituting rather than featuring the artistic work of others for his own.
These criticisms aside (again with the caveat that I’ve not actually seen the work), a fine sleight of hand it is! The cumulative power of Cao Fei and other artists’ insight into contemporary Chinese experience, nicely set to original music by NALEPA and CELESTE LEAR, makes this piece well worth the price of admission, whatever that is. Stills below are photographs from the website