Video renaissance


Tucked under the eaves on the fourth floor of Cobb Hall, the Renaissance Society is a leader in showcasing contemporary art. But for the current exhibition the small gallery looks—at first glance—totally unprepossessing, divided into five enclosed screening rooms whose blank outer walls give no clue to the artwork that awaits inside.

This is the fifth time in the past two years that the Renaissance Society has used isolated screening rooms to exhibit video art. So by now, says educational director Hamza Walker, the gallery knows how to deal with the art’s peculiar needs: lighting and sound demands, screen sizes, and adequate space for each work. “As a medium,” Walker says, “[film] has definitely come into its own.”

The filmmaker on exhibit this time is Yang Fudong, whose work has been shown at museums worldwide, including New York’s Museum of Modern Art, and who was recently nominated for a Hugo Boss Prize. The new show, open through October 14, features five of Fudong’s black-and-white films, including one—part II of “Seven Chinese Intellectuals”—produced by the Renaissance Society.

Producing artwork is a growing part of the Renaissance Society’s mission, says Walker. “It isn’t simply showing recent art that’s already existing, but going one step further.” The gallery, he stresses, remains “completely beholden” to the artists’ requests, exerting no creative control. Fudong’s films, he continues, comprise “a really beautiful and very generous body of work” that, taken as a whole, explores critical questions about modern-day China. “The show is very, very rich.”

Leila S. Sales, ’06

Photos: still from "An Estranged Paradise" (top); still from "Seven Chinese Intellectuals" (bottom).

September 15, 2004