< October 2010 - Artspace China
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October 2010


Tomorrow is Day One of The China Independent Film Festival (CIFF), running from 21-25 October across eight university campuses in Nanjing. This is the festival’s seventh year and based on recent years’ attendance about 12,000 people are expected to attend.

As usual, this year’s CIFF program includes drama and documentary, along with art films and archival projects that would rarely (if ever) be shown in mainstream venues. These films have all been made outside the commercial film system and are all screened in the CIFF free of charge.

I managed to track down Festival President, Professor Zhang Xianmin, just days before the opening of CIFF. Zhang believes we are living in a historic time for Chinese independent cinema – one that will probably be remembered as its greatest moment. Don't you wish you were at the festival? Read on for an insight if you're not.

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2006-Dinner table, low res.jpg
Wang Gongxin, The Dinner Table, 2006, video installation, audio, 5:00. Image: Courtesy of the Artist.

In the minds of many curators and collectors today, Chinese art of the 1990s is synonymous with kitsch Cultural Revolution iconography, and large-scale paintings and sculpture. However the 1990s were also a time of experimentation for a handful of artists uninterested in these market trends. Frustrated with the limitations of traditional media, they worked with video and installation as a means to extend their art practices and to raise issues that would challenge their audiences.

Wang Gongxin was one such pioneer and, along with his friend and colleague Zhang Peili, is now considered one of the granddaddies of new media art in China. Wang and Zhang were both headline acts in the exhibition 幕Mu:Screen, Three Generations of Contemporary Video Art which ran at UTS Gallery in June this year, curated by Marie Terrieux.

Marie Terrieux spoke to Wang in advance of the exhibition, and we've been able to reproduce this interview courtesy of UTS Gallery. See the (very beautiful!) online catalogue for more on 幕Mu:Screen and its artists.

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Wang Gang's English.png English, by Wang Gang, Penguin Books

English-language publishers have been trying to crack the big Chinese book since Jung Chang’s
Wild Swans made it big in the early 1990s, hoping to kick-start a fad in contemporary Chinese literature. It hasn’t been easy, though, and twenty years later Chinese writing is still a grey area in the Western literary consciousness.

There are various explanations suggested for this, related mostly to the difficulty of translating Chinese literature into English and the lack of working relationships between the Chinese and international publishing industries. There’s a gap here that needs to be filled, but even in this era of intense globalisation few have the language skills, commitment to literature and publishing industry connections required.

Enter Paper Republic, a group of China-based translators working with both international editors and academic networks to promote contemporary Chinese literature abroad. Translators par excellence, they are interpreting industry conventions as much as languages, introducing the Chinese literary scene to Western publishers in a way they can understand. Paper Republic was co-founded by Eric Abrahamsen, my conversation partner for this week’s post.

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