International Hotel #1
“What I film is the life of today’s youth, almost with detachment. Sometimes I think that life presently is changing ever more strongly. Many people seem to have become non-believers. They have lost their faith in everything.”
Yang Fudong (born 1971) is considered a leading representative of a generation of Contemporary artists emerging since the late 1990’s, mainly known for his video works. After studying painting at the China National Academy of Art in Hangzhou he started focusing on photography and films as mediums in the late 1990s and today is mainly known for his video installations.
At the heart of his works is the feeling of disorientation and lostness of younger generations in modern day China, caught between tradition and modernism as well as striving for the construction of identity. His work is fashioned by intertwining links to Chinese history and philosophy as well as personal memory and lived experience. Yang’s films stand out for their sensual and almost painterliness quality and shifts between realistic and dream states, often reminiscent of films from the 1930’s and the post war ‘film noir’.
The intellectual and his retreat from public affairs is an ever reoccurring theme of his work. The exiled individual, who either retires or is removed from public life is free to create. But conversely, loneliness and separation follow this freedom to create as seen in his most famous work Seven Intellectuals in a Bamboo Forest (2003-2007).
Yang‘s work is exhibited worldwide e.g. at the Venice Biennale in 2003 and 2007, the “Kunsthaus Baselland” in Basel, Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver, Asia Society in New York or “Kunsthalle Wien“, Vienna.
International Hotel is a series of black and white photographs referencing the complex images of young women in contemporary and past China. His works are inspired by images of poolside swimmers during competitions and posters of “modern” women of the 1930s, which were vastly popular in China at that time. True to this style Yang staged his photographs at the Art Deco-style pool at Shanghai’s International Hotel. The poses as well as the makeup reflect the fashion of the 1930’s.
Just like a film International Hotel’s ten photographs represent a scene each or as the critic Luluc Huang has suggested, “the filmic possibilities of the photographic frame”. The often praised painterliness and enigmatic beauty of Yang‘s work allows the observer to develop a feeling for the complexity of the topic and the artist‘s experiences. Yang’s ultimate goal, however, is, “to present the audience with a feeling I have experienced, one that I believe to be interesting, and with which I hope a few like minded people might identify. I can’t please everyone of course…. But if I don’t follow what interests me, then how can the work be interesting to anyone else?”