EYE gave cinema free reign with the exhibition Expanded Cinema: Isaac Julien, Fiona Tan, Yang Fudong. The three participating artists break away from the framework of the silver screen and project their work on multiple surfaces, allowing viewers to walk around and watch the films from various angles.
With Expanded Cinema: Isaac Julien, Fiona Tan, Yang Fudong, EYE demonstrated that film doesn’t just belong in the cinema. Since its beginning, film has been known in many forms – from fairground attraction to art film.
Artists such as Marcel Duchamp, Fernand Léger and Man Ray discovered in the 1920s that film was an art form that lent itself to extensive experimentation. And starting in the 1960s, many filmmakers and artists transformed film into three-dimensional installations. The EYE exhibit Expanded Cinema: Isaac Julien, Fiona Tan, Yang Fudong also showed films in another light. They were projected onto multiple screens, allowing visitors to walk around the images and see the films from different angles. Watching a film becomes an interactive experience. The visitors determined their own points of view and were challenged to interpret the various facets of the film for themselves.
Each of the works by the three artists brought together by EYE for this exhibit makes use of tried-and-true cinematographic devices, including professional actors (Maggie Cheung, Johan Leysen), beautifully lighted sets, sophisticated camerawork and refined montage. Instead of using these ingredients to make an ordinary feature film for the cinema, however, they have combined them into a multilayered creation. This layered, divided form often fits seamlessly with the content of the films. For example, there’s a reason the introverted actors in Yang Fudong’s work Fifth Nights are projected onto separate screens: in real life, they are also incapable of making contact with each other.
Isaac Julien (1960, London) directed a number of notable documentaries in which fiction and reality are used in tandem, before making a ‘real’ feature film in 1991 in the form of Young Soul Rebels, which immediately won the Semaine de la Critique award in Cannes. In 1996, Julien discovered the exhibition space as a possibility to present film in a different way. Since then he has gradually developed more ‘architectural’ installations, in which he not only uses several screens, but the screens have become increasingly separated in the space. In 2010, Julien completed the nine-part multi-screen film installation Ten Thousand Waves, which is showing in EYE this autumn. The old and the new Shanghai are brought together in this dynamic film essay, with the celebrated Chinese actress Maggie Cheung in the leading role. As in an experimental novel by James Joyce, the fragmentation of the story results in an entirely different perception of reality.
Fiona Tan (1966, Pekan Baru, Indonesia) has been working with film and video since the start of her career as visual artist. In addition to dozens of installations, in which she uses film projections, monitors, LCD screens and combinations thereof, she has also made a few documentaries. The two works shown in Expanded Cinema are, however, single-screen works that explore the museological space in a different way. Saint Sebastian (2001) is a double sided projection in which Tan follows young women engaged in Zen archery. During this, the women reach a state in which nothing is thought, planned, intended, desired or expected. A Lapse of Memory (2007) features Johan Leysen as an introvert old man in a deserted oriental palace, the Royal Pavilion in Brighton. In this palace of memories, words and images become intertwined and disregard the borders between ‘East’ and ‘West’.
Yang Fudong (1971, Beijing) also switched over to the museum gallery. Having studied as a painter at the renowned Chinese art academy in Hangzhou, Yang Fudong taught himself the craft of filmmaking. His first film Estranged Paradise (1997-2002) is a single-screen production loosely based on Jim Jarmusch’ Stranger than Paradise. In 2002, Estranged Paradise was shown in a small black box at the Documenta in Kassel. As with Isaac Julien, Yang Fudong explores the possibilities of spatial film installations with multiple screens; hence, the installation The Fifth Night (2010) consists of a row of seven screens placed side to side, across which just a single scene is shown from seven different viewpoints: an unsettling view of the new China.
films, talks, events
EYE has organised a programme with films and activities as part of this exhibit. Lectures about Yang Fudon and a discussion with Fiona Tan will be followed by films these artists made for the cinema as well as highlights from film history that have inspired them. Additionally, EYE and the Stedelijk Museum have organised an Isaac Julien ‘special’ that will run from 18 to 22 October which will feature a lecture at the Stedelijk Museum and a number of films screening at EYE.