Asian Studies Lecture
Professor Chris Berry
King’s College London
Cao Fei’s ‘Magical Metropolises’: Chinese Video Art and the City
Monday, 30 March 2015
University of Edinburgh
Lecture Theatre G.03, 50 George Square
Edinburgh EH8 9LH
The lecture will be followed by a drinks reception
The urban sprawl of the Pearl River Delta inspired star architect Rem Koolhaas’s writings on the ‘generic city’, which he celebrates precisely for its blandness. Cao Fei herself is from Guangzhou. Yet, in works like RMB City, Haze and Fog, Whose Utopia and Hip Hop Guangzhou, Cao Fei creates what she calls ‘magical metropolises’. What kind of responses are Cao’s ‘magical’ works to contemporary Chinese urbanisation? This talk proposes four hermeneutic frameworks to analyse the works themselves: heterotopic imaginations that encourage viewers to crystallize the city’s woes and at the same time hope for its future; participatory art, enlisting the subjects of the artwork as collaborators to rehearse alternative urban possibilities; the use of dance and rhythm to re-enchant these disenchanted spaces and make them magical; and, gestural cinema understood as itself an ethical as well as aesthetic practice, in so far as it calls upon collaborators and audiences to imagine a transformed Chinese city. Taken together, these frameworks demonstrate that Cao’s work does not only reflect current Chinese urban condition, but also participates and intervenes in it.
Chris Berry is Professor of Film Studies at King’s College London and a world-leading scholar on Chinese and East Asian cinema. His research fields include Chinese and East Asian cinema and screen cultures; gender, sexuality and cinema; documentary film; and theories of national and transnational cinema. He has held several international visiting professorships and published several widely influential books on Chinese cinema culture.