This essay examines the work of Chinese artist Yang Fudong, who often uses moving images in his art. It notes that not only has he always been interested in the gestural, but also that he has become increasingly drawn to gestural cinema. It argues that Yang Fudong’s output is a prime example of a new gestural cinema, and that this new gestural cinema is encouraged by the political economy of working on the transnational art scene, or the “artscape.” It goes on to ask how Yang Fudong has been able to deploy this new gestural cinema to his own artistic ends. Noting the debates about whether the gestural is an alternative and even redemptive language or whether it is the excess that stands beyond meaning, the essay argues that Yang’s art exercises the tension between the two potential understandings to produce his own unique effects. In Yang’s gestural cinema, the promise of meaning and narrative coherence is repeatedly invoked, and associated with the appearance of numerous figures of the modern, young, and educated individual. Yet, this promise is always frustrated, creating a structure that moves us from gesture as a way of conveying embodied experience to thinking about what meanings might attach to the gestures without imposing any particular conclusion on the spectator. This ambiguity is ethical insofar as it demands our cogitation rather than our judgment.
The New Gestural Cinema: Yang Fudong and the Gallery Film
Chris Berry is Professor of Film Studies at King’s College London. His publications include Postsocialist Cinema in Post-Mao China: The Cultural Revolution after the Cultural Revolution (Routledge, 2004), edited with Janet Harbord and Rachel Moore; Cinema and the National: China on Screen (Columbia University Press, 2006), with Mary Farquha; The New Chinese Documentary Film Movement: For the Public Record (Hong Kong University Press, 2010), edited with Lu Xinyu and Lisa Rofel; and Public Space, Media Space (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013).
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Chris Berry; The New Gestural Cinema: Yang Fudong and the Gallery Film. Film Quarterly 1 March 2014; 67 (3): 17–29. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/fq.2014.67.3.17
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