What a treat the Hello Comrades! exhibition is. Two FEC students, Mengchen and Anastasia, have used the ‘red’ connection between their two countries (China and Russia, incase you hadn’t worked it out) to work collaboratively on a three-day event which launched today and continues tomorrow and Saturday. Room E24 in the Art College has been transformed into a sitting room all decorated with red memorabilia from China and the former Soviet Union. Anastasia explained she’d had to use a small statue of Stalin as a hammer during the get-in which seemed entirely appropriate. Thus the atmosphere and tone is successfully set. There is a great sense of fun in their approach which is refreshing and engaging. An extremely clever means of drawing folk in and creating a relationship of trust with the audience.
The layout of the exhibition is brilliantly imaginative and builds on the sense of fun and takes it into more complex territory. A waste bin in the centre is stuffed with the debris of Western living and a discarded screen shows the work, ‘Recycled’ by Thomas Sauvin (Sound Art by Zafka), China & France. The images in the film were sourced over a number of years from a recycling zone in the outskirts of Beijing. Lei Lei and Thomas scanned more than half a million 35mm color film negatives. Those negatives build up a portrait of the capital city and the life of her inhabitants over the last thirty years. Here, they selected 3000 photos to create the animation you can see in the bin. The film itself is also on vimeo but I recommend you go and see if first as displayed by the FEC students.
Above my head was another artwork, cleverly projected on the ceiling. The Collection of Photographies “Mirage” by Photographer Hui Yao won the prestigious Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize in 2012. Hui Yao’s boyhood years were… “spent during the early stages of China’s rapid economic development. I grew up in a small, under-developed and oppressive town near Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu Province in northwest China. These years were consumed by puzzlement. In China, every school child must be a member of the Young Pioneers of China. We were expected to accept a lofty communist education – “Always be prepared, to struggle for the cause of Communism!”I wore the red scarf with pride. The series “Mirage” is about re-exploring my boyhood years from the perspective of living in the West, with the aim of creating a brand new experience located somewhere between reality and fantasy. Recollecting the passing away of my boyhood and making up for all of my fantasies from that period of time. The reason for projecting.” The placing of this work on the ceiling may have been a ‘needs-must’ consideration but is quite brilliant when considering the whole.
Showing on a loop on the wall are two rather brilliant short films from China, neither which I’ve seen before and thoroughly recommend. The contrast between the two films makes the viewing experience all the more engaging and I am very impressed at how Mengchen and Anastasia have considered their audience. The drew me in and kept me amused, engaged and thinking. The two films are ‘Killing a Pig Without Mao’ by Zhen Qian Huang. A surreal experimental short film portrait of a young Chinese woman called Meiling, an activist of the Red Guards of Mao Zedong, who works in a slaughterhouse. And ‘Double Act,’ (Animation, 2013, Ding Shiwei, 4min37, China) described in the blurb as a fantastical space fully coloured with ideology, the gorgeous outerwear of modern industry shimmers, while society sleeps under a hypnotic utopian ideal. The hidden rules of politics keep disparate communities in isolation, and public indifference smothers burgeoning literary resistance.’ It’s rhythmic soundtrack beats out an industrial pace to the beautiful animation.
I sat on the comfy leather sofa after that, to relax and and enjoy one of the loveliest animations I’ve ever seen. Full of hope, simple joy and sensible humanity from a bygone age it tells a very different story of the former Soviet Union than using a Stalin statue as a hammer might suggest. The film is called ‘Three from Prostokvashino’ (Animation, 1978, Vladimir Popov, Soyuzmultfilm, 18.48, Soviet union). Based on the children’s book Uncle Fyodor, His Dog and His Cat (Дядя Фёдор, Пёс и Кот) by Eduard Uspensky,this animation tells the story about a six-year-old boy who is called Uncle Fyodor, because he is very serious. After his parents don’t let him keep Matroskin ,a talking cat, Uncle Fyodor leaves his home. With the dog, the three set up a home in the country, a village called “Buttermilk”.
The selection of material in the exhibition as a whole is intelligently and creatively considered and I recommend a visit.. I look forward to watching the remaining animations when I return but congratulations to team Hello Comrades! to a most excellent beginning.
There’s more information at https://www.facebook.com/events/513506045446267/?notif_t=plan_reminder