Blur­ring the Lines

Film takes a leap for­ward at Art Basel in Hong Kong this year, with fea­ture films and doc­u­men­taries join­ing a new-me­dia pro­gramme that ne­go­ti­ates the am­bi­gu­i­ties of film as fine art, writes Sa­man­tha Leese

Hong Kong Tatler - - Life -

ul­ti­me­dia artist Li Zhen­hua, who has cu­rated the film sec­tor at Art Basel in Hong Kong since it was in­tro­duced in 2014, prom­ises a line-up of “in­cred­i­bly new” and “very beau­ti­ful” works this year. Spe­cific de­tails, how­ever, are be­ing kept un­der wraps. Among the pro­gramme’s high­lights last year were films by Tai­wanese and Main­land Chi­nese artists such as Yu Chengta, Yao Jui-chung, Liu Xinyi and Liu Shiyuan.

The qual­ity and va­ri­ety of nom­i­na­tions for his 2016 pro­gramme have “de­vel­oped amaz­ingly” com­pared to pre­vi­ous edi­tions, says Li, who is the founder and di­rec­tor of Bei­jing Art Lab. The cu­ra­tor’s se­lec­tion in­cludes 60 works, of which more than half were made in 2015 and two were not fin­ished un­til ear­lier this year. He is thrilled by the in­flux of new en­tries, many of which will be world pre­mieres, and says it speaks to the strength­en­ing of film and new me­dia art in gen­eral.

Dur­ing its hey­day in the 1970s, the term “video art” tended to de­scribe works that broke free of the con­ven­tions that de­fine the­atri­cal cinema—the use of plot, di­a­logue and ac­tors, for ex­am­ple. One of the pi­o­neers of the form was the late Nam June Paik, whose works were shown at a re­cent ex­hi­bi­tion at Hong Hong’s Gagosian Gallery. The Kore­anAmer­i­can artist was one of the first to in­cor­po­rate video into his prac­tice, at a time when the tech­nol­ogy had be­come newly avail­able out­side cor­po­rate broad­cast­ing.

In the dig­i­tal age, how­ever, the bound­aries be­tween film and fine art are blur­ring. This am­bi­gu­ity is re­flected in Li’s in­clu­sion of doc­u­men­tary and fea­ture films this year along­side se­ries cre­ated by recog­nised artists and shorter, more ex­per­i­men­tal works.

When the film sec­tion de­buted at Art Basel in Hong Kong in 2014, Lars Nittve, then ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of M+, the city’s long-awaited mu­seum of vis­ual cul­ture, told re­porters, “The re­la­tion­ship be­tween what From left: An im­age from James Crump’s film Trou­ble­mak­ers: The Story of Land Art; Li Zhen­hua, the cu­ra­tor of Art Basel in Hong Kong’s film pro­gramme

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