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
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