Colored lights, growth and a curious mind
Curiosity and an open mind is all you need for two exhibitions currently showing in the Long Museum West Bund by Chen Yujun and Li Shurui.
Chen Yujun’s “Sheng Zhang,” literarily meaning growth, features the artist’s latest ink-collage series and installations.
Born in 1976 in Putian, Fujian Province, Chen graduated from the Integrated Art Department at China Academy of Art in 1999.
In the past decade, his work has focused on the inner-self and its conflict with external influences. Chen attempts to examine how individuals face their own fragmented, shifting identities under the influence of multiculturalism and its evolving position in contemporary Asian countries.
The Shanghai-based artist is swift in using different mediums, including painting, collage and installation. He believes existing materials from everyday life may all become an intermediary for artistic practice, and the mundane elements can offset the feel of distance and alienation.
Responding to the chaotic changes around the globe last year following the pandemic, Chen’s site-specific works create a contradicting atmosphere where the old and the new merge, rise and fall and alter — a metaphor he sees in modern-day socialcultural situations.
The terraced and sinking space of the gallery under a golden tone resembles a huge and delicate container that bears extravagance and waste, shining with radiances.
The highlight of the exhibition goes to the 22-meter-long re-sculpted scene of the Mulan River, which originates from his hometown. It is the most significant concept in the artist’s works.
Last year Chen decided to revisit Mulan River. Together with his team, the artist resided in the vernacular architecture and building complex to experience different community activities and folkways, so he could shape a narrative that travels beyond sensory memories.
He found that part of the river was reconstructed into a water park and many houses along the river, with distinctive architecture styles, had been demolished.
As a result, the installation of “Mulan River” illustrates how the mother river is incarnated in the artist’s mind as a “prototype,” or a “primitive image” that helps to form his aesthetic psychological structure.
The other exhibition of artist Li Shurui features interrelated paintings and light installations.
Born in 1981, Li hails from Chongqing. A graduate from the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute, she was granted a scholarship by the New York Fellowship Program of Asian Cultural Council in 2016. She now lives and works in Beijing and Dali, Yunnan Province.
Drawing from her life experiences, Li thinks the use of “light” and “color” can embody, record and shape individuals’ needs and spirituality in different cultures and times, which is also related to their collective ideology in a broader sense.
Over the years, the artist has been consciously collecting information and materials on light and color from different periods and regions. She archives these visual marks from different eras to reflect an evolving cultural landscape illuminated by light and color.
Date: Through May 9 (closed on Mondays), 10am-5:30pm
Date: Through April 10 (closed on Mondays), 10am-5:30pm Venue: Long Museum West Bund
Address: 3398 Longteng Ave
Director Zhou Zhou’s movie “Only You Alone” is being screened across cinemas citywide after it was chosen by the Shanghai Art Film Federation as its Film of the Month for February.
The movie was chosen in honor of the 37-year-old director who scooped the FIPRESCI Prize at the 49th International Film Festival in Rotterdam. It also claimed the Best Film Screenplay Award at the 14th FIRST International Film Festival last year.
Jointly written by Zhou and lead actress Chi Yun, the film centers on a 28-year-old woman, Chi Li, who suffers from epilepsy. The plot follows how she learns to cope and face up to her fear, solitude and pain.
It is the second time Zhou has tackled a theme of a woman struggling against adversity.
Born into a divorced family, the protagonist is raised by her grandfather from childhood. After the death of her grandfather, she moves to her aunt’s empty house. Her aunt works abroad and Chi has to fend for herself without any help.
Chi works in a cinema by day and dreams of becoming a dancer but because of her frequent seizures she can’t fulfil her dream. Day after day, she gets more lonely and longs for love, a relationship and career like everyone else who looks perfectly normal and healthy to her.
Zhou’s first feature film “Ms Meili,” made in 2017, was critically acclaimed for the director’s compassion for highlighting the struggle of marginal and disadvantaged women in Chinese society.
“Ms Meili” tells the tragic tale of a 22year-old woman who wants to start a new life after being raped by her brother-in-law, which consequently saw her give birth to a baby girl.
It took Zhou and Chi nearly a year to pen the script, but only eight days to shoot the movie, which for the most part features non-professional actors due to a lack of funding.
The director, born in Anqing, Anhui Province in eastern China, was once an editor and film critic. Now he is regarded as a one of China’s new generation of filmmakers because his movies explore humanity and relationships.
“There are diseases, sufferings, prejudices and injustices in the world,” Zhou said. “However, one can never lose hope in life.”
Zhou hopes his stories can inspire people to face up to their own problems and make changes to their lives.
The Shanghai Art Film Federation started offering Chinese arthouse filmmakers an opportunity to showcase their works last September.
Since then five movies have been showcased in the city. Among them were Ann Hu’s “Confetti,” a film highlighting a mother’s struggle with her 7-year-old daughter who suffers from dyslexia; Ye Qian’s “Koali and Rice,” a story about an elderly couple living alone; Wang Lina’s “A First Farewell,” a film about three Uygur children and their farming families; Chen Weijun’s “City Dream,” a documentary film about migrants’ lives in a big city; and Yu Xin’s documentary film “Shakuhachi: One Sound One Life,” about an ancient flute used as a tool for Zen Buddhist meditation as well as for playing traditional folk music.
Throughout the month, 13 local cinemas, including Grand Cinema and Macalline Cinema World, will screen the film “Only You Alone.”
Tickets are available on online ticketing platforms Taopiaopiao and Maoyan.
China’s achievements in poverty reduction have been incredible — especially in face of the coronavirus pandemic challenge — thanks to no small part to government intervention and innovators such as Li Fujun.
Born on a farm in Shandong Province, Li came to Shanghai to study at the Shanghai University of International Business and Economics. After graduation, he started a small trading company in hardware business. In 2013, at the age of 40, he had an idea to switch to farm products from the rural areas.
“Our original intention was very simple. We wanted to build a national brand of high quality agricultural produce, especially rice-based whole grains,” Li said.
Since the company’s inception, it has created nearly 100 poverty alleviation products in about 15 counties across the country — including Honghe County in southwest China’s Yunnan Province.
On a visit to Honghe County, the agricultural trader was moved by the picturesque Samaba Rice Terrace Fields — the largest linked pieces of terraces in the world. The Hani people, one of China’s 55 ethnic minority groups, have grown the red rice for more than 1,300 years. And Li thought it a good food to be put on the dining tables of Shanghai, more than 2,000 kilometers away. Now, he has done it.
“It’s not easy to reach the fields at an altitude of about 1,800 meters,” said Li, after a flight from Shanghai to Kunming City in Yunnan Province, plus an eight-hour drive through a winding road up the Ailao Mountains.
“My idea was to introduce a plateau specialty from the western mountainous area to the eastern coastal cities,” Li said, adding he also wanted to increase the income of local farmers so they could live a naturally sustainable life in these fields, helping to uphold the traditional knowledge, wisdom and cultural values of the community.
In June 2013, the Honghe Hani Rice Terraces was included on the World Cultural Heritage List.
Red rice is generally planted at an altitude between 1,400 and 1,800 meters. Its growth period is about 200 days, which is two months longer than rice from northeast China. With no pesticides and no chemical fertilizers, red rice is an ecological product, which can be planted only once a year. Compared with ordinary rice, red rice has a higher content of nutrients, such as trace elements, amino acids and protein.
Hani people accounts for 76.5 percent of Honghe County’s population of 340,600 and red rice, of course, is their main food crop.
Ma Minu is a typical Hani woman working in the terrace fields. Her husband works away from home all year round, while her three children study at school. She has a three-acre red rice paddy field to look after which yields nearly 300 kilograms each acre.
“I need someone to share this burden,” the 43-year-old said.
There are more than 13,100 women, like Ma, in Honghe County. To increase income, most people in their 20s and 30s leave home to study or work in cities, leaving only the elderly and women to cultivate terraced fields.
“If I do not improve the value of the Hani terraces, they will be deserted and we will have no world heritage,” said Yang Jianwen, the founder of a local red rice production and processing enterprise.
Yang also had worked away from the families for over 10 years before he returned to his hometown and started the company.
Yang has hired hands from more than 1,270 households to work on their fields and increased their income by purchasing the red rice from them.
He Ying is another who returned home to work. She is boss of the Sama Sunshine Hotel and Inn. She returned to her hometown in 2016 to start selling red rice and other sideline products in the inn.
“I’m proud of being a Hani ethnic. The terrace fields have been passed down to us by our ancestors for generations,” said the 26-year-old innkeeper. “In my shop, terraced red rice is a must buy for tourists and a very popular food on the table.”
She also sells red rice and the sideline products on Taobao, Weidian and other online platforms.
Even so, it’s still not enough.
Deputy director of the Honghe County
Poverty Alleviation Office Wei Wei believes that “the local people in Honghe are very hardworking and Honghe has many good things.” To lift people from poverty, they need platforms and to learn how to promote their produce.
Li Fujun and his colleagues have worked hard on transportation and branding issues to promote red rice.
His company, Shanghai Saihongwawa, as a brand operator for agricultural products, launched an Enterprises Futian Plan in 2017, allowing companies to implement collective advance purchases of red rice.
“Planned planting and production will not cause a waste of land resources,” said Li, who revealed that they have 1,300 acres of fields dedicated to the growth of Hani red rice that would, under contractual arrangement, be sold to target customers.
Li has also set up several other alliances. He helped China Women’s Development Foundation set up three “mothers’ homes” in Honghe County, teaching local women scientific farming methods and learning e-commerce strategy. He has e-commerce platforms with China Construction Bank and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, and promotes poverty alleviation agricultural products, such as red rice, in Chinese supermarkets.
Pinduoduo, the largest agriculturefocused technology platform in China, is on board, as is Shanghai’s Changning District, which has opened six offline sales stores. They conducted five live online broadcasts, which attracted over 1 million people online, generating sales of more than 1 million yuan (US$154,700).
“I feel everyone has more interest and confidence in planting now. Moreover, their enthusiasm is higher,” Yang said. “Especially those who plant red rice, the value of which has increased by more than 100 percent on the original basis.”
Li and his team have increased the income of more than 1,000 registered poor households through planting red rice. In 2017, Honghe County had nearly 18,000 households with 81,000 of them registered as living under the poverty line. They were all lifted out of poverty at the end of last year.
But that’s not all. Li is still looking for new ways to improve the lives of rural folk by using modern technology and cooperating with Shanghai scientific research institutions, to turn primary agricultural products into refined products, such as extracting the nutrients of red rice. In the future, there may be high-tech products such as red rice facial masks and red rice meal replacements.
Li also wants to take children living in cities to the terraced fields, letting them see how red rice is grown.
“Then they will be able to experience the meaning of ‘do not waste every grain of rice,’” said Li.