Since the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989, China has experienced an unprecedented economic boom, along with a concurrent de-politicisation of society. Yet under the capitalist glittering façades hide ideological legacies.
The power of Bo Wang's film China Concerto lies in making these contradictions visible in an enlightening and entertaining manner. On display are images of extremely strange events in which groups comprised mostly of senior citizens dance to communist pop songs, alongside excerpts from old propaganda films, current television broadcasts and excerpts from Antonioni's seminal 1972 film about China. Wang packs all this together with an English voice-over narration that unmistakably hearkens back to Chris Marker's Sans Soleil, thus creating an equally disturbing and emotional film essay.
Bo Wang, who has long lived in New York, is predestined to cast a critical look upon China's Janusian nature. This is because his gaze is that of neither an insider nor a western outsider, but rather a third entity, schooled by western theorists like Guy Debord – a Chinese documentarian who deconstructs the ideological spectacle in his hometown of Chongqing, where the prominent local politician Bo Xilai attempted a sort of communist counterrevolution a few years ago.
Wang's sober attention to the incidental and the marginal penetrates the confusing surfaces of modern China, allowing us a look at the individual and emotional beyond all the spectacle.
Bo Wang (b. 1982, Chongqing, China) is an artist and filmmaker based in Brooklyn, New York. His works have been exhibited internationally, including venues like MoMA in New York, CPH:DOX in Copenhagen, Shanghai Biennale, Times Art Museum in Guangzhou, Asia Society Texas Center, among many others. He was a fellow at the Robert Flaherty Film Seminar in 2013 and attended the Berlinale Talents programme at Berlin International Film Festival in 2014. He is also a faculty member at Visual and Critical Studies, School of Visual Arts, New York.