Piercing Brightness

Young Alien Lovers Land On Earth in Shezad Dawood's New Take on Sci-Fi

An investigation of migration and national identity takes place through the prism of mainstream science fiction in acclaimed conceptual artist Shezad Dawood's first feature-length film, Piercing Brightness. Following alien emissaries as they touch down on Earth to retrieve the 'Glorious 100' sent to our planet to study the development of the human race millenia ago, the work interweaves documentary and found footage, combining high-production cinematography with lo-fi analog aesthetics. Against the backdrop of Preston, England—known both for its mysteriously high UFO sighting rate and, more recently, its fast-growing Mainland Chinese population—a young couple Jiang and Shin land their spacecraft to carry out their mission. Negotiating the tense relationships of a diverse community in flux, what they find is a population of alien agents that have become inextricably entwined with the social fabric of their adopted home. As the son of a Pakistani mother, an Indian father and an Irish stepmother, Dawood reflects his varied cultural heritage in his multimedia investigations, and his international exhibitions include a recent solo show at Modern Art Oxford. Previewed here is an exclusive edit of the feature's 15-minute alternative version, Trailer, currently on view at the Paradise Row Gallery presentation at Art Basel Hong Kong, the full-length Piercing Brightness hits select cinemas on June 7, following a screening at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London.

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  • MOST SHARED IN ART
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    Shanzhai Biennial: Dark Optimism

    The Genre-Splicing Artist Trio Subverts Notions of Authenticity and Design at MoMA PS1’s Summer Festival

    Chinese model Wu Ting Ting lip syncs to an opaque cover of Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” while wearing a sequined gown emblazoned with a deliberately misspelled shampoo logo in this new video from Shanzhai Biennial. The New York-based artist trio, comprised of Cyril Duval, Babak Radboy and stylist Avena Gallagher, has described itself as a “multinational brand posing as an art-project posing as an multinational brand posing as a biennial.” Taking inspiration from China’s infamous and rich culture of “Shanzhai” imitation goods—faking products from supermarket stock to high-end luxury items—the project seeks to liberate branding from the obligation to make a sale. “Selling things is always a drag on the aura of a brand,” says Radboy, who also works as Creative Director of Bidoun magazine. For ProBio, a group show curated by Josh Kline as a part of this summer’s large-scale Expo 1: New York at MoMa PS1 that is dedicated to the theme of “dark optimism”, he and Duval, who has exhibited internationally under the moniker Item Idem, reached out to Helen Feng of the Beijing musical act Nova Heart (the “Debbie Harry” of China, as she’s been called) for the Chinese rendition of O’Connor’s 90s classic, which they adapted from an amateur online production. “The relevance of the song is right there in the title,” says Radboy. “We were searching desperately for a version in Mandarin and finally found a recording on an obscure and outdated Chinese social networking site by a pretty busted looking queen in his 40s—so there are four levels of separation there.” The result couldn’t be truer to the illogical form embodied in Shanzhai products. “It’s a very Shanzhai production!,” says Duval.

    ProBio, part of EXPO 1: New York, is on view at MoMA PS1 through September 2, 2013.

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    The Bridge

    Oscar-Winner Fisher Stevens Narrates an Homage to the Poetic Landmark on New York's East River

    “It hath cables and it does one good to cross it every day,” wrote Jack Kerouac in his 1956 poem “Brooklyn Bridge Blues,” inspired by the New York monument that also attracted the likes of poets Vladimir Mayakovsky, Marianne Moore, and even Walt Whitman, who immortalized the part-built landmark back in 1878. The neo-Gothic symmetry of one of the city’s most recognizable structures is honored in this short by filmmaker Harrison Boyce, narrated by Academy Award-winning actor and director Fisher Stevens. Today potentially overlooked as an object of mere utility overshadowed by the imposing skyline of Manhattan, here the Brooklyn Bridge’s aesthetic appeal is reinvigorated some 130 years after it first opened in 1883, when it was one of the tallest structures in the city. The 1.1 mile steel-wire suspension bridge was originally designed by German immigrant John Augustus Roebling and took 14 years to complete, linking Manhattan and Brooklyn across the East River—a cultural connection that continues to flourish today. Boyce filmed the ode to his favorite landmark in between shooting the titles for Saturday Night Live and working on fashion and music projects for Dazed & Confused. “What I really love about the Brooklyn Bridge is how many different elements were brought together to build it,” he says. “While the other bridges in New York are made primarily of metal, the Brooklyn Bridge has stone, wood, steel, cement, and all these old signs and doorways; it has a lot of mystery to it.”

    (Read More)

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