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Dali City

A Fusion of Contemporary Art and Mountain Tradition Erupts in China’s Cultural Haven

Nestled alongside China’s Erhai Lake in the dramatic Cangshan mountains, the ancient Dali City is the subject of this dreamy short by filmmaker Eric K. Yue and writer Zachary Mexico. An arts enclave in the province of Yunnan, Dali’s mellow charm has long lured a vibrant community of artisans, poets and wayfarers, including artist H.N. Han, whose personal art museum houses works by Roy Lichtenstein, and coffee purveyor Gong Jiaju, who painstakingly seals his boxes of aromatic beans with hot ruby-colored wax. Dali is also a rare center of Bai culture, a Sino-Tibetan community famed for its artisanal expertise and elegant architecture featuring upturned gables. According to Mexico, author of 2009’s China Underground, the residents “are living for the sake of living”—something that captivated him when he first traveled to Dali 12 years ago. Finding the tranquil pace especially conducive to creative thought, he frequently visits from his home in New York for writing sabbaticals. New York-based director Yue, visiting the country for the first time, found experimental ways to break the ice with the local community. “I found I couldn’t interact with people, so I did magic tricks to get them to like me,” he explains. “It’s a purely visual language—there are no boundaries with magic.” Next up, Yue and Mexico will collaborate on a series of films about Chinese youth culture with Forever Pictures. 

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Conversations (1)

  • smascha
    Gong and his coffee. I stood right there and just talked with him ... never got myself a cup ...

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  • MOST SHARED IN CULTURE
    MOST SHARED IN CULTURE

    Loris Gréaud: The Snorks

    An Underwater Hip Hop Symphony by Antipop Consortium in The French Artist's New Film

    Actress Charlotte Rampling and director David Lynch weave together the threads of Loris Gréaud’s expansive project in the Parisian-art star’s new film The Snorks: A Concert for Creatures. Thirty-six months in the making, the film takes in everything from hip hop-avantists Antipop Consortium’s concert for deep-ocean dwellers, to a pyrotechnic sculpture of fireworks in Abu Dhabi, and traces Gréaud’s voyages exploring the possibility for communication between species. Inspired by bioluminescence––or biological production of light––used by deep-sea creatures to communicate with each other, the aesthetic adventurer broadcast specially commissioned music by Antipop Consortium at a depth of 4,000 meters and elicited vibrant bursts of light from the audience of plankton, unicellular creatures and jellyfish in response. “I gave them carte blanche,” says Gréaud of working with Antipop Consortium. “The only direction really was to play the game, to imagine they playing in front of aliens.” Ahead of the 28-minute film’s premiere at MK2 Bibliothèque next week and a forthcoming world tour combining screenings with Antipop Consortium performing the concert live, Gréaud unpicks the threads making up The Snorks.

    What kick-started the The Snorks project? 
    Basically everything was triggered by a report I’d seen on the death of our oceans, and also the paradox that we know the surface of the moon better than our own oceans. So I wanted to make a sci-fi or alien story but on our planet. From there came the idea of making a concert for these deep-sea creatures, of making sound for them and seeing them react with their own language of bioluminescence.

    How did these animals react when you broadcast the Antipop Consortium concert at 4,000 meters under sea?
    What we observed was what they called a “bloom.” Plankton, unicellular creatures and weird jellyfish down there started not just to flicker but to emit a cloud of light [bioluminescence], like an underwater fireworks display. I was really proud that we observed this amazing reaction. The images you see at the end of the film are a bloom in response to Antipop Consortium.

    You projected this bloom on the billboards of Times Square and also recreated them with a choreographed “pyrotechnic sculpture” of fireworks in Abu Dhabi. Why?
    The idea of the infinite abyss and the infinite sky and trying to make a visual equivalent to what you observe in the depths of the ocean in the sky is a beautiful chain of thought. It was an experiment in making a sort of alien communication. Some people in Times Square were not aware we were making a movie, and were putting themselves in front of the screen like they would at a fireworks show, and buying hot dogs in the street and sitting down to look at the display. 

    You’ve mentioned Rampling is playing your character in the film. What’s the idea behind Lynch’s character?
    David Lynch is the guy who never really gives an answer, he’s really well known for that. I was thinking this could be used in the opposite way and in my project Lynch becomes someone from another place and space giving information to the viewer. He’s just saying facts and scientific information, and explaining what is going on in the movie and helping the viewer to make links. He’s doing the opposite of what he’s supposed to do in life. He’s the access to the story. Everything is organized around him. 

    The Snorks: A Concert for Creatures premieres at Mk2 Bibliothèque, Paris, on October 9.

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  • MOST SHARED IN CHINA
    MOST SHARED IN CHINA

    Angelica Cheung: In Paris

    Vogue China’s Super-Editor Invites NOWNESS into Her World

    International tastemaker and Vogue China Editor-in-Chief Angelica Cheung opens up about life in fashion in this intimate short by French director Aurélie Saada. Shot during the Paris couture shows in July, Saada trailed Cheung for a day meeting with actress, model and Schiaparelli muse Farida Khelfa, attending the Chanel show, and lunching with Chinese superstar Zhou Xun. “Angelica is driven by a sort of mission for her country to make the voices of young Chinese designers heard and to help them develop,” explains Saada, who recently made the move into directing, but is perhaps best known as one half of the sensational French pop duo Brigitte. “She has set out to educate Chinese luxury consumers, teaching that big names and logos are not always the way to go; rather one should approach fashion as the expression of one's personality.” Launched in September 2005, Vogue China has quickly become one of the biggest international editions of the magazine, with the first issue’s initial run of 300,000 copies selling out almost instantly, leading to a second printing. Subsequently, while many publications have thinned in line with the economy, Vogue China has consistently increased its page count in order to keep up with demand for advertising requests. “This woman has a real deepness to her, a real generosity that made the experience incredible,” says Saada of the Beijing-based Cheung. “She opened the door to her hotel room for me in the morning, and she spoke without taboo for the whole day. She is a strong and generous woman––attentive, unpretentious, and emblematic.”
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