The Critical Realist Cinema of Wang Bing: A Comparison with the Films of Chantal Akerman and Jia Zhangke 01/10/2019 - 30/09/2021

Abstract

This project aims to position contemporary Chinese filmmaker Wang Bing at the center of the debate on new forms of realism in film. Wang Bing is celebrated worldwide as the most important documentary filmmaker of the past decade, yet his work has still to receive proper academic study in the West. His style is geared towards a detailed and slow-paced documentation of people living in the margins of Chinese post-socialist society. My aim is double: to explore the critical significance of Wang's cinema at the level of his specific aesthetic choices and, second, to elucidate these core properties within the context of a perceived 'new realist' turn in contemporary art cinema and through comparison with two filmmakers, the first European the second Chinese, Belgian cinéaste Chantal Akerman and Wang's contemporary Jia Zhangke. The degree to which these filmmakers put their faith in the real and attach value to materiality and testimony returns us to Marxist philosopher and literary historian Georg Lukács' theorization of the representation of a 'social totality' as found in 19th century realist novels of Tolstoy and Balzac. In order to understand this turn to the real in contemporary film and in Wang's work in particular, I will reconsider the concept of 'critical realism' as it was originally put forward by Lukács, while at the same time weighing his original insights against the recent writings on politics in film and art by the French Post-Marxist philosopher Jacques Rancière.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Project type(s)

  • Research Project

The Critical Realist Cinema of Wang Bing: A Comparison with the Films of Chantal Akerman and Jia Zhangke 01/10/2017 - 30/09/2019

Abstract

This project aims to position contemporary Chinese filmmaker Wang Bing at the center of the debate on new forms of realism in film. Wang Bing is celebrated worldwide as the most important documentary filmmaker of the past decade, yet his work has still to receive proper academic study in the West. His style is geared towards a detailed and slow-paced documentation of people living in the margins of Chinese post-socialist society. My aim is double: to explore the critical significance of Wang's cinema at the level of his specific aesthetic choices and, second, to elucidate these core properties within the context of a perceived 'new realist' turn in contemporary art cinema and through comparison with two filmmakers, the first European the second Chinese, Belgian cinéaste Chantal Akerman and Wang's contemporary Jia Zhangke. The degree to which these filmmakers put their faith in the real and attach value to materiality and testimony returns us to Marxist philosopher and literary historian Georg Lukács' theorization of the representation of a 'social totality' as found in 19th century realist novels of Tolstoy and Balzac. In order to understand this turn to the real in contemporary film and in Wang's work in particular, I will reconsider the concept of 'critical realism' as it was originally put forward by Lukács, while at the same time weighing his original insights against the recent writings on politics in film and art by the French Post-Marxist philosopher Jacques Rancière.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Project type(s)

  • Research Project

Towards a New Cinematic Realism. The Cinema of Wang Bing. 01/10/2016 - 30/09/2017

Abstract

This project aims to create a central position for the contemporary Chinese filmmaker Wang Bing within the discourse of global and Chinese cinemas and within recent critical discussions on realism in film. Wang Bing is celebrated worldwide as the most important documentary filmmaker of the decade, yet his work has still to receive proper academic study. His style is geared towards detailed documentation of people living in the margins of Chinese post-socialist society. It is characterized by long takes that are at once distanced and immersive. My aim is double: to explore the critical significance of Wang's cinema at the level of his specific aesthetic choices and, second, to shed light on Wang's cinema within the context of a perceived critical-realist turn in contemporary cinema. The degree to which Wang puts his faith in the real returns us to Lukács' theorization of the representation of a totality as found in 19th century realist novelists like Tolstoy and Balzac that counters the bodily and psychological alienation under capitalism. In order to understand the return of the real in contemporary art cinema and in Wang's work in particular, I will re-appropriate the concept of 'mapping totality' as it was originally put forward by Marxist theorists like Lukács and Jameson, while at the same time weighing their insights against concrete contemporary artistic practice.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Project type(s)

  • Research Project