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Chinese Independent Documentaries at Light Industry (NYC)

Crude Oil (Photo courtesy of Light Industry)

Triple Canopy and Light Industry present the East Coast premiere of Wang Bing’s Crude Oil, a fourteen-hour film installation tracking a fourteen-hour workday of crude-oil extraction in northwest China, from Wednesday, November 4 to Sunday, November 8. The film will be viewed from 9am until 11pm each day, running five times in its entirety.

Accompanying Crude Oil in an adjacent room will be a film program by Matthew Coolidge of the Center for Land Use Interpretation and Lucy Raven (7:30pm, Wednesday, November 4) as well as screenings of Wang Bing’s Coal Money (4pm, Saturday, November 7) and West of the Tracks (12pm, Sunday, November 8). A curated DVD library of related films will be available for viewing throughout the week.

The central theme of the program, as stated in a note from Triple Canopy, is “work, workers, workplaces, and the landscapes of labor,” which provide a dwelling place for art in today’s world of “sheer speed, placelessness, and impersonality of global finance.”

The screenings will be held at Industrial City, 220 36th Street (between 2nd and 3rd Avenue), 5th Floor, Brooklyn, New York. More details can be found here. Descriptions of Wang Bing’s films follow.

Crude Oil (Yuan You) Wang Bing, 2008, video, 14 hours Wednesday, November 4–Sunday, November 8, 9 am–11 pm, daily

The terrain that plays the leading role in the film is in the province of Qinghai, a similar landscape to that of the neighboring province of Tibet. A high, empty, rough, windy, and desolate landscape. A meditation on labor, art, and time, the film is meant to be seen in its entirety, where, to quote the note from Triple Canopy, “Art-time and work-time coincide, and the film’s workers, in breakrooms and on oil fields, enter our space as equals.”

“The question of whether Crude Oil by Wang Bing is an installation or a film screening is basically trivial. It is an important and grand work and the label is not that relevant. What is relevant is how an exhausting work like this can best be presented. And how can it live on.” – International Film Festival Rotterdam

Coal Money (Tong Dao) Wang Bing, 2008, video, 52 mins Saturday, November 7 at 4pm

On the coal road linking the Shanxi mines with the large port of Tianjin, in northern China, the drivers of 100-ton trucks shuttle endlessly to and from, day and night. On the roadside: prostitutes, cops, petty racketeers, garage owners, mechanics.

U.S. premiere of Wang Bing’s most recent documentary, which follows Chinese coal truckers from the mine to the market, as coal transforms into money. Screening followed by discussion with Rebecca Karl (Associate Professor, History and East Asian Studies, NYU) and Zhang Zhen (Associate Professor, Cinema Studies, NYU).

West of the Tracks (Tie Xi Qu) Wang Bing, 2003, video, 554 mins Part 1, Rust, 244 mins Part 2, Remnants, 178 mins Part 3, Rails, 132 mins Sunday, November 8 at 12pm

Wang Bing’s debut, filmed between 1999 and 2001, in Shenyang, northeast China. The nine-hour film is a comprehensive record of the heavy industry district in the city, through the difficult years brought by the huge and cruel transformation of the nation from a planned to market economy. Its three chapters – “Rust”, “Remnants”, and “Rails” – focus on industrial work, youth and family life, and individual emotions respectively, and also respectively treat the social problems of bankruptcy and unemployment, demolition of old neighborhoods, and the lives on the margins of the city and of modern industry.

“Without question the greatest work to have come out of the Chinese documentary movement, and must be ranked among the most extraordinary achievements of world cinema in the new century.” – Lu Xinyu, New Left Review

“Wang Bing’s overwhelming West of the Tracks presents us with the panoramic spectacle of progress collapsing. . . . It is every twentieth-century mural depiction of the struggle for the good life – socialist or capitalist – viewed in reverse. It is as if the film were being run backwards, or like the last lines of Rilke’s Duino Elegies: ‘And we, who think of happiness ascending, / would with consternation / know the rapture that almost overwhelms us, / when happiness fails.'” – Luc Sante


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