DSL CineMag – (Re)writing Chinese cinema

I’m starting PhD Wednesday early with blogging courtesy of a 9.30am meeting. A few weeks ago, I met with Sylvain Levy, Director of the DSL Collection…our paths at last crossed in Shanghai. It was fantastic to finally meet someone who I have followed the work of over over recent years and communicated with so much by email.  I recently wrote a blog post about the DSL’s virtual exhibition curated online and in 3-D in relation to the development of other online art collections and platforms out there, so Sylvain wanted me to talk to me further about my perspectives on this, also about the development of my PhD research and curatorial projects in Shanghai, whilst giving me the opportunity to experience the said exhibition in 3-D. I really did not think that my experience would change that much, but it did. Your sense of space is completely altered…changed…reconfigured…ways of seeing taken to a different level. I simply could not get my head around the digital building and mapping processes the team must have used to construct it…though I’m just not used to using those types of computer programs and software. I wouldn’t even know where to start. The 3-D exhibition is currently on show alongside artists Cao Fei, Chen Chieh Jen, Liang Juhui, Zhang Peili, Cui Xiuwen, and Jiang Zhi as part of the DSL Collection exhibition ‘PRESS PLAY: New Perspectives in Contemporary Chinese Art opening today until the 12th June 2012 at Momentum in Berlin, Germany. The 3-D film aims to contextualize the works of the other artists on show within the broader framework of the DSL Collection and the development of Chinese contemporary art, where Momentum ‘enables the experience of direct contact between the viewer and the artwork’. PRESS PLAYexplores ‘ the balance between our experience of an artwork and the mediated document of that artwork. Presenting an innovative model of exhibition practice within a three-dimensional immersive experience of a virtual museum, alongside the video works themselves, PRESS PLAYhighlights the integral role of time in the experience of art’. I’m hoping I’ll get the chance to see it during my Germany trip this June to finally see the 3-D exhibition “on show within a show” as such, whilst interpreting the relationship with the other artists on display.

Sylvain and I went on to discuss the value in these kind of platforms, both physical and online, and the value system and infrastructure of the DSL Collection as to how it acquires meaning. I want to expand on these notions further. As I didn’t take notes that day I need to talk to Sylvain about it via email. I also realised that I took no photographs, which is very unlike Rachel…no photographs of the beautiful top floor apartment where we met that had panoramic views of the French Concession, no photographs of me finally experiencing the DSL collection exhibition in 3-D on his Sony Vaio laptop (a nice piece of tech kit that my brother would love), no photographs of our discussion and chats about all things contemporary Chinese art. Such a shame…and I know you are an avid reader of my blog Sylvain! So when I did remember, all I captured as a reminder was a random artwork of a landscape that was hung in the stairwell of the art deco apartment block. There’s something about this painting that stopped me. Anyway…at the end of our meeting, Sylvain informed me of a new magazine that he has just founded and launched online called the DSL CineMag.

The DSL CineMag is the first bilingual in Chinese and English app-magazine to promote ‘Chinese New Cinema’, a developing scene in China and as part of contemporary Chinese art. In recent years it has gained great momentum, playing a key part in how to understand the rapid pace of change of China in social, political and global terms. This magazine focuses on various genres, from new documentary films, art-house and independent films, to feature films, and non-fiction avant-garde visual documentations from the beginning of the Millennium. It is for domestic and international audiences, both the general public and specialists in the film and contemporary art industries, with the aim to build an international platform for the discussion and education on Chinese cinema. It also aims to be ‘a creative and lively independent environment for on-going dialogues on the new cinema culture’ where it wants to ‘examine how film-making as creative practice works as a new form of art and social practice, and how it reflects the Chinese people’s growing awareness of individual and public citizenship in a global age’. The magazine is ‘not just about films, but about the process of independent thinking, producing and viewing the cinema, an important cultural and art form that reflects our perceptions and desires’. In my eyes, it is another platform trying to deal with the inherent lack of criticality of as regards contemporary Chinese art and culture. There are a lot of people out there trying to understand and deconstruct this at the moment, me being one of them in my PhD!
I downloaded the DSL CineMag app on my friends iPad as I don’t have one (yet…I think my elder brother will be upgrading his soon…hopefully) but it isn’t the first time I’ve viewed a magazine through the iPad platform. Going against my usually traditionalist view of things needing to be in print and tangible like “real” books and magazines, I actually like reading in this format…however, I don’t like reading on a Kindle…that’s a completely different experience and do not get me started on that…I’d happily snap one over my thigh. Perhaps I like reading on a iPad because it can be more visual and interactive rather than just text on a digital page like the Kindle. Anyway, the DSL CineMag is simply designed and well formatted as you can see above and below. It opens with a cinemag “help” page so that you understand how to negotiate its contents, then onto the contents page itself that marks out all articles and contributors, who are all from a Chinese background or origin, most with international experience of contemporary art, film and culture. In my view it is integral to have this balance of “transcultural” experience to feed into the editorial facet of the magazine.
It would be great if the magazine could be available through the internet too for non-iPad users, such as through a self-publishing site like ‘Issuu’. Another suggestion might be to have live links from the article pages so that you can comment and respond to them, provide feedback as such. I’m not sure how this would work but perhaps it could link to a website version or to the DSL CineMag webpage. I think what is successful about this magazine is the diversity of media, such as video clips, film trailers, video stills, and high quality portrait and documentary photographs, that accompany the very accessible and well-written articles and interviews. There are also illustrations and drawings that provide a handmade and more local sense of creativity to the magazine. Thus, all these components give you get a real sense of the artists and filmmakers…those carving and shaping this industry in China and the global domain.
As far as I know from my own research and knowledge of contemporary Chinese cinema, literature on this does not really exist right now…so this is a real niche in the market. The first issue of the DSL CineMag is now available free online through the AppStore. The DSL Collection are incredibly media savvy, using social media at their disposable, realising its potential and capabilites…so you can find them on Facebook, Weibo, Douban and youtube sites, where you can see further videos with filmmakers, and some articles…where they also encourage you to respond, comment, discuss (although in a somewhat limited capacity) and get involved in the future development and criticality as regards Chinese cinema. I feel more collections, art museums and galleries need to invest more time and money into the development of their social media strategies as it has such global possibilities…and as I know from writing my blog, it has the potential to create new conversations and discussions, new relationships with friends and colleagues, and can start and make new creative projects happen. It is that easy…

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