Dinu Li : Family Village

25 Sep 2009 – 25 Oct 2009

Danielle Arnaud

London, United Kingdom


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Using language as the starting point for a trilogy of films Dinu Li researched the literal meaning of the word ‘country' in Chinese. He discovered three meanings: ‘Ancestral Nation', ‘Family Village' and ‘Nation Family'. These meanings have inspired and become the titles for the trilogy. Shaped by forces that determine social structures, Li draws inspiration from an engagement with the many cultures he encounters. Pivotal concerns within his work include a fascination with where culture comes from, how it is manifested, and formed within the everyday. Dinu Li's Family Village is the second in the trilogy and explores cultural developments in contemporary China. The film explores ideas of cultural exchange, Diaspora and the poetics of linking the past and present through three pivotal elements. The first element is an article from 2005 that Li came across describing a series of events caused when a town planner innocently sent a Christmas card from Dorset to Sichuan Province in China. The card with its depiction of an idyllic English village, replete with traditional English architectural details gave birth to the urban development named ‘British Town' in Sichuan Province. The second element is an illustrated Chinese Boy taken from a 1950's propaganda comic, in Li's film this boy, copied from the original with faithful care, now no longer looking for the Japanese enemy, tranquilly watches the changes that unfold within his village. The third element is the film's sound, a strangely seductive, all encompassing chant made from the voices of Chinese pupils sent to a British boarding school. Li asked them to make a repetitive rhythm from Pure Imagination, the principle song in the 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The film's potent and symbolic imagery, constructed through the seamless combination of drawings, photography, archival imagery, animation and film, draws the viewer into an atmospheric world of imagined fictions and documented political histories. Informed by cinematic tradition the first film in Li's trilogy Ancestral Nation was made during a research trip to China in 2005. There he filmed two very different prevalent rituals that both involve thousands of people: crowds during a daily commute and a festival celebrating the birthday of Confucius. The work highlights the passing of time by drawing together China's expanding industrial present and the traditions of its cultural past. Li's final film in the trilogy, Nation Family, is to be made in the near future.

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