Some actions which haven’t been defined yet in the revolution

Recently I saw a short film by the Chinese artist/filmaker Sun Xun. The film was titled ‘Some actions which haven’t been defined yet in the revolution’ and was possibly one of the most amazing pieces of animation (if not one of the most amazing films) I have ever seen!

The film itself boarded on the avant guard. Below is the official blurb from the Taipei Biennial which recently showed the film. I don’t think this really describes the actual film because I saw more of a narrative. the below description to me reads more towards its conceptual mood and it doesn’t mention the soundtrack that descended into oppressive (Merzbow-styled) noise:

The woodcut animation Some Actions Which Haven’t Been Defined Yet In The Revolution depicts the nightmarish journey of a character through a world situated between waking and dreaming, day and night, past and present, in which all known, stable boundaries—such as that between inside and outside, human and beast—have become fluid. Time is dictated by traumatic flashbacks, and the nightmare-like atmosphere of the work, which is underscored by haunting music, is evoked not by violent actions, but by the claustrophobic routines of everyday life. There are two iconic scenes that define the work—one when the protagonist pulls an insect from between his teeth and eats it alive, and the other when the protagonist masturbates. The latter scene is the climax of the film, yet shows an anticlimax of sorts, with its undirected and unfulfilled libidinous energy. The former scene evokes the metaphor of “cannibalism” as an attitude and mental condition, used by the influential author Lu Xun to describe the decay of Chinese consciousness. Lu Xun wrote The True Story of Ah Q. and was, not coincidentally, also an eminent scholar of Chinese woodcuts. 

This work is Sun Xun’s first animated film based entirely on woodcuts, a traditional Chinese technique which is more than 2000 years old and which experienced a revival during the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and 1970s. Is this the revolution and the disconcerted society left in its wake that Sun Xun speaks about? More likely, it is not one specific revolution from among the many revolutions China experienced in the twentieth-century—but the ever-present effects of continuing revolutionary violence, and the surreal underside of “official” accounts of revolutionary reason and propagandistic promise, where revolution appears as sanctioned terror. The work depicts experience of a world turned upside down in which the rationality of irrationality has become the rule.

Sun Xun, born 1980 in China, lives and works in Beijing

Now while the film only went for 13 minutes, it was animated entirely with woodcuts of which thousands were used! It takes me like a day at best to do one… and that’s not even with a lot of detail, I was stunned when I put into context even what a team of folks carving blocks would need to do to complete this project. As you can see by the stills I’ve found on the internet, the level of detail is not to shabby either. Just to clarify, the animated film was made up of the blocks, not animated prints on paper. So the grain of the wood and the negative space was brilliantly used as well to create some of the lines and effects.

The film was showing as part of the Qld Art Galleries Asia Pacific Triennial (APT7) which is currently on at the Qld Art Gallery and Gallery Of Modern Art. it was part of a program still on titled ‘Mountains and Waters: Chinese Animation Since the 1930s

The Shanghi Art Gallery is probably the best place (that I can find) on the internet to discover more about Sun Xun and his work. Check out more HERE.

An interesting and brief interview can be read HERE.

The only downside to all this is that this film is not easy to find or watch at all seeing as it only seems to be showing at international film festivals and art shows. I couldn’t find it on youtube or elsewhere.

Director Sun Xun: “We exist within such controlling rules. How to find ourselves? Will time allow us to use our own behaviour clearly in this historical process?”

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