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A deep exploration of the contradictions in contemporary Chinese art.

20130421Chimeras 3

stars 3andahalf9


Friday, April 26, 9 p.m.
TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King Street West)

Sunday, April 28, 1:30 p.m.
Scotiabank (259 Richmond Street West)

Thursday, May 2, 4:30 p.m.
TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King Street West)

As the title suggests, the Chinese artists in Mika Mattila’s absorbing Chimeras are of two minds about how to square their work with their cultural inheritance. Whether they’re as established as Wang Guangyi, an international star, or as promising as Liu Gang, a rural student thrown into the Beijing art world by an impressed American curator, the artists Mattila profiles are vexed about their status as Chinese cultural representatives in a highly westernized scene.

A meditative film that revels in the deliberate movements of both men, Chimeras is attuned to Wang and Liu’s process as well as their ideas. For the most part, that means getting out of the way, observing the artists in a succession of tense tableaus as they stand before their work, a bit uneasy about what they’ve made.

Though it’s Wang who has the more magnetic personality and outsized work, Liu might be the more compelling subject. Photographing crumpled and warped advertisements in hopes of making a dreamlike document of the world for future generations to stumble across, Liu is a conceptual artist working in miniature. That contradiction comes across in fascinating ways in his damning assessment of his project’s Western way of seeing the world. Though navel-gazing can sink any documentary, Liu’s honest comments about himself are measured rather than narcissistic. They’re well at home in a film like this one, as committed to deep thinking as it is to art.

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