Lily & Honglei’s video series ‘Fourth Cry of the Monkey’ will be included in ‘Locating the Sacred’ Festival curated by Asian American Art Alliance. New York Art Residency and Studio (NARS) Foundation Gallery will host the exhibition in September 2012.
Fourth Cry of the Monkey
Medium: Digital Animation, Oil painting, and Soundtrack
Year of Completion: 2008 – 2011
Fourth Cry of the Monkey, originally, is the title of a Chinese opera written in the 16th century, meaning ‘grief and sorrow beyond expression.’ Its narrative structure and symbolic approach inspire Lily & Honglei to produce this animated film with four chapters reassembling popular Chinese folk tales about ordinary people’s spiritual journeys.
Chapter I. Three Gorges (三峡), reflects the world’s largest hydropower project, Three Gorges Dams’ social, cultural and environmental impacts. In the film, chilling cries of a monkey echo above mountain and river, as if bewailing the destiny of the soon-to-be submerged landscape. On a cliff, the naked ‘mad drummer,’ famous confucian scholar Mi Heng, is cursing those in power with drumming sound. In the last scene, Lady White Snake watches a town collapsing in the earthquake, and leaves. This chapter addresses loss of physical and spiritual homeland.
Chapter II. Butterfly Lovers (梁祝), reinterprets one of the most popular love stories of China. Set in a contemporary setting, the lovers, dressed in traditional Chinese opera costume, roam Manhattan at night. The two protagonists repeat scenarios from the original story such as “Seeing off for Eighteen Miles” and “Meeting at the Balcony.” With dreamlike dislocation, the film depicts the characters’ isolation and vulnerability in their spiritual exile.
Chapter III. Peony Pavilion（牡丹亭), is inspired by a popular traditional Chinese opera visualizing the revival of soul. ‘The young maiden in the story, Du Liniang, falls in love with a scholar whom she’s only met once in a dream and dies longing for him. The scholar, Liu Mengmei, happens to be a real person and through sheer accident ends up staying in her town. Discovering Du’s self-portrait, Liu immediately admires her beauty. Eventually, Liu meets Du’s ghost, disinters her body, and she comes back to live,’ J. Lau summarizes the plot in ‘A Chinese Love Story from Beyond the Grave.’ In the animation, Lily & Honglei are interested in presenting the contrast between ancient spirit of the characters and the materialistic environment of the contemporary world. The soundtrack includes famous verses from the original play:
‘Where is the pleasant day and pretty night? Who can enjoy contentment and delight?’
‘As innocent as flowers, unaware of the time sweeping past like a river.’
Chapter IV. Southeast Fly the Peacocks （孔雀东南飞), is the final chapter inspired by one of the most beloved Chinese traditional poems, that depicts a tragedy of a couple committing suicides for love and dignity against the power. Our reinterpretation intertwines imagery of the ancient story and 1989 Tiananmen Student Protest, highlighting everyday people’s spiritual struggles and persistence. The soundtrack is a popular children song in Communist China, with lyric glorifying the party’s leadership and praising it has brought Chinese people happy life, in strong contrast with the visual component.
Overall, the animated film unfolds ancient stories in a contemporary setting, and is intended to reveal everlasting meaning of beautiful Chinese folk tale.
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The Festival | 12-23 September 2012
“Locating the Sacred” is a twelve-day, twenty-event festival coordinated by the Asian American Arts Alliance (a4) that brings together artists and spaces in New York for creative explorations of the “sacred.” The festival showcases the diversity and talent of the Asian American community, which now constitutes more than 1 million people in New York (13 percent of the population) and is the most rapidly growing cultural group in the city. The artists will connect with space hosts—from museums to schools to churches—to create events together. The result of these collaborations will be presented for all New Yorkers to experience. The festival aims to promote artists as agents of change, demonstrating the power of art and culture to unleash imagination, break down barriers, and connect communities together for the greater good. At a time of great turmoil in the world—economic, political, and cultural—the festival provides opportunities to explore what remains sacred in our lives during turbulent times, how we might draw inspiration from each other, and how we can imagine moving forward as a society.
The model of the festival is simple. a4 will produce three pillar events: an opening, a closing, and a panel discussion series. For the other festival events, a4 will act as an umbrella, matching artists with space hosts in an attempt to generate creative collaborations across ethnic, religious, geographic and aesthetic boundaries. These events will benefit from the festivalʼs “stamp”, from underwriting for artist fees of up to $2,000 depending on the scope of the project, and from the exposure from the festival’s citywide PR and marketing campaign. The festival becomes the showcase of more than a dozen collaborations across the city, which we hope will continue long after the festival is over.
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