Transcript: Sun Xun: One of China's Most Ambitious Young Artists | Mar 27, 2019



(music plays)

Logo: TVF International.

The opening sequence rolls.

The title of the show appears against different colorful art patterns. It reads "Brilliant Ideas."

A series of drawings and animations appear.

The narrator says A MASTER OF DRAWING
AND PRINT CRAFT, SUN XUN IS
ONE OF CHINA'S MOST TALENTED
AND AMBITIOUS YOUNG ARTISTS.

A blond woman says SUN XUN IS SIMPLY
REPRESENTATIVE OF A HUGE GROUP
OF YOUNG ARTISTS THAT ARE GONNA
BE EMERGING IN THE COMING YEARS.

A woman with short black hair says HE IS WALKING AND LIVING
ART.
HE JUST NEVER STOPS.
HE REALLY IS FULL OF IDEAS AND
ENERGY.

The narrator says FROM TRADITIONAL INK
PAINTINGS TO WOODCUTS, TO
IMAGINATIVE HAND-DRAWN
ANIMATIONS, HIS WORKS REPRESENT
HIS MISSION TO CHALLENGE THE
RECEIVED WISDOM ABOUT CHINESE
AND WORLD HISTORY.

A man with glasses says THERE'S AN INTELLIGENCE TO
WHAT HE DOES, AND A FAMILIARITY
WITH THINGS THAT HAVE HAPPENED
AND WHAT THEY MIGHT MEAN, AND AN
INSISTENCE ON RAISING QUESTIONS.

A man in a black shirt says "When you look at his work it's very powerful. Even striking to your heart."

Sun Xun says "The piece of work is not art. The film is not art. Art is about a deeper spirit. I just believe that."

Sun Xun is in his late thirties, with very short black hair and wears glasses, blue trousers, a gray sweater and a black vest.

A caption reads "Sun Xun."

He says "Hello, I'm Sun Xun. This is my studio. Welcome."

The narrator says AS SOON AS YOU STEP INTO SUN
XUN'S STUDIO IN BEIJING, THE
FIRST THING THAT STRIKES YOU IS
A SERIES OF MASSIVE INK
PAINTINGS.

(HAUNTING MUSIC PLAYING)

Sun Xun says "This work is seven pieces of drawings. It's for my next exhibition in Seoul, in Korea. So in Korea, I take care of the cultural background of Korea. So here is a dragon and the Xie Zhi (Chinese Unicorn). Chinese, no English! On Eastern traditional buildings at the top, you see some of these animals. You know, to make the buildings lucky. If you go to the Forbidden City you will see that. So they have good meanings traditionally."

A clip shows animated black and white drawings depicting a furious man with the caption "What happened in past Dragon Year. 2014."

The narrator says SUN XUN'S WORKS ARE DEEPLY
ROOTED IN HIS OWN TRADITIONS...
CHINESE INK PAINTINGS.
BUT USING NEW TECHNOLOGIES TO
TRANSFORM THEM INTO STUNNING
BLACK AND WHITE ANIMATIONS HAS
BECOME HIS ARTISTIC TRADEMARK.

A caption reads "Emi Eu. Director, Singapore Tyler Print Institute."

Emi is in her forties, with very short black hair and wears a striped shirt, a black blazer and a pair of stud earrings.

She says HIS ART IS EXTREMELY PERSONAL
BECAUSE IT REALLY STEMS FROM HOW
HE GREW UP AND HIS REALIZATION
OF WHAT HE THOUGHT WAS THE
TRUTH-- ONE DAY HE FOUND OUT
THAT IT IS NOT THE TRUTH.

The narrator says SUN XUN WAS BORN IN 1980 IN
FUXIN, A SMALL INDUSTRIAL AND
MINING CITY IN THE NORTHEAST OF
CHINA.
HIS FATHER WAS A FACTORY
WORKER, WHICH IS QUITE UNUSUAL
FOR SOMEONE FROM A MILITARY
FAMILY.
DETERMINED TO STAY AWAY FROM
JOINING THE ARMY HIMSELF, SUN
XUN CHOSE TO PURSUE ART WITH
HIS FATHER'S BLESSING.

Pictures of Sun Xun as a child with his parents appear.

Sun Xun says "I'm really good at drawing. So my father said, Okay, go be an artist. That would be very good for you. And keep away from politics. Politics make people crazy. So it's okay to be an artist. It is good."

The narrator says SUN XUN WENT TO THE CHINA
ACADEMY OF FINE ARTS IN
HANGZHOU TO STUDY PRINTMAKING.
BUT THE MEDIUM WASN'T ENOUGH
FOR THE RESTLESSLY CREATIVE
16-YEAR-OLD TO EXPRESS HIMSELF.
COUPLED WITH HIS BURGEONING
INTEREST IN MOVING IMAGES,
SUN XUN HAD A FIRST GO AT
HAND-DRAWN ANIMATION.

Sun Xun says "I'm really interested in film. But as a student, I was poor. And I couldn't buy a camera. And I was from the printing department, so I couldn't even borrow a camera from the school. But I can draw a film, so I drew a film. And back then, I didn't know that was animation. So my animations really don't look like animations. It's not like an animation. I don't know what it is but I am happy."

A black and white animation shows a dragon flying across the screen.

The narrator says SUN XUN'S ANIMATIONS OFTEN
EXPLORE AND QUESTION WHAT IS
KNOWN ABOUT CHINESE HISTORY.
WHILE HE DID NOT LIVE THROUGH
CHINA'S CULTURAL REVOLUTION, HE
WAS EXPOSED TO CLASHING
ACCOUNTS OF WHAT HAD HAPPENED
DURING THAT PERIOD.
IT IS HIS STRUGGLE TO RECONCILE
THESE CONFLICTING NARRATIVES
THAT FORMS THE FOUNDATION OF
MUCH OF SUN XUN'S ART.

A sketch of Sun Xun's grandmother appears.

Sun Xun says "My grandmother remembered a lot of historical stories and so did my father. So ever since I was a child I've always accepted two versions of history. From school, from books, and after school, from my father's stories."

The caption changes to "Philip Tinari. Director. Ullens Center for Contemporary Art."

Philip is in his late thirties, with short straight brown hair and wears glasses, a white shirt and a gray blazer.

He says SUN XUN IS AN ARTIST WHO'S
DEEPLY INTERESTED IN KIND OF THE
DRAMA OF THE WAY HISTORY
UNFOLDS AND HOW IT GETS WRITTEN.
SO I THINK HE'S FOUND A WAY
THROUGH ANIMATION TO, YOU KNOW,
TO TELL STORIES THAT ARE REALLY
FABLES ABOUT VERY ARCHETYPICAL,
UH, CHARACTERS.
AND I THINK THAT THE PEOPLE FIND
THAT QUITE APPEALING.

An animation shows a headless man in a suit, climbing through a hole in a newspaper
with the caption "Shock of Time. 2006."

The narrator says SUN XUN'S BREAKTHROUGH FILM
WAS COMPLETED A YEAR AFTER HIS
ART SCHOOL GRADUATION IN 2005.
COMBINING HIS FASCINATION WITH
CHINESE HISTORY AND LOVE FOR
DRAWING AND MOVING IMAGES,
SHOCK OF TIME
IS DRAWN ON OLD
COMMUNIST NEWSPAPER CLIPPINGS
FROM THE '50S AND '60S.
AT THE HEART OF IT IS THE
FIGURE OF A MAN WHO SEEMS TO BE
DIVING IN AND OUT OF THE PAST.

Sun Xun says "And you have to follow everything in the script. But my work is very open. I drew on old newspapers. Old newspapers from the 1950s. That was during the Cultural Revolution. I read these old newspapers every day and they influenced my idea. So the newspaper was my script. And I drew on it about time. About history, about life. About power."

The caption changes to "Meg Maggio. Founder. Pékin Fine Arts, Beijing."

Meg is in her fifties, with above the shoulder, layered blond hair and wears a black and blue chevron sweater.

She says I THINK THE MAIN MESSAGE HE'S
TRYING TO "CONVENE" WITH HIS
WORK IS HOW TO NAVIGATE CERTAIN
ASPECTS OF CHINESE SOCIETY WHICH
ARE EXTREMELY TRADITIONAL VERSUS
CERTAIN ASPECTS OF CHINESE
SOCIETY WHEN ARE EXTREMELY
MODERN.
AND THERE'S ALWAYS GOING TO BE A
GAP BETWEEN THOSE TWO WORLDS AND
HIS WORK FALLS WITHIN THAT GAP.

The narrator says IT WAS ONLY A FEW MONTHS
AFTER THE COMPLETION OF
SHOCK
OF TIME
THAT THE YOUNG ARTIST
FOUNDED HIS OWN ANIMATION
STUDIO CALLED PI.
IT WAS A HUGE STEP FOR AN
ARTIST JUST EMERGING INTO THE
ART WORLD.

Sun Xun says "I left the school. I was so angry. I thought that they only worked for money and art was just an excuse. Art was not the end goal. So I left and decided to work for my spirit. So I set up my own studio. I wanted to make something myself."

Philip says THERE'S CERTAINLY AN ELEMENT
OF AMBITION TO THE WAY HE'S KIND
OF PUT TOGETHER THIS FAIRLY
MASSIVE PRODUCTION APPARATUS.
UM, YOU KNOW, YOU HEAR
STATISTICS LIKE 25 OR 40 OR
HOWEVER MANY ANIMATORS SORT OF
WORKING THERE.
YEAH, THERE ARE QUITE A NUMBER
OF YOUNG ARTISTS FOR WHOM THAT
WOULD BE REALLY THE DEFINITION
OF SUCCESS.

Sun Xun says "It's really like a proper animation department. I have everything."

The Narrator says IN JUST UNDER TEN
YEARS, SUN XUN HAS HELD OVER 30
SOLO EXHIBITIONS AND HAS SHOWN
AT MORE THAN 150 FILM FESTIVALS
WORLDWIDE.
IT'S A COMBINATION OF HIS
TALENT AND SHEER AMBITION THAT
HAS BROUGHT SUN XUN TO THE TOP.

Meg says SUN XUN HAS
ACCOMPLISHED A GREAT DEAL IN A
SHORT PERIOD OF TIME.
I ADMIRE SUN XUN'S AMBITION.
HE'S REALLY ENTERED SORT OF THE
MAINSTREAM CONVERSATION OF THE
GLOBAL ART INDUSTRY FOR BETTER
OR WORSE.
HE'S BECOME PART OF THE ART
MARKET.
THE ART MARKET WATERS ARE VERY
DIFFICULT TO NAVIGATE.

The narrator says BUT THE YOUNG ARTIST HAS HAD
NO DIFFICULTIES CHARMING THE
INTERNATIONAL ART WORLD WITH
HIS REMARKABLE INK PAINTINGS,
HAND-DRAWN ANIMATIONS AND
INSTALLATIONS.
IN 2014, HE PRESENTED HIS FIRST
SOLO EXHIBITION AT SEAN KELLY
GALLERY IN NEW YORK, CALLED
TIME VIVARIUM.

The caption changes to "The Time Vivarium. 2014."

The Narrator continues SUN XUN WAS STRUCK BY HOW
HISTORY WAS PRESENTED AT THE
AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL
HISTORY.
AND SO, HE CREATED A SERIES OF
SURREALIST PAINTINGS IN WHICH
HE REFERENCES IMAGERY FROM THE
CULTURAL REVOLUTION, AND THE
DIORAMAS FROM THE MUSEUM...
ONCE MORE CONVEYING HIS
SKEPTICISM OF OFFICIAL ACCOUNTS
OF HISTORY.

Sun Xun says "Because when you visit the museum, you will see that everything is a footnote to American culture. So I thought about that. America rules the whole world but I didn't want to talk about who is the King of the world. I didn't want to talk about that. I wanted to talk about culture. Different cultures. Even different people. So, all cultures, all people... we have prejudices and we always refuse some parts of the truth that we don't want. So I was really interested in that. So the Time Vivarium talks about that."

The narrator says IT WAS NOT JUST HIS WORK IN
AMERICA THAT REFLECTED THE
EVOLUTION OF HIS THEMES THROUGH
HIS WIDENING HORIZONS.
ANOTHER KEY WORK FROM THIS
PERIOD WAS CREATED IN
COLLABORATION WITH A
SINGAPOREAN PRINT INSTITUTE,
AND IT WAS A RESPONSE TO
SINGAPORE'S AUTOCRATIC
POLITICAL SYSTEM.
THE INSTALLATION INVOLVED SUN
XUN'S CREATION OF A FAKE
COUNTRY...
THE REPUBLIC OF JING
BONG,
OR "THE COUNTRY ON A
WHALE'S BACK."

The caption changes to "Republic of Jing Bong. 2014."

The Narrator continues HE CREATED AN ELABORATE
ASSORTMENT OF FICTIONAL
ARTIFACTS, FROM PROPAGANDA
POSTERS TO FLAGS.
WITH THE WHALE AS THE NATIONAL
MASCOT- AN OBVIOUS PARODY TO
SINGAPORE'S OWN MADE UP
NATIONAL SYMBOL, THE MERLION.

An illustration shows a creature with the body of a fish and a lion's head.

Emi says SO THE PROJECT THAT HE DID
WITH US, UM, HE CREATED A
COUNTRY WITHIN SINGAPORE, AND
THIS IS-- EVEN THOUGH IT WAS A
RESPONSE TO HIM TO BEING IN
SINGAPORE DURING THAT PROJECT,
IT IS REALLY KIND OF MUCH
BROADER SENSE A COUNTRY'S
GOVERNED BY A PERSON WHO TELLS
THE TRUTH, BUT IS IT REALLY THE
TRUTH?
AND THE THINGS THAT WE HAVE, THE
CONSTITUTION, IT'S THERE, BUT
WHAT IS REALLY THE TRUTH AND
WHAT ARE THEY TALKING ABOUT?
SO I THINK IN THIS MANNER, EVERY
PROJECT THAT HE DOES THAT HAS
KIND OF A POLITICAL UNDERLYING
THEME HAS SOMETHING OF THE TRUTH
FROM THE POLITICIAN'S POINT OF VIEW.

Sun Xun says "Travelling is very important for my art. Because only by travelling you will know what you have and what kind of things you have never owned. My art is about how I can develop the world's view because artists are not working for the present. Artists work for the future. And art will not be art anymore in the future. It will become a part of culture."

The narrator says PRODUCING WORKS IN RESPONSE
TO THE POLITICS AND CULTURE OF
THE DIFFERENT COUNTRIES HE
TRAVELS TO, IT IS NO SURPRISE
THAT SUN XUN CONSIDERS HIMSELF
A CITIZEN OF THE WORLD.

Sun Xun says "People always think Sun Xun is a Chinese artist. He should use traditional materials. The name of a country is too limited. Who cares about that? Artist is artist. The name China is only political."

Meg says SUN XUN'S SAYING THAT HE
DOESN'T IDENTIFY HIMSELF WITH
CHINESE CONTEMPORARY ARTISTS IS
VERY INTERESTING.
HE DOESN'T WANNA REPRESENT A
SORT OF NATIONAL ETHIC OR ETHOS.
HE SIMPLY WANTS TO REPRESENT
HIMSELF, AND I THINK THAT'S A
WONDERFUL EXPRESSION OF
INDIVIDUALITY.

Sun Xun says "So when I am drawing, I like to listen to something. Sometimes it's poetry, sometimes it's music. Painting is about connecting with nature's secret powers. It's not from you. So actually, the work is not my work. It's nature's work. So I'm just a tool."

The narrator says HERE AT HIS STUDIO, SUN XUN
IS WORKING ON HIS LATEST
WOODCUT ANIMATION.
THE FIRST STEP IS TO PAINT ON A
WOODEN BOARD.

Sun Xun says "I just painted some plants. I will use them in my film. They will be the foreground frame in the film. Animation consists of different frames and different motions. So you can get a sense of the space from the screen. And this is the one that will be cut. So this is woodcut, and it will be scanned into the computer. And we will cut it, so we can get the image."

The caption changes to "Wang Chunchen. Head of Department, Curatorial Research. China Central Academy of Fine Arts."

Wang is in his late forties, clean-shaven and with short straight brown hair. He wears glasses and a black shirt.

Wang says "Sun Xun spends a lot of time drawing. When he makes one animation, he must draw thousands of such papers. So this is, you know, huge work. But when he finishes his animation, people will say, Wow it is so powerful, so different. People are shocked by his works. You can feel or see a totally different world."

The narrator says AT ONLY 35, SUN XUN
HAS ALREADY AMASSED A LONG LIST
OF ACCOMPLISHMENTS FOR SOMEONE
HIS AGE.
IN HIS BEIJING STUDIO, HE'S
PREPARING FOR AN UPCOMING
PROJECT FOR ART BASEL MIAMI.
THIS WORK WILL BE HIS LARGEST
INSTALLATION YET, AND IT'LL
ALSO BE HIS FIRST TIME WORKING
ON A WOODCUT ANIMATION IN
STEREOSCOPIC 3D.

Sun Xun shows a drawing of a building with a curved roof and says "So this drawing is the building plan, it's a very early plan. Here is the platform. And here is the terrace. And the cover is made of bamboo. In this direction is a big screen and the projector is here and people will get to watch the 3D film with glasses."

The narrator says SUN XUN DOES NOT KNOW HOW
THIS WORK WILL TURN OUT, BUT HE
IS OPTIMISTIC.

Sun Xun says "For this 3D film I'm trying to make it with woodcuts and in 3D. Together. It's very strange. But for me it is new. Because the editing work is not finished yet. So I don't quite know how I feel about it. I just like to make new things."

Emi says HE JUST KIND OF, UM, PROJECTS
AND GIVES US THIS REALLY VAST
POSSIBILITIES OF WHAT CAN BE
DONE WITH THIS OLD TRADITIONAL
MEDIUM.
SO I THINK PEOPLE REALLY KIND OF
ACCEPTS THAT VERY
APPRECIATIVELY.

The narrator says WHILE SUN XUN IS KNOWN FOR
SKILFULLY MARRYING CONTEMPORARY
TECHNOLOGIES WITH TRADITIONAL
MEDIUM, WHAT REALLY SETS HIM
APART IS THE WAY HE PRODUCES SO
MUCH WORK IN SUCH A SHORT
PERIOD OF TIME.
IN THE PAST FIVE YEARS ALONE,
HE'S HELD OVER A HUNDRED GROUP
AND SOLO EXHIBITIONS WORLDWIDE.

Philip says HIS CAREER'S ALSO INTERESTING
ON THE LEVEL OF ARTISTS KIND OF
LOOKING FOR, UM, ALTERNATIVES TO
THE TRADITIONAL, COMMERCIAL
SYSTEM.
UM, WHERE ONE PRODUCES SORT OF
UNIQUE OBJECTS FOR VERY HIGH
LEVEL CONSUMPTION BY A VERY
RARIFIED GROUP OF COLLECTORS
THROUGH, YOU KNOW, MECHANISMS
LIKE THE GALLERY.
SO I THINK THERE'S A REAL DESIRE
ON HIS PART TO KIND OF SHAPE NOT
JUST THE WORKS BUT KIND OF THE
TERMS AND THE APPARATUS OF
CIRCULATION FOR THOSE WORKS.

The narrator says BUT FOR SUN XUN, EACH NEW
WORK AND EACH NEW EXHIBITION IS
ALSO A CONSCIOUS ADDITION TO
HIS GROWING COLLECTION OF
PERSONAL ACHIEVEMENTS.

Sun Xun says "I collect. I'm also a collector. I collect film festivals. It's like a game. At the beginning I said, okay, 100. It's done. Okay, now it's more than 100. Okay, I've finished this job. So the next goal is art museums. So for example, the Metropolitan, MoMA, Guggenheim, Tate. It's like this. I'm a collector. I just collect different things."

Emi says I THINK EVERY ARTIST HAS SOME
KIND OF AMBITIONS, WHEREIN TO
WHICH DEGREE, I MEAN EVERYBODY...
IT DIFFERS.
SO, BUT SOMEBODY LIKE SUN XUN,
HE HAS DONE SO MANY SOLO SHOWS
AND HE'S PARTICIPATED IN SO MANY
INTERNATIONAL FESTIVALS AND I
THINK IN SUCH A SHORT SPAN OF
TIME, IT'S KIND OF A TESTAMENT
TO THE FACT THAT HE'S REALLY
FULL OF CREATIVITY AND HE'S
REALLY FULL OF ENERGY.
HE CAN CREATE WORKS THAT ARE
REALLY AMAZING NONSTOP.

The narrator says UNSURPRISINGLY, IN
ADDITION TO HIS 3D FILM, SUN
XUN IS ALSO WORKING ON ANOTHER
EXHIBITION AT THE SAME TIME.
THIS SECOND ONE IS FOR THE
GUGGENHEIM.
HERE HE IS AT HIS FRIEND GONG
BIN'S PAPER STUDIO, WHERE THEY
ARE MAKING UNIQUE PIECES OF
PAPER SPECIALLY FOR SUN XUN'S
WORK.

Sun Xun says "So this is not paper; it's tree bark. It needs to be hammered after being boiled. How long does it need?"
A man in his sixties vigorously hammers on a piece of bark.
Gong Bin "Hammer it until it's done."
Gong Bin is in his forties, with short brown hair and wears a white shirt and a blue jacket.
Sun Xun says "This paper is very resilient."
Gong Bin takes a piece of paper paste and says "Right. It's elastic. Let's leave them here, let me show you the other one."

The narrator says SUN XUN AND GONG BIN HAVE
EXPERIMENTED WITH MAKING NEW
TYPES OF PAPERS FOR FIVE YEARS.
THEY ARE NOW HOPING TO FIND THE
MOST SUITABLE PAPER TO WORK ON
FOR THE GUGGENHEIM PROJECT.

Gong Bin says "You see this paper, it's the same as the other one, but it looks much lighter."
Sun Xun says "This one is good."
Gong Bin says "This is Chu bark, which is different from the mulberry bark used for the other one. You see the fiber is even thinner."
Sun Xun says "This is even lighter. I need to use some lighter papers to make my work. This paper looks like glass."

The narrator says EXPERIMENTING WITH DIFFERENT
TYPES OF PAPER IS A PROCESS
THAT TAKES TIME.
SUN XUN HAS A FEW MORE MONTHS
BEFORE HIS EXHIBITION TO AIM AT
PERFECTION.

The caption reads "Gong Bin. Owner. De Yong Gong Zhi Studio."

Gong Bin says "He's always learning about what more he can do. He will strive to reach his limit, then to break these limits and reach an even higher level until he completely reaches the boundary he sets for himself in the first place."

Wang says "Sun Xun, just you know, create something, create something which is from the real life, but he recreates his own other world. He is very representative of his generation."

Emi says HE'S DEFINITELY ONE OF THE
MOST ACTIVE ARTISTS OF HIS
GENERATION.
FOR SUN XUN, I THINK IF HE
DIDN'T WORK, HE WOULD BE SO
UNHAPPY.
I THINK HE'S AMBITIOUS TO
CREATE, I THINK HE'S AMBITIOUS
TO MAKE ART, HE'S AMBITIOUS TO
TELL STORIES.
AND HOW THAT IS DELIVERED TO THE
REST OF THE WORLD AND TO PUBLIC,
I GUESS THAT IS THROUGH THE
EXHIBITIONS AND PROJECTS THAT HE
DOES.

Sun Xun says "Right now we live in the river and tomorrow the river will be clean and what you should do right now is make your story... or we cannot say is story, it's a question. The question system... it's a parallel world. This is my art."

Music plays as the end credits roll.

Narrated by Verity Sharp.

Produced and directed by Sarah Bagharib.

Series producer, Hafizah Abdul Wahid.

Executive producer, Sian Kevill.

Copyright 2016, Bloomberg LP.

Watch: Sun Xun: One of China's Most Ambitious Young Artists