Shen Wei

The Moving Image

December 3, 2020 - June 28, 2021
Calderwood Hall and Fenway Gallery

The films of Chinese-American multidisciplinary artist Shen Wei demonstrate the power of this medium in the hands of a skilled choreographer. Like dance, film is a time-based art form, and in many of his films Shen Wei presents a dreamlike journey told through the movement of a dancer’s body. In these works, Shen Wei uses setting, light, and framing to craft mystical worlds. The experience he creates in these narratives transcends the boundaries of visual and performing arts. 

As part of Shen Wei: Painting in Motion, a single exhibition in three parts which unfolds across the Museum, Calderwood Hall in the Museum's New Wing and the Fenway Gallery in the historic Palace will serve as screening rooms for Shen Wei’s films.  These films include April (1998), Inner Shadow of Movement (2016), and a new commission for the Gardner Museum, Passion Spirit (2020). Shen Wei reimagines a still from Passion Spirit for the Museum’s Anne H. Fitzpatrick Façade, and the Hostetter Gallery contains Shen Wei’s recent paintings, including two works he created at the Gardner Museum as an Artist-in-Residence, alongside his notebooks, sketches, and documentation of his choreography.

The following films run on the hour from 1 PM to 4 PM* in Calderwood Hall:
April
Inner Shadow of Movement
Passion Spirit

Plus short excerpts from Shen Wei's dance works:
Folding
Rite of Spring
Contact Transfer
Untitled 12 for Bodies

Passion Spirit is also on view in the Fenway Gallery of the Palace.

*Films run on the hour from 1 PM to 8 PM on the first Thursday of each month.

About the Films

April, 1998

16 mm transferred to video, black & white, 19:00
Script and Director: Shen Wei
Cinematographer: Daniel Cheng
Choreographer and Performer: Shen Wei
Music: Jürgen Knieper, Nelson Hill, Ling Lee
Producer and Editor: Shen Wei
Assistant to the Director and Producer: An-Ting Chung

April, made in 1998, is a very personal investigation of the self and the artist’s struggle with isolation, loneliness and creativity.

Inner Shadow of Movement, 2016

Video, color, 10:24
Concept: Shen Wei and Ma Yansong
Cinematographer: Jake Mahaffy
Performer: Alex Speedie
Choreographer and Editor: Shen Wei
Music: John Tavener, Song of the Angel
Production Manager: Dawn Chung
Producers: MAD Architects and Shen Wei Arts

Abstract and expressive, Inner Shadow of Movement celebrates the monumental architecture of the Harbin Opera House in Heilongjiang (Northern China) as a dancer moves through its light and shadows.

Passion Spirit, 2020

Video, color, 9:30
Script and Director: Shen Wei
Cinematographer: Michael Sheridan
Performer: Lilly Balch
Choreographer and Editor: Shen Wei
Post Production Editor: Cao Zhen
Music: Dmitri Shostakovich, String Quartet #15 in E-flat Minor, 1. Elegy
Producers: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and Shen Wei Arts

In Passion Spirit, two halves of the same dancing figure—red, a symbol of passion, and white, an emblem of spirituality—step out of a Renaissance painting, moving through space and time as if in a dream. The two halves search for each other and converge, finally, into one single being.

About the Artist

Born in Hunan in 1968, Shen Wei grew up during the Cultural Revolution in China (1966–76). He began formal opera training in 1978 at age nine. Involving dance, acrobatics, voice, and acting, Chinese opera was Shen Wei’s earliest experience in multidisciplinary approaches.

Shen Wei moved to Brooklyn in 1995, where he immersed himself in the cultural life of New York City and soon turned his attention to film, while continuing to pursue innovations in dance theory, commissioned choreography, and painting throughout the 1990s.

Shen Wei founded Shen Wei Dance Arts in 2000 and was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 2007. In 2008, Shen Wei gained world fame with his choreography for the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympic Games. He has been awarded multiple residencies and commissions from a range of organizations, including the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., Lincoln Center, and the Park Avenue Armory in New York City. In 2018, a solo exhibition of Shen Wei’s work was presented at the Power Station of Art in Shanghai, offering viewers one of the first comprehensive looks at Shen Wei’s interconnected approach and work from the 1990s to the present day.

Over the past decade, Shen Wei has continued to move fluidly between painting, design, film, and dance with performative installations, abstract paintings, and multimedia dance productions. He explored these practices as an Artist-in-Residence at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum during the summer months of 2018 and 2019.

 

 

Explore the full exhibition:

Shen Wei: Painting in Motion

Shen Wei: Painting in Motion is supported by the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation and members of the Friends of Fenway Court Patron Program. Support for Shen Wei's Residency and the Artist-in-Residence program has been provided by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Barbara Lee Program Fund. Community programs created in partnership with the Pao Arts Center and Chinese Folk Art Workshop are made possible by the National Endowment for the Arts and Barr Foundation ArtsAmplified initiative. The Museum receives operating support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

Media sponsor: WBUR