Xu Bing: Phoenix
Educational/Institutional DVD: $178
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A film by Daniel Traub. USA, 2013, 18 mins. In English and Chinese with English subtitles.
For classroom use in: Art History, Chinese Contemporary Art, Chinese History, Cultural Anthropology, Environmental Studies, Economics, Fine Arts, Folklore, Labor Studies, Sociology
About the Film
With unprecedented personal access, Xu Bing: Phoenix takes viewers behind the scenes of the creation and installation of “Phoenix,” the breath-taking and symbolic sculpture by Chinese artist Xu Bing.
“Drawing inspiration from the contemporary realities of his fast-changing country, Chinese artist Xu Bing spent two years creating his newest work, ‘Phoenix.’ The installation features two monumental birds fabricated entirely from materials harvested from construction sites in urban China, including demolition debris, steel beams, tools, and remnants of the daily lives of migrant laborers. At once fierce and strangely beautiful, the mythic Phoenixes bear witness to the complex interconnection between labor, history, commercial development, and the rapid accumulation of wealth in today’s China.”—Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA)
About the Filmmaker
Daniel Traub has directed and photographed documentaries for clients including PBS, National Geographic Channel, German Television ZDF, and Arte. His still photographs have appeared in publications such as The New York Times Magazine, Newsweek, Time and Aperture and are held in permanent collections including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. The son of Chinese artist Lily Yeh, Traub lived in China from 1998-2007 where he was engaged with projects exploring China’s changing social landscape. Xu Bing: Phoenix is part of an ongoing series of documentaries about artists.
In the Press
“No one book, film, or art object could possibly encapsulate contemporary China, but Xu Bing’s phoenix, and the film about it, contributes one fascinating dimension to the multifaceted story.”—Anthropology Review Database
“…[I]deal for viewing in a classroom, and the subject matter is likely to spark discussion on the intersection of art, economics, folklore, and the environment.”—Educational Media Reviews Online
“The film offers a personal look at Xu Bing and the sculpture through time-lapse photos, artist sketches, inspirational images of colorful Chinese folk art, sped-up footage of the assembly, and other visuals of the artist and collaborators at work.”—Carol Holzberg, Booklist
“The wonderful film by Daniel Traub, Xu Bing: Phoenix [explains] the creation of the piece. The artist was asked to build a sculpture for the atrium of a new building during the construction boom prior to the Beijing Olympics. When he visited the site, he was appalled at the harsh working and living conditions of the migrant workers. He was inspired to construct a Chinese phoenix, a fenghuang, from the discards of construction sites.”—Marialena Carr, Systematic Wonder
“The 12-ton mythical pheasants measure 90 and 100 feet and are built entirely of discarded industrialized debris. They are awe-inspiring int he tradition of Chinese folk art and craft–meticulously soldered, hammered, conceived, and hung. [Xu Bing] is a MacArthur grantee who since 2008 has served as vice president of the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing (CAFA), and his story behind the creation of these birds relies upon a well-honed film Daniel Traub to contextualize its meaning for Western audiences.”—Ellen Pearlman, Hyperallergic
“The phoenixes arrived in New York late last month on nine flatbed trucks. Together weighing over 12 tons and measuring 90 and 100 feet long, they required over 30 hoists and 140 feet of trussing to raise them so that they appear to be soaring through the cathedral.”—Carol Vogel, The New York Times
Selected Festivals & Awards
Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach
Official Selection, International Film Festival of Cinematic Arts (IFFCA), Los Angeles
Click thumbnails for high-res press photos: