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A lady peers over the edge of a bathtub.
Seven Intellectuals in a Bamboo Forest (Part II), 2004. Image courtesy of the Artist; ShanghART Gallery, Shanghai; and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York.

Film

Seven Intellectuals in a Bamboo Forest

R 18+
Contains full-frontal nudity and sex-scenes

China Up Close

9 Mar

The internationally acclaimed Seven Intellectuals in a Bamboo Forest (2003 – 2007) premiered as a five-part moving-image installation at the Venice Biennale in 2007. Imbued with an avant-garde, film noir aesthetic, this now seminal work, made by one of the world’s pioneering moving-image artists, offers a glimpse into the contradictions and uncertainties facing China’s urban youth today.

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  • Seven Intellectuals in a Bamboo Forest is based on the third-century fable Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove. In this famous story, a group of youthful male sages withdraw from immoral civil society, gathering instead in a bamboo grove to have existential discussions, write poetry, play music, and party.

    Yang’s Seven Intellectuals in a Bamboo Forest explores the ambiguous position of intellectuals in contemporary China, and specifically their longing for individual freedom within the context of an emerging capitalist economy. It updates the third-century legend, portraying the ‘intellectuals’ as a group of young urbanites who travel to the mountains, seaside and rice farms seeking alternative ways of living. The escapist lifestyle adopted by Yang’s characters nevertheless offers no effective antidote to the industrialisation, urban expansion and social disconnection that characterises contemporary China. Yang’s intellectuals are caught in the cross-fire of old and new worlds, where traditional social values and personal freedoms collide.

    Shot on black-and-white 35mm film and transferred to digital, Seven Intellectuals in a Bamboo Forest is Yang’s acclaimed cinematic masterpiece. This one-off durational screening marks the first-ever presentation of all five films in a cinema.

    Seven Intellectuals in a Bamboo Forest:

    Part I, 2003: 29 mins

    Part II, 2004: 46 mins

    Part III, 2006: 53 mins

    Part IV, 2007: 70 mins

    Part V, 2007: 91 mins