Wu Wenguang

Wu Wenguang
b. 1956, Yunnan
Independent videomaker, writer
The most influential figure of the New Documentary Movement, Wu Wenguang spontaneously recreated the aesthetics of cinema vérité through his long takes, intimate mode of filming, and extended duration of his pieces. As a writer and editor, he is a tireless advocate of documentary and digital media. In 1991, he founded the Wu Wengguang Documentary Studio (Wu Wenguang jilupian gongzuoshi).
After high school, Wu spent the last years of the Cultural Revolution (1974–8) as a farmer. From 1978 to 1982, he studied literature at Yunnan University, and later became a television journalist (1985–9). His first independent videos were a series on Chinese People (Zhongguoren, 1989), but his aesthetic breakthrough came with the epoch-making Bumming in Beijing—The Last Dreamers (Liulang Beijing—Zuihou de mengxiangzhe, 1990) and its follow-up, At Home in the World (Shihai weijia, 1995). Starting with the portrait of five young marginalized artists, Wu powerfully depicts the existential angst, creativity and cultural displacement that characterized his generation after June 1989. His video 1966, My Time in the Red Guards (1966, Wo de hongweibing shidai, 1993) recalls the memories of former teenage Red Guards swept up by history. For the ambitious Jiang Hu: On the Road (Jiang Hu, 1999), Wu lived for months with the members of an impoverished ‘Song and Dance Company’ as they lived and performed throughout China.
In 1994, Wu co-founded the Living Dance Studio (Wudao shenghuo) with his partner, the dancer/choreographer Wen Hui, with whom he often collaborates—as a playwright, actor and video artist. He conceived the performance Dance with Farm Workers (Hemingong tiaowu), which she directed in 2001, and he reworked as a video in 2002. He published a desk-top magazine, Documentary Scene (Jilu shouce, 1996–7), then founded/edited the independent monthly art magazine New Wave (Xinchao, 2001). He has also written three books inspired by his videos, and edited two collections of critical texts, Document (Xianchang, 2000 and 2001). He was also the executive producer of Zhu Wen’s Seafood (Haixian, 2001).
See also: Cobra
Wu, Wenguang (2001). Jiang Hu baogao [Report on Jiang Hu]. Beijing: China Youth Publishing House.
——(ed.) (2001/2002). Document: Xianchang. [Document: The Scene], vols. 1 and 2. Tianjin: Tianjin Institute of Social Sciences.
——(2002). ‘Just on the Road: A Description of the Individual Way of Recording Images in the 1990s’. In Wu Hung (ed.), The First Guangzhou Triennial: Representation, A Decade of Experimental Chinese Art (1990–2000). Guangzhou: Guangzhou Museum of Art/Chicago: Art Media Resources: 132–8.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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