‘The anti-Fascist artist who went to China inspired by affection and respect … found himself accused of being a Fascist, a reactionary in the pay of Soviet revisionism and American imperialism, hated by 800 million persons’, writes Umberto Eco of Michelangelo Antonioni and his 1972 documentary Chung Kuo/Cina. This controversial gap between foreign observer and native informant is vividly recaptured in the film I Wish I Knew (2010) by the contemporary Chinese director Jia Zhangke. Does such a gap signal any complementarity between the contending parties, and do the parties constitute any kind of whole? And how might these questions be approached through the fundamentals of documentary realism?
Rey Chow is Anne Firor Scott Professor of Literature at Duke University and the former Andrew W. Mellon Professor of the Humanities at Brown University. Her research comprises theoretical, interdisciplinary, and textual analyses. Since her years as a graduate student at Stanford University, she has specialized in the making of cultural forms such as literature and film, and in the discursive encounters among modernity, sexuality, postcoloniality, and ethnicity. Her many publications include, most recently, The Rey Chow Reader, ed. Paul Bowman (2010) and Entanglements, or Transmedial Thinking about Capture (2012). She is also the coeditor, with James A. Steintrager, of the special double issue ‘The Sense of Sound’, for the journal differences (2011). Chow’s scholarly writings have appeared in ten languages.
The lecture is part of the ICI Lecture Series Constituting Wholes. After the disenchantments of the postmodern post-cold-war period and in the face of global crises – be they financial, economic, political, or ecological – the critical need to include a holistic perspective is felt with renewed urgency, as is the concern that the situatedness of any such perspective and the multiple, incommensurable ways of constituting wholes may be forgotten.
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