Lydia Chen’s new film: “Art in Smog”

Lydia Chen, a Uni Alumni from the class of 1973, created a film called “Art in Smog” featured in the AsiaLENS film series. The film is 75 minutes long in Mandarin with English subtitles. Using a mixture of both art and personal interviews with four artists and a curator in China, the documentary compares artists’ ambitions from the 1990s to the work they are pursuing today, along with discussion about China and art. The purpose of the film is to “evoke the human search for meaning”.

Lydia’s interest in making the film itself stemmed from her first documentary made 25 years ago: “Inner Visions: Avant-Garde Art in China”. Lydia said she wanted to make this film as a follow up to her first documentary, showing “the drastic changes China has gone over in the last 25 years”, one of them being the impact of the economic boom, particularly to these artists. The film uses discussion about defining experiences of these artists, snippets from their everyday lives, and clips of them from the 1990s.

“Art in Smog” was both edited, filmed, and transcribed by Lydia Chen in Beijing from 2014-2018 using the Fulbright Grant. Although the full process of making the film took 3 years, she spent 10 months filming in China, and the year before that seeking grants and researching literature, making sure she was informed. After filming, she spent the next year refining the film, editing the 60 hours of footage accumulated and transcribing the personal interviews.

When asked about which experiences from Uni influenced her in the making of the film, she mentioned art class saying she always enjoyed art from a young age, which is a large part of what the film is about. After the film, she talked about how she had been surrounded by discussion about China in past jobs, and from living in China for parts of her life as well, she was able to become informed about what others thought of China and its recent history. This information she gained gave her a lot of knowledge prior to making the film and an idea of what she wanted the film to be about.

We are proud to have Lydia Chen here as an Alumni at Uni and hope she continues to enjoy her work.

Trailer for Art in Smog: