Zhang Yimou and the fusion of psychocode free-association into great-event “advart”
China’s Sol Hurok-cum-Stephen Spielberg, Zhang Yimou, the mastermind of the Great Olympics Pre-Game Show of Aug. 2008, whose infra-design intuitives and magic carpet dream motif we have already inspected in, is now remember as “the first”. But he is certainly not the first grand scale art-maker to play with dream languaging in China’s big-wallet media world. As we noted, at least para-art ingenues (builders of display screen “show”, of son-et-lumiere advertising, etc.) had been working with this psycho-medium for perhaps 15 years before it exploded onto our TV screens in 2008, never to disappear since. Held back only by the unavaibility of ILM physical technology. On a parallel track, small-window rebel avant-gardists had made Andy Warhol’s duplicatism and tick-tack-toe irony a lead-line in their catechism, though it was losing appeal (for some like me, never had any) by the time Big Space performance art took over the re-engineering.
But, as ever, when “Old Trickster” Zhang (his friendly reference name in the blogworld) moved, he let nothing stop him, neither scale nor budget. Not even public disappointment with “same old”. For him, each try and each scale-up improved how he commanded the opportunities he saw as self-extending in this art-of-confusion, recombination and permutation.
There are two points of departure for his journeying.
One, the lesser tracked in the non-Chinese press, was his, was an Outdoor son-et-lumiere adventure juxtaposing more or less authentic Minority dances and folklegends with the place of their origin. A name of course had to be invented, but here we can settle for True-Venue Spectacle.
What he was marketing however was something like the IMAX theatre blow-away in outdoor form, supported by cross-firing surround sound. I have never heard it discussed as drama- or dance-art. But its program certainly aimed at psycho-embedding of a very powerful and time-resistant sort. Specifically, PLACE (scenery, costume, sound) was to be registered or even trademarked (the travel industry supplied his audiences, locals rarely could afford tickets). The procedure (launched ever by commissioning: no one ever created first, marketed after) had even then become a taught science, called 旅游品牌塑造 or “tourist (destination) recognition branding” of a given tourist hungry off-the-trail venue, of artistic or poetic or historical interest.
Here, if we reflect on it, is a new telling of an old tale: publically purposed propaganda subsidized by state funds creates opportunity for experiment with sense-impact-maximizing psycho-adventure. The audience becomes in a way a pilgrim-adventurer, chasing something truly memorable at the far end of the trip, experiencing a kind of high-end theme park decked out with all kinds of modernist embeds, registering a kind of magic of place or time, then returning home still baffled but in a pleasant sort of way.
But let us see how exactly the new collage created the experience of magical travel, for this is where and how the Beijing 2008 pageant “began” in late 2002,