John Barr’s Dante in China

“In John Barr’s poems, the ancient masters encounter the modern world. Dante on a beach in China beholds the Inferno: ‘Flaring well gas night and day, / towers rise as if to say, / Pollution can be beautiful.’ Bach’s final fugue informs all of nature. Villon is admonished by an aging courtesan. Aristotle finds ‘Demagogues are the insects of politics. / Like water beetles they stay afl oat / on surface tension, they taxi on iridescence.’ And his afterlife: ‘When three-headed Cerberus greeted him / Socrates replied: I won’t need / an attack dog, thank you. I married one.'” [. . .]    —Red Hen Press, 2018.

You can purchase a copy of Dante in China on Indiebound.

Descendants of Lu Xun, Dante boost Sino-Italy cultural exchange

“The descendants of Chinese writer Lu Xun and Italian poet Dante Alighieri held a dialogue in Shanghai on Thursday in a bid to boost cultural exchanges between China and Europe.

“The trans-time-and-space dialogue between Lu (1881-1936), the “father of modern Chinese literature,” and Dante (1265-1321) was held at the Shanghai International Studies University in Hongkou District, where Lu spent the last decade of his life.

“Zhou Lingfei, the grandson of Lu, whose real name was Zhou Shuren, and Sperello Di Serego Alighieri, the 19th generation grandson of Dante, discussed the contributions and common features of their ancestors’ works.” […]    –Yang Jian, Shine, April 27, 2018

Zhao Liang’s “Inferno”-inspired documentary (2016)

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“Zhao Liang’s Behemoth blurs the lines between video art and documentary, visually exploring multiple open-pit coal mines in the sparse hinterlands of China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. The film, loosely inspired by Dante’s Inferno, forgoes the spoken word completely. It stylistically melds poetry and performance art to portray the lives of various coal miners and iron smelters as they struggle to produce raw material fast enough for China’s ever-growing economy. The largely plotless film draws one in through the sheer juxtaposition of its monstrous, inhuman-sized landscapes and the intimate close-ups of miners’ soot-covered faces. Though banned from being screened inside China, the film was shown to a packed house in an underground screening room on the outskirts of Beijing this past February. The next day, we sat down in Zhao’s Beijing art studio, where the filmmaker was as wry in his humor as he was cynical, discussing everything from his views on censorship to the relationship between art and activism.”

See the interview in Slant, March 16, 2016.

Trailer

 

Ai Weiwei, The Divine Comedy (2013)

Ai Weiwei

“BEIJING, June 22, 2013 – The Ai Weiwei Studio released Ai Weiwei’s first music album, The Divine Comedy, today to commemorate the second anniversary of his release from an 81-day secret detention.

“The single ‘Dumbass,’ premiered last month along with its music video, is included in the album. The Divine Comedy features six tracks with vocals and lyrics by Ai Weiwei, and music by Zuoxiao Zuzhou. Each song is a different take of Ai’s newfound channel for expression through music. The album includes commentaries on current events (‘Just Climb the Wall,’ ‘Hotel USA’), documentations of real dialogues (‘Chaoyang Park,’ ‘Laoma Tihua‘), and personal reflections (‘Give Tomorrow Back to Me,’ ‘Dumbass’). The full album crosses musical genres with influences from pop, rock, punk and heavy metal, and takes us on a journey through Ai’s experience with the conditions of China.”    —Ai Weiwei’s website

Visit this page to listen to the album.

Contributed by Greg Watkins

Yi Zhou, The Ear (2009), The Greatness (2010)

“Imagine that van Gogh, after slicing off his ear, finds himself sucked down a passage into his own brain, which turns out to be the concentric onion of Dante’s Divine Comedy. Then capture that journey with three-dimensional digital imaging software and turn it, frame by computerized frame, into a five-minute animated movie. [. . .]

“She had her first breakthrough when she was taken on by the Jerome de Noirmont gallery in Paris in 2002. Since then, she has had a major sculpture and video projection work, ‘Paradise,’ installed in the Piazza della Signoria and the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, in 2006 [. . .].

“Ms. Zhou’s solo show of video art, ink brush drawings and sculpture at Shanghai Contrasts, running to Dec. 9, is built around her most recent film, The Greatness, a variation on the theme of Dante’s Divine Comedy.

“The film is a sequel to The Ear: both star Pharrell Williams, one in the flesh and the other as a sculpted vase, and both explore transience and death. In The Greatness, Mr. Williams’s look-alike vase, shattered by a bullet, disintegrates into a fractured universe while the bullet, like Dante guided by Virgil, travels through visions of hell and redemption accompanied by an other-worldly soundtrack composed by Mr. Morricone.” [. . .]    –Claudia Barbieri, The New York Times, December 1, 2010

Dai Dudu, Li Tiezi, and Zhang An, Discussing the Divine Comedy with Dante (2006)

dai-dudu-li-tiezi-and-zhang-an-discussing-the-divine-comedy-with-dante-2006
“This extraordinary painting depicting 103 figures from world history in striking detail has become the latest internet hit.

“Message boards have erupted with contests to identify all those featured, who range from instantly recognisable figures like Gandhi to some more obscure figures such as Liu Xiang, the Chinese hurdler who limped out of the Beijing Olympics in the summer.

“An element of mystery also surrounds that origins of the picture, which appears to have drawn inspiration from Raphael’s Renaissance fresco The School of Athens. [. . .]

“Another clue comes from the three undistinguished men in contemporary dress who survey the scene from behind a wall at the top right of the picture.

“Internet detectives have identified these three as little-known Chinese/Taiwanese artists named as Dudu, Li Tiezi, and Zhang An.

“They created the oil painting – titled Discussing the Divine Comedy with Dante – in 2006, although it has only become a viral internet hit in the past few weeks.

“Alastair Sooke, art writer at The Daily Telegraph, said that the work reflected a trend of contemporary Chinese artists adopting Western styles and subjects.

“‘But the Dante reference makes us wonder whether we are looking at some nether-circle deep inside the Inferno: this is a vision of Celebrity Hell,’ he added.”    —Matthew Moore, London Daily Telegraph, 16 March 2009

dai-dudu-li-tiezi-and-zhang-an-discussing-the-divine-comedy-with-dante-2006-crop Click here to view a high-resolution, annotated version of the painting. Dante may be seen with his Commedia in the upper right hand corner of the painting, standing among the three artists.

“Enchanted Stories: Chinese Shadow Theater in Shaanxi” at the China Institute in NYC

fire-dragon-wing-dynasty“. . .One popular genre consists of scenarios of hell. An entire wall of the exhibition is devoted to a play called ‘The Twice-Visited Netherworld,’ a sort of Dante’s Inferno in which a scholar receives a special tour of the torturous ‘Yellow Springs’ described in Chinese folk religion. One startlingly vivid set piece shows a skeletal figure being boiled in oil (the punishment for blackmail and slander); in another, pierced and bloody bodies languish on Knife Mountain (home to those who have killed people or animals). As the legend of Emperor Wu of Han suggests, shadow theater has always had a powerful connection to the afterlife.” [. . .]    –Karen Rosenberg, The New York Times, February 8, 2008