Art critic Waldemar Januzczak explores Beijing's controversial and challenging modern art scene.

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Art critic Waldemar Januzczak explores Beijing's controversial and challenging modern art scene.

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2 January 2003 (UK)  »

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China Season: Beijing Swings  »

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Followed by Kazakhstan Swings (2006) See more »

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Interesting documentary but it may offend
18 November 2008 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Beijing Swings is a documentary on Beijing's controversial, modern art scene. It was shown as part of Channel 4's 'China season' series of films and documentaries. It is produced by the ZCZ films production company, they specialise in creating accessible and informative documentaries about art. Many of the documentaries are fronted by art critic, Waldemar Januzczak. Some people think of him as being pretentious, annoying and stuck-up; personally I don't mind the guy. I think he has something to say and is often entertaining with it, his verbal delivery may grate a little but I can deal with it. Someone who is making interesting art documentaries (often about subjects which are not covered elsewhere) and that can appeal to a non-art educated audience has got to deserve some credit.

The programme involves Januzczak visiting various artists who work or are from Beijing. All the artists featured are pushing back the boundaries of traditional, conservative art and creating something new and exciting. The programme features a series of interviews with the artists involved and commentary from Waldemar Januzczak. That's all there is to the programme but, what makes the programme so good is the art itself. You get to see a subversive take on Chinese communist posters with the leaders represented as babies, the cream of China's art scene drinking 'penis wine' and of course lots of nudity.

The programme attracted a great deal of complaints (I'm guessing a lot of them from people who had not watched it - given it was broadcast after 11pm and only shown once). The main ground for complaints were for showing an image of artist, Zhu Yu eating a baby and Peng Yu and Sun Yuan's piece which involved the dead body of conjoined-twins smeared with the artists blood (the artists connected to a drip).

If like me you like something a bit extreme or unusual I can highly recommend seeking out a copy of Beijing Swings. If you don't have the stomach for it don't watch.


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