Lily & Honglei’s video series ‘Fourth Cry of the Monkey’ will be included in ‘Locating the Sacred’ Festival curated by Asian American Art Alliance. New York Art Residency and Studio (NARS) Foundation Gallery will host the exhibition in September 2012.
Fourth Cry of the Monkey
Medium: Digital Animation, Oil painting, and Soundtrack
Year of Completion: 2008 – 2011
Fourth Cry of the Monkey, originally, is the title of a Chinese opera written in the 16th century, meaning ‘grief and sorrow beyond expression.’ Its narrative structure and symbolic approach inspire Lily & Honglei to produce this animated film with four chapters reassembling popular Chinese folk tales about ordinary people’s spiritual journeys.
Chapter I. Three Gorges (三峡), reflects the world’s largest hydropower project, Three Gorges Dams’ social, cultural and environmental impacts. In the film, chilling cries of a monkey echo above mountain and river, as if bewailing the destiny of the soon-to-be submerged landscape. On a cliff, the naked ‘mad drummer,’ famous confucian scholar Mi Heng, is cursing those in power with drumming sound. In the last scene, Lady White Snake watches a town collapsing in the earthquake, and leaves. This chapter addresses loss of physical and spiritual homeland.
Chapter II. Butterfly Lovers (梁祝), reinterprets one of the most popular love stories of China. Set in a contemporary setting, the lovers, dressed in traditional Chinese opera costume, roam Manhattan at night. The two protagonists repeat scenarios from the original story such as “Seeing off for Eighteen Miles” and “Meeting at the Balcony.” With dreamlike dislocation, the film depicts the characters’ isolation and vulnerability in their spiritual exile.
Chapter III. Peony Pavilion（牡丹亭), is inspired by a popular traditional Chinese opera visualizing the revival of soul. ‘The young maiden in the story, Du Liniang, falls in love with a scholar whom she’s only met once in a dream and dies longing for him. The scholar, Liu Mengmei, happens to be a real person and through sheer accident ends up staying in her town. Discovering Du’s self-portrait, Liu immediately admires her beauty. Eventually, Liu meets Du’s ghost, disinters her body, and she comes back to live,’ J. Lau summarizes the plot in ‘A Chinese Love Story from Beyond the Grave.’ In the animation, Lily & Honglei are interested in presenting the contrast between ancient spirit of the characters and the materialistic environment of the contemporary world. The soundtrack includes famous verses from the original play:
‘Where is the pleasant day and pretty night? Who can enjoy contentment and delight?’
‘As innocent as flowers, unaware of the time sweeping past like a river.’
Chapter IV. Southeast Fly the Peacocks （孔雀东南飞), is the final chapter inspired by one of the most beloved Chinese traditional poems, that depicts a tragedy of a couple committing suicides for love and dignity against the power. Our reinterpretation intertwines imagery of the ancient story and 1989 Tiananmen Student Protest, highlighting everyday people’s spiritual struggles and persistence. The soundtrack is a popular children song in Communist China, with lyric glorifying the party’s leadership and praising it has brought Chinese people happy life, in strong contrast with the visual component.
Overall, the animated film unfolds ancient stories in a contemporary setting, and is intended to reveal everlasting meaning of beautiful Chinese folk tale.
More info: http://lilyhonglei.wordpress.com/2012/05/11/locatingsacred/