Dunedin cemeteries
inspire Shanghai artist

The musings of two two-hundred-year-old ghosts pondering life and death in a cemetery on the Otago Peninsula is the basis of a short film Chinese video artist Chen Zhou shot during his time as artist-in-resident at Dunedin’s Blue Oyster Art Project Space in January.

While in Dunedin, Chen met with local artists and learnt about the city's arts scene

Blue Oyster brought Chen to New Zealand for a three-week residency after the gallery’s former director Chloe Geoghegan met him in Shanghai late last year while on the Foundation’s Curator’s Tour to South Korea and China. 

Geoghegan says she went on the Curator’s Tour with the hope of meeting an artist who would suit Blue Oyster's residency programme, and Chen fit the bill.

“It was exciting to meet an emerging artist working in the experimental realm with video art, as this is what Blue Oyster is interested in programming."

Chen says the short film he worked on in Dunedin was inspired by a visit to one of Dunedin’s old cemeteries.

“One early morning, I went to the cemetery near by my residency house; I carried my camera to do some documentary filming. When I got there, I was totally attracted by the beauty of the cemetery.

“There were words on the tombs, always saying: with memory of somebody. Some are old, some new. I wandered with a camera in my hand. Then I became aware that the camera was about the memory too, so if I'm filming the cemetery, it’s a memory looking at another memory. I found this interesting.”

Although in many respects worlds apart, Chen says he found similarities between Dunedin and his home town in Zhezhiang Province.

“I found Dunedin felt like my hometown in the south of China. One evening I went to a gig at a small art space here called None Gallery and met lots artists and musicians; they are shy like the people coming from the eastern countries.”

Blue Oyster gallery are organising a screening of Chen’s 2016 film Life Imitation at Rialto later this year and hope to also screen the short film he shot  while at the Blue Oyster residency.

Chen discussing ideas with local Dunedin film makers

Geoghegan says it’s important for Blue Oyster to programme artists like Chen who "come from different backgrounds and parts of the world and are experiencing modern life in a way that is similar but at times very contrasting to life here in New Zealand."

“To be able to give the Dunedin audience a glimpse into life in Shanghai through Zhou’s film will be refreshing, exciting and potentially bring in new dialogue around contemporary practice, one of Blue Oyster’s core goals."

The Asia New Zealand Foundation contributed an art grant of $2000 towards bringing Chen to New Zealand.