In April 2020, renowned auteur Tsai Ming-liang (蔡明亮) will visit Chicago, New York City, and Washington, DC in his first public visit to the United States in over a decade. The momentous occasion will be preceded by major retrospective programs at museums to showcase Tsai's hand-sculpted cinema.
A leading filmmaker of contemporary Mandarin-language cinema, Tsai has produced one of the most striking oeuvres of the past quarter-century. Malaysian by birth and Taiwanese by residence, Tsai is internationally funded but belongs to nowhere in particular. His moody, pensive, and deadpan films are haunted by loss, failure, and broken attachments, collaging the fragments of contemporary life into a cinema of alienation, precarity, and queerness.
Moreover, Tsai's slow style and serial characters iterate and interrogate all the ways that human attachment falls short amid the austerity, inequality, and increasing uncertainty that are rapidly proliferating within the margins of modernity.
Tsai's muse, Lee Kang-sheng (李康生), stars in every film as Tsai's alter ego, Hsiao-Kang ("Little Wealth"), a transient protagonist working one unstable job after another on the abject underside of the fast and flashy global economy. Wayward encounters, unorthodox intimacies, and inarticulate desires give way to austere, surreal tableaus; shots and scenes extend for many minutes, producing a cinema as intense and precise as it is diffuse and disorganized.
Individually, the films flirt with formlessness, but are threaded together by recurrent motifs — phone booths, flooded apartments, mysterious ailments, glowing screens, cockroaches, mumbled meals, lost keys, spiritual possession, and watermelons. As the series progresses, the films amplify, reinforce, and refract one another, exploring the incoherence structuring the viewer's attachments to objects and others. It is a pleasure to watch this auteur reckon with globalization and its discontents.
From April 10 through 26, Tsai and Lee will be joined by actor Anong Houngheuangsy and producer Claude Wang in visiting MoMA in New York City, the Smithsonian's National Museum of Asian Art in DC, and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Doc Films, and the Block Museum in Chicago.
This tour will feature: the US premiere of "Improvisations on the Memory of Cinema," an artist talk reflecting on his career following a screening of "Goodbye, Dragon Inn" that premiered at Venice; the US premiere of the DCP restoration of "Goodbye, Dragon Inn"; Tsai’s first full retrospective in Chicago at Doc Films; a concise retrospective at the Freer and Sackler; a full retrospective at MoMA; an artist talk at SAIC's Visiting Artist Program; a talk on the "Walker" series at the Freer and Sackler; a panel on the "Walker" series at the Block; a discussion with scholar Jean Ma at Doc Films on "Light" and "Your Face"; and more!
The full English-language schedule and program details are available at www.tsai2020.com.