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“When the Bough Breaks 危巢” (2013) (courtesy Ji Dan 季丹)

As part of its vast survey of contemporary Chinese art, the Guggenheim Museum invited Ai Weiwei and Wang Fen to curate a program of recent documentaries by artists and filmmakers. The resulting program of 20 films, Turn It On: China on Film, 2000–2017, launched earlier this month and continuing through January, is one of this Thanksgiving week’s busiest cultural happenings, with four screenings. Friday’s offerings kick off at noon with artist Li Peifeng’s 2009 documentary Silver City, which tracks the removal — by deceit and force — of the citizens of a remote village in northwest China to make way for a major gas pipeline project. A very different type of urban desolation and transformation is the focus of Ji Dan’s 2013 film When the Bough Breaks, which documents the paving over of landfills in the Daxing District of Beijing to make way for new residential mega-developments.

On Saturday, Lin Xin’s 15-part documentary Sanlidong looks back on the 300 workers who, in 1955, traveled to the titular coal mine in remote Shaanxi with the collective dream of helping to build up northwest China. Today, many of the workers — and the traces of their labor — have disappeared, and Sanlidong attempts to reconstruct some of their stories. Also screening on Saturday afternoon, husband-and-wife artists Hu Jia and Zeng Jinyan’s short documentary Prisoners in Freedom City assembles footage Hu shot out the windows of his suburban home during the four years he was held under house arrest. From the sinister comings and goings of plainclothes police officers to the industry of oblivious arachnid, the film testifies to a trapped mind and wandering eye.

Still from “Sanlidong 三里洞” (2006) (courtesy Lin Xin 林鑫)

When: Through January 4, 2018; screenings this week on Friday, November 24 and Saturday, November 25 (free with museum admission)
Where: Guggenheim Museum (1071 Fifth Avenue, Upper East Side, Manhattan)

More info here.

Benjamin Sutton

Benjamin Sutton is an art critic, journalist, and curator who lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn. His articles on public art, artist documentaries, the tedium of art fairs, James Franco's obsession with Cindy...