In Metropolis, Report from China, Clemens von Wedemeyer and Maya Schweizer travel to Beijing in search of possible analogies between the film made by Fritz Lang in 1927 and the changes taking place in the Chinese metropolises since the country opened up to the world market. Scenes from Metropolis alternate with interviews, eyewitness reports and images of Beijing tracing the dizzying and unstoppable transformation of the city’s image. Old neighbourhoods are razed to the ground to make way for skyscrapers designed by architects of international renown to project the image of China’s new global economic power throughout the world. Architecture reflects the social upheavals underway in the great Chinese cities as well as the absolute predominance of the needs of the mass over any form of individualism.
The common features of the urban utopia created by Fritz Lang in the early 20th century and the one conceived by the architects of the new Beijing at the beginning of the 21st are immediately obvious in the first night-time scenes of Metropolis, Report from China, which show the life of migrant labourers working on the city’s numerous construction sites. The great majority work underground, far away from public life, to construct the make-believe world of the privileged classes and add new lustre to a city destined to become ever greater and more beautiful. While the “arms” (the labourers) and the “minds” (the elite) joined forces at the end of Fritz Lang’s film, however, it is only now that the formation of separate classes seems to be taking place in the Chinese cities, with the attendant architectural repercussions. Metropolis, Report from China is thus a report on the new social face of China, adapting to the conditions imposed by the free market economy and characterized by the attempt of the individual to break away from the mass. The goal of the new Chinese middle class is no longer to live in the community of the traditional low-rise houses but to arrive on the upper floors of the new towers sprouting everywhere.
Metropolis, Report from China was produced with support from the Centre national d’art et de culture Georges Pompidou, Paris.
Clemens von Wedemeyer (Göttingen, 1973) is the recipient of the 2008 Villa Romana (Florence) grant as well as various major prizes, including best German short film at Oberhausen International Short Film Festival in 2006 for Rien du tout (with Maya Schweizer). His works have been presented in solo shows at various venues, including the MoMA and P.S. 1 in New York, the Kunstverein in Cologne, the Argos Center for Art & Media in Brussels and the Münster Skulpturen Projekte. He has also taken part in group exhibitions at venues such as the Shanghai Biennial and the Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin Clemens von Wedemeyer lives and works in Berlin.
Maya Schweizer (Maison Alfort, 1976) was awarded the 2008 Villa Aurora artist grant of the Goethe Institute in Los Angeles and the Karl-Hofer grant in Berlin. Her works have been presented at numerous international festivals and exhibitions, including Rencontres Internationales at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid, the KW Institute for Contemporary Art in Berlin, Villa Romana in Florence and the Tallinn Art Hall (Estonia). Maya Schweizer lives and works in Berlin.