Father Of Photography, Purveyor Of Pornography

In the West, Louis Daguerre (d.1851) enjoys a distinguished legacy as an esteemed photographer, accomplished painter and inventor of the diorama theatre.  Why then is his name in China synonymous with pornography?

Mr Daguerre owes his dubious second lease of renown to porn peddlers Cao Liu, the Chinese equivalent of US site Pornhub.  Cao Liu runs a popular platform entitled ‘Daguerre’s Legacy’, which allows users to post their own saucy selfies.

Though there is no evidence to suggest Monsieur Daguerre didn’t enjoy perusing images of an explicit nature, it’s probable that he wouldn’t be delighted that his good name has been reduced to a by-word for smut.

We were unable to verify why poor Louis was selected for titular honours 150 years after his death, but it seems likely it’s for little more than his championing of the still image.

Pornography is strictly forbidden in China, with anyone caught spreading or even looking at it risking heavy penalties.  One such example is Chinese media player Qvod, currently on trial for allegedly circulating porn, despite simply displaying search results of videos uploaded by others across the internet.

In spite of the risks, a torrent of porn continues to flood the web, even spreading into live events.  Netizens frothed themselves into a frenzy recently when retired Japanese porn star, Sora Aoi, appeared at the annual company meeting of Chinese company Jing Dong.

China’s Top Sci-Fi Author Astonished By Student Tribute Film

A spectacular film tribute to famous Chinese sci-fi novel The Dark Forest has blown away fans of the book, and the author himself.  The film entitled Waterdrop was created by Wang Ren, a Chinese student at Columbia University.

The Dark Forest is the second instalment of the trilogy The Remembrance of Earth’s Past, by preeminent sci-fi author Liu Cixin.  In 2015, the first book in the series, The Three-Body Problem (the title often given to the whole series), became the first Asian novel to win a Hugo Award for ‘Best Novel’, one of the world’s highest accolades for science fiction and fantasy writing.  The book was first published in 2007 but returned to the spotlight with a translated English version in 2014.

The film was inspired by a scene from the book in which a fleet from Earth captures an alien space probe named “The Droplet”.  In the book, The Droplet overpowers Earth’s spaceships and goes on to massacre their entire fleet.  After spending a year and a half planning to recreate the battle in film, Wang changed tack, choosing a more abstract interpretation.   Wang touches on his unusual approach with a somewhat cryptic explanation, saying “A very literal representation cannot reflect the droplet’s true essence.’

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Cover of The Three Body Problem. Written by Liu Cixin, translated by Ken Liu

The Droplet’s true essence, according to Wang, is the absolutely smooth surface of the probe, as described by Joel Martinsen in his English translation, “A highly smooth finish that made it a total reflector. The molecules in this thing are neatly arranged like an honor guard and they’re mutually solidifying with strong interaction. Its strength was a hundred times greater than the sturdiest material in the Solar System.”  The eventual film is one 14-minute shot, starting ultra-close to the ship on a single white molecular dot and slowly reverse-zooming, taking the viewer on an epic voyage through the tiniest molecules of the universe as reflected by the probe’s ultra smooth surface.

Wang used Render Farm software for the final rendering, and laid voiceover comprising cut up existing clips and recordings of Wang’s college friends.

Upon completion, Wang sent the film to his hero, Liu Cixin.  The author was amazed, gushing, “I can honestly say that this is what Three Body Problem looks like in my dreams,” adding that, if the feature length film, currently in postproduction and set for release in July 2016, generates the same power as Wang’s effort, “I could really die a happy man.”

Wang was first inspired by the story as an undergrad in Dalian, China.  Prior to Waterdrop, the Architecture major had no background in filmmaking or animation.  After Liu’s endorsement it may be time for the young talent to consider a new career in directing.

Pigpen cinema presents: AMY

Screening on Tuesday December 08, 2015
Doors open 9 | Movie starts 9:30
65-4 Maoming Bei Lu (Weihai Lu/Yan’an Lu)
Drink specials: beer, wine, and cocktails
Free “Grumpy” movie popcorn
Only 35 seats
First come first serve policy

From director Asif Kapadia (SENNA), AMY tells the incredible story of six-time Grammy-winner Amy Winehouse – in her own words. Featuring extensive unseen archive footage and previously unheard tracks, this strikingly modern, moving and vital film shines a light on our culture the world we live in today. A once-in-a-generation talent, Amy Winehouse was a musician that captured the world’s attention with her unforgettable voice and charisma. The combination of her raw honesty and virtuosity resulted in some of the most unique and adored songs of our time.

Pigpen cinema presents: IRIS

Screening on Tuesday November 17, 2015
Doors at 9 | Movie starts at 9:30
65-4 Maoming Bei Lu (Weihai Lu/Yan’an Lu)
Drink specials on beer, wine, and cocktails
Free “Grumpy” movie popcorn snacks
Space is limited to 35 seats
First come, first serve

More on the film: Iris (2015, 80 min., dir. Albert Maysles)
IRIS pairs legendary 87-year-old documentarian Albert Maysles with Iris Apfel, the quick-witted, flamboyantly dressed 93-year-old style maven who has had an outsized presence on the New York fashion scene for decades. More than a fashion film, the documentary is a story about creativity and how, even in Iris’ dotage, a soaring free spirit continues to inspire. IRIS portrays a singular woman whose enthusiasm for fashion, art and people are life’s sustenance and reminds us that dressing, and indeed life, is nothing but an experiment. Despite the abundance of glamour in her current life, she continues to embrace the values and work ethic established during a middle-class Queens upbringing during the Great Depression. “I feel lucky to be working. If you’re lucky enough to do something you love, everything else follows.” (C) Magnolia

See trailer here on youku or youtube

Eugenio Recuenco Gives Niccolo Hotels a Five-Star Debut

New P.I.G. director Eugenio Recuenco has just collaborated with luxury branding firm Yang Rutherford to create “New Encounters, Timeless Pleasures,” a classy, lushly-lit spot for the new upscale hotel chain Niccolo Hotels. The wordless, racy ad visually tells the story of a man and woman finding their way to each other, finally to meet and spend their first night together in a deluxe suite at a Niccolo hotel. On their way to one another they wander through the beautiful corridors of the hotel, and experience top notch service from its staff. “New Encounters, Timeless Pleasures,” is dripping with Eugenio’s glamorous signature aesthetic–more of which you can see HERE.

Audi Just Released a Hilarious Fifty Shades of Grey Parody

In a bit of outside-the-box marketing (okay, way more than a bit), Audi has collaborated with the team behind the upcoming blockbuster Fifty Shades of Grey to produce a hilariously-awkward comedy sketch, which self-awarely parodies the notorious, superfluously sexual reputation of both the Fifty Shades film and the bestselling book it’s based on.

Audi, whose cars will appear in Fifty Shades of Grey under a much sexier light, sponsored this viral video starring Saturday Night Live’s Vanessa Bayer as a Fifty Shades fan on an elevator, all too eager to find someone to reenact scenes in the film with, making the men (and women) who share the elevator with her verrrrrry uncomfortable in the process. The clip was the brainchild of the agency Venables Bell & PartnersFifty Shades of Grey releases worldwide on Valentine’s Day.

We here at P.I.G. have also collaborated with Audi, for a TV Spot that is as sleek and extravagant, if not as risque, as anything in the world of Mr. Christian Grey. Check it out here!

Adidas Releases Amazing Chinese New Year-themed Shoes [P.I.G.Year of the Goat]

     We here at P.I.G. love our base in the city of Shanghai, China. As we specializes in producing fun, eye-popping, innovative work, our staff love keeping abreast of all new happenings in art and design in China. Here on our blog, we share our favorite findings with you:

Every Chinese New Year, Adidas releases a line of shoes inspired by Chinese art and design. The footwear giant follows that tradition in 2015, The Year of the Goat.

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     The sneaker giant has launched six new versions of their Adidas Originals, adorned with traditional Chinese aesthetics, and of course goats. Wear these at your next Chinese New Year Banquet, and impress your distant cousins and great-grandparents! See if you can pull them off with a traditional Chinese qi pao! Each shoe now available online in red or black:

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Additionally, on February 19, Adidas is rolling out 3 Year of the Goat editions of their basketball shoes: the D Rose 5 Boost (Green), D Rose Lakeshore Mid (White) and T Mac 3 (Red):

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And finally, a preview of the best Chinese New Year-themed Adidas of past years:

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Stay tuned for more interesting content celebrating Chinese New Year!

This is What Chinese Art Looks Like

    The realities of modern Chinese culture remain unknown to much of the world. Even in an age of unlimited access to knowledge, many still get their information about China from articles on Tiger Moms or Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Contrary to the very popular belief about Chinese people, they are not all tigers. And some of them don’t even know how to hold a kung fu battle in the sky.

    Today’s China is rapidly shedding the traditions, beliefs, and–in consequence–aesthetics it has perennially been associated with. Soon enough, the dated concepts of China’s art as merely minimalist watercolor landscapes or calligraphy on foldable fans will evaporate. Works like the following, from artists who are challenging, complex, and eclectically influenced, will obliterate the classical definition of a “Chinese Artist.”

1. Xiang Gao

“Flower funeral”

Installation

Installation

“Flow”

    When growing up in China, Xiang Gao was simultaneously obsessing over rock n’roll & western art and training in Chinese traditional painting. Now he’s invaded the San Francisco art world, and creates work that can be labeled neither eastern nor western, but can be labeled wry and eye-opening. Gao’s eccentric paintings on rice paper are arguably the most successful collision of eastern and western tastes since sriracha was mixed with mayonnaise.

2. Wei Linyuan

“Vincente”

“BANANA!”

No, that’s not your your webpage still loading. The above are Wei Linyuan‘s completed oil paintings.

    Chuck Palahniuk, the author of the novel Fight Club, once wrote that “art never comes from happiness.” But that statement is untrue, and also pretentious. In fact, the Milan-educated Wei Linyuan, whose work has been widely shared on Tumblr, derives inspiration for her fun oil paintings from “the happiness that everyone experiences in life.” And Wei’s work might just have a better legacy than the novel Fight Club, as a movie about a digital banana will definitely not be better than its source material.

3. Yang Yongliang

YangYon

        Shan shui is the Chinese art of painting land and mountainscapes with both a brush and a rich philosophical guideline based around nature’s elements. Yang Yongliang, a masterful practitioner of Shan Shui painting, has spent a lifetime closely observing Chinese vistas, before seeing them heartlessly razed during China’s modernization. Yang’s belief is that “The development of our cities is at the expense of nature,” and his shan-shui style renderings of cityscapes could not make that view any clearer.

4. Yue Minjin 

Hats Series

“Execution”

    Yue Minjin has created an army of laughing figures, whose faces he based on his own. The dark satire of Yue’s paintings often comes from the juxtaposition of revelry and tragedy, as seen in Execution, above. The laughter of his subjects may not be guffaws of joy, but instead cackles of derangement toward a society’s senselessness. Less Pillsbury Dough Boy, more the Joker. Execution was sold at £2.9 million pounds (US $5.9 million), making it the most expensive contemporary Chinese painting ever. When asked whether the painting being set in China was a critique of Chinese history, Yue astutely replied that whatever his political impetus, “I want the audience not to think of one thing or one place or one event. The whole world’s the background.”

5. Wang Guanyi 

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    Wang Guanyi is another artist who’s made millions from his singular pop aesthetic. Wang’s works are often auctioned at such Old Money bastions as Sotheby’s and Christie’s—yeah, he knows, he’s hypocritical. Mixing major brand logos with political posters, Wang Guanyi asserts that whether they’re used to propagandize or advertise, the techniques for controlling a population are everlasting and universal: repeatedly flood the people with your symbols, slogans, and self-praise, until they cannot help but admire you. This blog post was sponsored by Pepsi.

Pepsi - Go buy a Pepsi.

Pepsi – Go buy a Pepsi.

9 Brilliant Lyrics From Nas’s Illmatic

 On November 18, P.I.G. China and The Grumpy Pig (65 Maoming Bei Road near Ya’an Road) held is monthly PigPen Cinema film screening. We presented the celebrated and engrossing Nas: Time is Illmatic to a completely packed house at The Grumpy Pig restaurant. Attendees–ranging from long-time Nas fans to lovers of documentaries to the simply curious–had their eyes glued to the screen as they gobbled down delicious treats from The Grumpy Pig.

 Time is Illmatic centers around the creation of Illmatic, rapper Nas’s iconic 1994 debut album. Even if you know nothing about rap, or hate it entirely, the film still comes recommended as an engaging documentary that touches on a lauded artist’s process, no less insightful about the creative facility of a master craftsperson than Bill Cunningham New York or Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present.

With just 9 songs and one intro, Illmatic took listeners on a journey through the crime-ridden streets of Queens, NY NY so grimly vivid that it transcended the auditory. At just 20 years old, Nas took lyric-writing in hip-hop to a never-before known intricacy. In the 20 years since its release, the album’s musical innovations have imbued themselves within the DNA of all hip-hop.

Below we take a look at the greatest lines from each of Illmatic’s 9 songs, and in the process unravel just why the album is considered such an essential work.

1. “NY State of Mind”

Rappers I monkey-flip ‘em with the funky rhythm
I be kickin’, musician, inflicting composition of
Pain I’m like Scarface sniffin’ cocaine, holding an
M16, see with a pen I’m extreme

Off the bat, the very first lines rapped by Nas on Illmatic introduce a poetic device rarely employed in his time, enjambment. Enjambment is when one line of a poem runs into the next, allowing longer statements to be made within the limitations of a poem’s meter (inflicting composition of/pain, I’m like Scarface, sniffing cocaine, holding a/M16, see…). Enjambment allowed Nas to tell a continuous story within the confines of a 4/4 count beat, engaging rap listeners with not just the song’s rhythm, but also its content.

2. “Life’s a B****”

I woke up early on my born day, I’m 20 it’s a blessin’
The essence of adolescence leaves my body now I’m fresh, and
my physical frame is celebrated ‘cause I made it
one quarter through life some Godly-like thing created.

As shown in the documentary Time is Illmatic, when Nas grew up in his impoverished Queensbridge housing projects, his life was constantly imperiled by drug addicts and violent criminals. Here Nas expresses gratitude for his survival into adulthood, despite still being unsure of which higher entity granted it to him. Further instances of enjambment appear in this song (see bolded letters), to help express hefty thoughts over a light drum pattern.

3. The World is Yours 

Dwelling in the rotten apple, you get tackled
Or caught by the devil’s lasso, s*** is a hassle!
…I need a new n***a, for this black cloud to follow,
‘cause while it’s over me, it’s too dark to see tomorrow

In Jay-Z’s New York Times bestselling book Decoded, he says something very insightful about those that misread rap music:

The art of rap is deceptive. It seems so straightforward and personal and real that people read it completely literally… It’s all white noise to them till they hear a “b****” or a “n****” and then they run off yelling “See!” and feel vindicated in their narrow conception of what the music is about.”

Here Nas is morosely discussing his depression (black clouds) and hopelessness (too dark to see tomorrow), and how living where he lives makes him highly susceptible to criminal temptations (the devil’s lasso). However, some listeners would find the painful honesty in his words unsympathetic, simply because they are heard in the context of an explicit rap song.  It should be noted that at the time of Illmatic’s release, the concept of criminals being a natural product of poverty was not widely accepted, and many political platforms and policies, including Bob Dole’s 1996 presidential campaign, were based around the idea that those who committed crime were simply born immoral.

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Empires of the Deep – China’s Biggest Movie Failure Ever

The story of how China’s most expensive film lost all of its money.

Transformers: Age of Extinction has made more money in China than it has in America, heralding a new age when any Hollywood film that hopes to successfully cross into international markets must feature something Chinese…
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Even if only tangentially so….

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But the success of recent American blockbusters in China raises an interesting question about China’s domestic film industry: will the Asian world power remain just a distributor and consumer of hits from America, or could it produce international hits of its own? Could the world’s second largest film market use its abundance of capital and labor to release Transformers/Lord of the Rings/Harry Potter-caliber big-budget spectacles, and cement China as a new Hollywood?

One wealthy Chinese man certainly thought so. This is the story of how he wrote and produced Empires of the Deep, the most expensive Chinese film ever, and what was once hyped as the “Chinese Avatar.” Unfortunately, this very expensive experiment took incredulous missteps at every stage of its production. Here is the story of an ambitious project tragically collapsing upon itself.

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In 2006, Jon Jiang (above), a real estate mogul and one of China’s wealthiest men, decided that he was going to write, fund and produce a movie franchise that rivaled the Hollywood films dominating box offices worldwide. Jiang had very limited knowledge of the film industry, but his wild success in other ventures convinced him that his Empires of the Deep—an underwater action-adventure, and the first script he had ever written—would become a multi-picture, global movie phenomenon that would spawn action figures and theme parks. Shortly after he conceived his idea, Jiang confidently predicted that Empires of the Deep would earn “500 million yuan in China, and 700-800 million USD worldwide.”  Unlike most people who come up with a bad movie idea they believe is great, Jiang actually had the money to bankroll a movie and test his sense of surety. In the proceeding years Jiang watched, as his dreams of box office gold slowly descended into unreality.

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Soon after Jiang conceived his undersea, mermaid-filled, action-romance, interests were piqued all across China. The Chinese press stayed abreast of every development in Jiang’s quest to turn the country into a filmmaking powerhouse. The first question on everyone’s mind was which master director would Jiang name to direct his film? Zhang Yimou? Chen Kaige? But Jiang surprisingly dismissed both directors, saying, “They are not qualified to make my films. The films they make are of no value to me.”

Given his high bar for quality, which filmmaker did Jiang deem talented enough to be trusted with Empires’ budget⎯which had ballooned from $50 million USD in 2006 to $100 million USD in 2009? Strangely, Jiang hired the director of Hollywood’s infamous flop Catwoman, a VFX artist only known as “Pitof.” Famed critic Roger Ebert  so hated Catwoman that he gave the movie just one star, then said Pitof “was probably issued two names at birth, and would be wise to use the other one on his next project.” Jiang’s hiring of such a poorly-renowned director cast the first traces of doubt in his leadership.

Further indication that Jiang may not have been entirely up to the task of making “China’s Avatar” was that even Pitof left the project soon after he was hired, citing the difficulties of creatively collaborating with Jiang. Jiang then replaced Pitof with an little-known director named Jonathan Lawrence, and by late 2009, Empires of the Deep, whose budget had now swollen to $130 million—the highest ever for any Chinese movie—finally began to film. All eyes were now trained even closer on Jiang, as a movie of Empires’ massive scale could not afford to underperform.

Jiang then began touting that his film was in fact a U.S. – China co-production, its one hundred and thirty-million dollar price tag partly footed by an LA–based film company called E-Imagine Studios. Next, a few stills from the set were released that displayed elaborately designed props and costumes. Some concept art was shown as well, which made the movie seem like it could be cool…

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Jiang’s PR push certainly worked in generating positive buzz for the movie around the world. Even The New York Times was inspired to profile one of the set visits that Jiang started regularly giving to reporters.  The news of US investment, the promising still photos from the film, and the rumors of sequels combined to give Empires at least the sheen of a big summer event film. Jiang even brought a “3D consultant” onto the film who had actually worked on Avatar to oversee the special effects. The photos of well-constructed sets amidst swathes of green and blue screen led to great anticipation for the movie’s finished footage. Those who followed the news about the movie were excited to see the how colorful worlds depicted in the concept art would be rendered as incredible CGI. A trailer for the film was soon revealed….

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