May 23–July 7, 2019
The Gallery @ El Centro presents the debut of Amalia Ulman’s short film Shanghai Fire. This marks part one of Season One programming organized around the theme of intimacy.
Shanghai Fire follows a young woman during a 12-hour layover China on a business trip as she learns that her home in Malibu might be on fire. She sees a news report on television that the Woolsey Fire is spreading across a portion of Southern California forcing many residents to evacuate their homes. She frantically tries to call her partner Christopher back home to find out what’s going on. When she gets him on the phone, she learns that he’s okay but their cat Holga is missing. She yells at him to find her, but he insists that it’s not safe to go back. She apologizes and tells him she’ll be home soon. After they hang up, she acts out in fear and frustration from being so far away during the disaster. Her next moves reveal how sometimes we choose to act hastily when there are no other options.
Ulman’s new film explores notions of longing, distance and home as the main character navigates this troubling situation. The film’s subtitle 远离家乡 translates to “far from home.” The soundtrack for Shanghai Fire was created by Chicken, and the film was produced with the help of Chen Zhou.
The exhibition will also include new objects and photographs. Many of the objects on display were used in the making of the film, such as garments worn by the main character and her suitcase. They have been arranged into glass-enclosed bulletin boards similar to how cinemas often display costumes and memorabilia in glass vitrines. The series of new photographs are film stills that were burnt and then overlaid with Chinese calligraphy evoking 1990’s Hong Kong movie posters.
Amalia Ulman (b. 1989) lives and works in Los Angeles. Born in Argentina but raised in Spain, she studied Fine Arts at Central Saint Martins in London. Her works, which are primarily voiced in the first person, blur the distinction between the artist and object of study, often creating humorous, gentle deceptions, while exploring class imitation and the relationship between consumerism and identity. In addition to video, sculpture and installation work, her multidisciplinary practice has involved the use of social media, magazine photoshoots, interviews, self-promotion and brand endorsements as tools for the fabrication of fictional narratives.