Leading Chinese documentary filmmaker Wang Bing was awarded the 2017 EYE Art & Film Prize during a ceremony at Amsterdam’s EYE Filmmuseum on Thursday, April 6. He was honored for creating work that bridges filmmaking and visual art, and received a $30,000 prize, which will go toward making new work. In the spring of 2018, the museum will present a Wang Bing exhibition alongside pieces by previous prize EYE winners Hito Steyerl and Ben Rivers.
“With his uncompromising way of working, Wang Bing is a sincere and authentic artist who shows his engagement with today’s society and his perspective on the human condition,” Sandra den Hamer, CEO of the EYE Filmmuseum, said on behalf of the jury. “While political and outspoken, Wang Bing doesn’t push viewers to accept his perspective, rather, his beautiful, brave work leaves room for interpretation.”
Based in Beijing, Wang Bing chronicles and exposes issues such as industrial decay, poverty, and disenfranchisement in modern-day China. He made his filmmaking debut with Tie Xi Qu: West of the Tracks (2003), a nine-hour portrait of Tie Xi—the industrial district in northeastern China—that both challenges viewers’ idea of spectatorship and pushes the boundaries of documentary. It won the Grand Prix at the 2003 Marseille Festival of Documentary Film. His 2012 Three Sisters, which follows a trio of young siblings who are left to fend for themselves in a remote village, won best film at the Sixty-Ninth Venice International Film Festival.
While the artist mostly works alone, using only a digital camera, he told Lauren Cavalli of artforum.com that he never thinks about the viewers when making a film. “As a director, I don’t want to cater to the audience’s interests.” He said that he is planning to make a film about women from Laos who came to China to find work, but doesn’t intend to shoot outside the country. The artist recently completed a video work, titled 15 hours, as a window into the lives of workers from one of the eighteen thousand factories that can be found in Shanghai. It will be shown at Documenta 14 in Athens, which opens Saturday.