Photo copyright Dale De La Rey/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images.
The New York Times reports today about a particularly interesting exhibition in Hong Kong, combining one of the most famous of all traditional Chinese paintings with new technology, bringing the scene depicted in the Song dynasty handscroll to life in video.
“Riverside Scene at Qingming Festival,” also known by a number of other variant translations of the Chinese title, was painted by Zhang Zeduan roughly 900 years ago. It is the only surviving record of Zhang Zeduan’s existence, and so, very little is known about the artist. But it depicts a lively urban scene along the river in Bianliang (today known as Kaifeng), which unrolls before the eyes as one scrolls through the painting, eventually making one’s way to a large bridge, and then, beyond that, to the gates of the palace.
In this video exhibition, previously displayed at the Shanghai World Expo earlier this year, the lively city scene actually moves and comes to life. Even putting aside the technical logistics of doing the graphics effects, I can only imagine how much might have gone into cultural/historical consultancy about what various things depicted were, how people might have moved and behaved… Or, then again, maybe there isn’t that much need for it. Even 900 years ago, people were people, and the way people walk hasn’t changed, has it? I don’t know. Maybe it has.
Is this just a gimmick? Or something we will see more of? Only time will tell.