The Visitor

2019 | HD Video | 29'58"

‘I think especially at this time, films are very important…they can give a record to something; a building can survive inside a film. The change is too fast, especially in China’.

‘You know, all my work from the 1990’s, I don’t think even one survived… every one has been demolished… in China it means old… give up…’

 

(Wang Shu in conversation with Sharone Lifschitz October 2017)

In 2004, on the periphery of the city of Ningbo, about 30 villages some hundreds of year old, were eradicated to make way for the new district of Yinzhou. In 2006, in the newly created Yinzhou Park, Wang Shu and Lu Wenyu opened Five Scattered Houses an early poetic architectural project. In 2008 they opened their seminal building - Ningbo Museum of History built from debris of the destroyed villages. In 2012 Wang Shu won the the Prizker Prize. In 2017 when the visitor visited Ningbo and met with Wang Shu, Yinzhou district was home to over 1.3 million people. In the 2040’s, the visitor reflects back on her visit all those years ago and her conversation with Wang Shu.

The Visitor (2019) offers a reading of the museum’s presence, as providing an unofficial memorial to China’s colossal peacetime destruction. The film’s starting point is a visit to Ningbo Museum of History and several conversations with Wang Shu. The film builds a non-linear narrative, that portrays the museum from conception to its imagined future. It negotiates personal and collective memory against the daily movement and rituals of the museum’s visitors and workers; memory’s physical embodiment into the building’s fabric; our expectation of architectural permanence and the all-consuming, relentless process of destruction and rebirth that underpins much of China’s urbanscape, economy and state of mind.