Australian Video Art Archive

Geoffrey Weary


Scenes from a Shanghai Hotel

00:18:35 2005

A Russian woman living in China is expelled after the Communist Revolution in 1948. Her story begins in a hotel room in Shanghai and ends on a suburban street in Sydney, Australia.

Scenes from a Shanghai Hotel mixes performative, fictional, digital media and documentary forms in the creation of a work that suggests rather than explains. Extensive use of film leader, scratchy film surfaces and coloured film add to a sense that what we are seeing resembles something fragmentary and illusive… or is it just like a newsreel being played in someone’s head?

The work is structured around a series of digitally manipulated tableaux images of a woman, suspended in an indeterminate space, holding a series of photographic images of another young woman that closely resembles her. The young woman is first seen in a black and white passport photograph and then in a series of glamorous portraits that finally conclude with another passport image of a different kind taken many years later. Each photograph is presented through the work as a series of clues about this woman, her identity, aspects of her life and her eventual fate as a refugee.

A young woman is also seen in a hotel room in Shanghai. Her role is ambiguous. Is she the woman seen in the tableaux images or does she represent the young woman in the black and white photographs or is she a fusion of both identities?

DVD available.