The People’s Commune Assembly Hall was an iconic site for political gatherings and propaganda during China’s national collectivisation period between the 1950s and 1980s. It witnessed the prime years of the now grannies, while it almost didn’t exist in the mind of the kids. We chose this site to organise a collective happening with villagers in Shigushan, Wuhan in summer 2023, whom we’ve been working with since 2015. Through immersive spatial projection in the now abandoned commune hall, we screened back to the village community footages of their beautiful lives and the co-created improvisations, as part of the transdisciplinary project RIPPLE RIPPLE RIPPLING. Almost the entire village came, transforming the commune hall from a once political site into a theatre of everyday life.

THE HALL (2024), an experimental short film, amplifies the inherent narrative capacity of the commune hall, through juxtaposing its physical space, the projected space and the reconstructed filmic space. Temporalities and worlds collide: the commune hall as a symbolic site for the socialist ideal, the decades of abandonment after the commune system was abolished, the start of its new life marked by the recent renovation, and a subversion of its loaded history through the collective happening. Unique to film as medium, what is reconstructed is one step out of reality but not yet into fiction, a delicate odd state that embraces the commune hall’s extraordinary inarticulacy and complexities without imposing any singular, lucid narrative. The space speaks for itself.

The Hall
Film stills, 4min, Colour, HD, 2024
Co-Directed by Jingru (Cyan) Cheng & Chen Zhan & Mengfan Wang
Cinematography by Chen Zhan & Mengfan Wang
Editing by Jingru (Cyan) Cheng & Chen Zhan