Walking Cycle is an abstract audiovisual piece that celebrates the line, its quality, and its movements.
Sound by Wang Changcun
Signal Culture, Owego, NY
It is my pleasure to respond to filmmaker Wenhua Shi’s work for the second year
in a row. Walking Cycle shows the evolution of Shi’s vision and continued
obsession with ritual, movement, distortion and sound. This study in subtle
contrasts operates in the tradition of fine arts. The images are beautiful, but the
length and development of the piece elevates it beyond mere aesthetic pleasure
into a profoundly moving experience.
The film opens with the abstracted image of a solitary dancer circling in a void. The purpose of the ritualized movement threaded throughout the film is obscured, but it functions as a reminder that performance and evolution are consistent elements in our lives. As Shi manipulates the image further a dance partner seems to form. This is the first of many illusions Walking Cycle introduces to engage its audience. We wonder if the images are part of the construction or formed in our imagination. The main segment following the dancer consists of images forming an uncanny landscape that reference a person walking through nature. This idea is emphasized through the use of waves at the beginning of the soundtrack. As the images proceed we glimpse other people present in the environment. We recognize certain images through their shape, placement and movement, yet must fill in the details ourselves. At times, it is as if we are looking back on a familiar memory and fighting to make it whole. A frightening image appears halfway through the film with a zoom into the landscape to what appears to be a human face. Is it a human presence or another illusion? The shot cuts before we can decide, creating tension to contend with moving forward. The second to last segment evokes a cosmic landscape – an updated version of Jordan Belson or Kubrick’s ‘Jupiter’ sequence from 2001. Shi propels us from a simple, repetitive action into the universe and back again, bringing viewers full circle to the isolated movement at the end.
Sound design provides a backbone to the film’s imagery, but like the images it is more complex than we initially realize. The soundtrack layers a hypnotic, almost religious chanting, ocean sounds and a disconcerting, pulsing element to produce competing moods. Over the course of the film the tempo of the pulsing changes, slightly out of sync with the images. Gradually the ocean sound recedes and we realize we have lost something along the way. Sound and image in Walking Cycle unmoors us in time and allows us to move fluidly between current perception, memory and hope. As an audience, we are at once everywhere and nowhere in this landscape.
Walking Cycle creates a living canvas where past-present and future coexist. We
forget that the images are digital, monochromatic and distorted because at the
heart of the work is a familiar human experience that exists just beyond our ability
to perceive it. We are that person moving through space seeing the horror and
beauty in the landscape and looking for meaning through ritual and cinematic
Once again Shi demonstrates a mastery of craft and vision. While his work contains consistent elements forming a distinct style, each film is nuanced and individual. I look forward to seeing more.
Shayna Connelly, MFA
Assistant Professor of Digital Cinema
School of Cinematic Arts