This publication is a collaboration between MAMbo Museo d’Arte Moderna di Bologna, MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt am Main, and Witte de With. It accompanies the exhibitions Sarah Morris—China 9, Liberty 37 at MAMbo—Museo d’Arte Moderna di Bologna (May 26—July 26 2009); Sarah Morris—Gemini Dressage at MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst Frankfurt am Main (May 30—August 30 2009) and Morality at Witte de With (October 2009—Summer 2010). In all three exhibitions, Morris’s film Beijing takes a central role.

Sarah Morris creates paintings and films in which she traces urban and social topologies. She explores both the psychology of the contemporary city and its architecturally encoded politics in order to survey how a particular moment can be inscribed and embedded into its visual surfaces. Morris assesses what today’s architectural façades and urban structures, cities and nations, might conceal. Often, these non-narrative fictional analyses result in conspiratorial studies of power, the structures of control, and global socio-political networks. Her most recent film, Beijing (2008), focuses on one of the most intricate and ambiguous internationally broadcasted events of the past years – the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

Beijing is a feature-length film that portrays not only the Games’ locations and protagonists, but also those of other kinds of ‘contests’ raging in China today, for instance, in industry and architecture. The extreme manifestation of power and the astronomical amounts of money absorbed – and produced – by such an event go beyond branding as a mere marketing tool, establishing instead a kind of ‘nation-branding’, a political apparatus to re-position entire countries and cultures. Her film is a surreal portrait of an authoritarian state of turbo-capitalism during a period when the International Olympic Committee effectively took over sovereignty of the capital city. It depicts a hitherto closed country at a moment of apparent and possibly theatrical openness, a hidden culture at a moment of extreme visibility. Consequently the film questions the authorship of the spectacle, who is in control, and ultimately, the role of the artist.