National Museum of Asian Art Announces Premiere of Centennial-Commissioned Film “Abiding Nowhere” by Taiwan-Based Director Tsai Ming-liang

The Film—Which Will Have Its World Premiere at the 2024 Berlin International Film Festival—Is Inspired by Xuanzang, the Seventh-Century Monk Who Walked From China to India
February 1, 2024
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Aerial view of courtyard, surrounded by white building, with red brick pavers and a man walking in a red robe.

Abiding Nowhere still in the National Museum of Asian Art’s courtyard; photo by Claude Wang.

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art has announced the world premiere of Abiding Nowhere, a film it commissioned from Taiwan-based director Tsai Ming-liang in honor of the museum’s centennial last year. The film will be screened during the Berlinale Special portion of the 2024 Berlin International Film Festival (known as the Berlinale), and it will premiere in the U.S. at the museum’s Meyer Auditorium March 1; tickets are available online.

Abiding Nowhere is the 10th in an ongoing series of works known as the Walker series, which Ming-liang has produced independently from the museum since 2012. Abiding Nowhere is the first in the series to be made in the United States and was shot in the museum’s Freer Gallery of Art and at other locations in the Washington, D.C., area.

Inspired by Xuanzang, the seventh-century monk who walked from China to India and became the inspiration for the famed literary work A Journey to the West, the Walker films all feature Tsai’s creative partner Lee Kang-sheng in the robe of a Buddhist monk, who has the uncanny ability to move very slowly, interacting with landscapes and people in cities all over the world.

“I want to thank Tsai Ming-liang for devising such an innovative platform to showcase the National Museum of Asian Art during our centennial and congratulate him and the team on the inclusion in the 2024 Berlinale,” said Chase F. Robinson, the museum’s director. “Our museum’s film program has long underscored our continued commitment to engaging with partners around the world, and it aligns with our strategic goals to reach a variety of audiences and to foster a museum culture that is creative and collaborative. This project is a wonderful celebration of those values.”

“As a longtime fan of Tsai’s work, it was an honor to be able to commission a film from him,” said Tom Vick, the museum’s curator of film, and the executive producer of Abiding Nowhere. “His way of depicting locations in the museum and the D.C. metropolitan area made me see them in a whole new way. I will be excited to celebrate his recognition with him and the production team in Berlin and to host the U.S. premiere at our museum in March.”

Vick has been the curator of film at the National Museum of Asian Art since October 2001. He has worked as a consultant for the International Film Festival Rotterdam and served on the juries of the Korean Film Festival in Los Angeles, the Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal, Filmfest DC and the Smithsonian African American Film Festival. He has contributed essays to Directory of World Cinema: Japan, Film Festival Yearbook, Asian Geographic and other publications. He is the author of Asian Cinema: A Field Guide (2007) and Time and Place Are Nonsense: The Films of Seijun Suzuki (2015).

About the National Museum of Asian Art’s Film Program

Begun in 1996, the National Museum of Asian Art’s film program presents year-round free screenings of films from across Asia in the 300-seat Meyer Auditorium, which features both state-of-the-art digital capabilities and the capacity to project archival formats such as 35 mm and 16 mm film. In addition to Tsai, notable directors and performers who have made personal appearances for Q&As at film programs include Park Chan-wook, Jia Zhangke, Tatsuya Nakadai and many others. 

The film program has a loyal following and has garnered praise from media: The Iranian Film Festival won Best International Film Festival in Washington City Paper’s 2020 “Best of DC” awards, and the film screenings are frequently featured in outlets like the Washington Post, City Paper, DCist and Voice of America.

About the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art is committed to preserving, exhibiting, researching and interpreting art in ways that deepen our collective understanding of Asia, the United States and the world. Home to more than 46,000 objects, the museum stewards one of North America’s largest and most comprehensive collections of Asian art, with works dating from antiquity to the present from China, Japan, Korea, South Asia, Southeast Asia and the Islamic world. Its rich holdings bring the arts of Asia into direct dialogue with an important collection of 19th- and early 20th-century art from the United States, providing an essential platform for creative collaboration and cultural exchange between the U.S., Asia and the Middle East.  

Beginning with a 1906 gift that paved the way for the museum’s opening in 1923, the National Museum of Asian Art is a leading resource for visitors, students and scholars in the United States and internationally. Its galleries, laboratories, archives and library are located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and are part of the world’s largest museum complex, which typically reports more than 27 million visits each year. The museum is free and open to the public 364 days a year (closed Dec. 25), making its exhibitions, programs, learning opportunities and digital initiatives accessible to global audiences.  

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Jennifer Mitchell


Editor’s note: Abiding Nowhere’s Vick will be in Berlin for the festival from Feb. 16–22 and is available for interviews.