I’ve been thinking about memory and how narrative turns what we think happened into something we can use to change what we think might happen, which in turn had me remembering bits and pieces of Four Quartets, TS Eliot’s wonderful meditation on time and its meaning, time as a fundamental yearning to be complete despite transience, impermanence, this movement, this quickening which is also movement toward death:
Words move, music moves
Only in time; but that which is only living
Can only die.
For me calligraphy has been one of the real pleasures of learning Chinese. Indeed, even when I can’t read what I’m seeing, I enjoy trying to following the line and figure out the character. Yesterday morning as part of the Textual Logic (书与法) exhibition at the OCAT Contemporary Art Terminal there was a calligraphy performance by Qiu Zhenzhong (邱振中) and Wang Dongling (王冬龄). So I was kind of “wow, calligraphy onstage. Fun.” However, it turned out that I had approached the event naively; calligraphers may or may not be fun, but the event felt like a cross between a movie star press conference and an art seminar.
The audience for the calligraphy performance was not OCAT’s typical audience who tend to have western aesthetics and a passion for conceptual art. Instead, the audience (not including the calligraphers’ respective entourages) was made up of calligraphers and folks who might be classified as calli-groupies, whose comments ranged from how the room had been set up through how the ink was mixed to how difficult it was or was not to write at this scale for so long. Indeed, it was a happy, almost fair-like event with pauses for watching and then commenting. Needless to say, the audience also complained that photographers and videographers had been given front row positions and could follow the calligrapher.
The level of audience participation in the exhibition struck me wonderful. Continue reading
Shenzhen photographer, Gu Yun (谷韵) has taken lovingly poetic images of Biennale exhibits. I appreciate these images for their intimacy. The biennale has presented massive projects at a scale that seems analytic and abstract; in contrast, Gu Yun’s images reveal her steps to engage individual works close up and personal, as we sometimes say. Indeed, Gu Yun has me thinking about the revealingly personal work of viewing, digesting, and appropriating objects. Enjoy.
Visited the Wutongshan Culture Highland with friends, Jonathan and Gigi; resident artist director, Ryan Mitchell showed us the site. Of note, Zhao Shaoruo’s (赵少若) solipsistic exhibition in which he appears as every character in every painting and image. In addition to pieces in which he has substituted his face for Mao’s, Zhao has also produced work in the name of a variety of others, ranging traditional Chinese through Jews to insects. Telling, the only time that others appear in Zhao’s work, they do so as an extreme end of a continuum in which Zhao’s features are blended with his other.
Solipsists argue that the idea that only one’s own mind exists, that knowledge outside one’s own mind is unsure, or that only one’s own mind exists. Zhao’s relentless substituting his own face for those of others reminds us that extreme forms of solipsism are brutally pathological; I exist therefore you cannot. Continue reading
I recommend attending friend Debby Sou Vai Keng’s solo exhibition, “Lazy Days at Black Sands,” which opened November 11 and will be up through the 27th. Exhibition at St. Paul’s Fine Art, Macao. Video from the opening, below.
The title of this post shouts “academic theorization”, but in fact, the post itself is far less ambitious. I’m simply speculating about what conditions we need to put in place in order to cultivate cross cultural discourse in and about places with vexed histories, like Wutong Mountain, Shenzhen.
Creating models and forums for cross cultural discussions in and about places with vexed histories is difficult. On the one hand, most of us are not familiar with the values and concerns that inform the ethos of another people; indeed, even when we are relatively knowledgable about cross cultural differences, often we do not share our interlocutor’s priorities. On the other hand, cultural groups are not monolithic entities, but rather vexed by class, gender, and regional differences, creating what Bhaktin called “heteroglossia” – a situation in which context (including history and culture and politics and economy and one’s interlocutor) is more important in determining the meaning of an utterance than is the text.
With the Wutongshan Arts Festival (梧桐山艺术节 – impressions above), organizers Gigi Leung and Michael Patte (founders of the riptide collective) aimed to generate conversations between village residents, local businesses (including Canyou), and artists who have moved there. The situation was clearly heteroglossic with both foreign and Chinese participants, who represented a range of different class backgrounds as well as different relationships to and with Wutong Mountain as well as Shenzhen. We came together to discuss future development in and of Wutong Mountain. Continue reading