June 21 - July 22, 2005
Paul met with artists, curators and venues to re/establish old and new contacts, sharpening our focus on new art and artists working in China to create exchange opportunities for Canadian artists to exhibit in China. He presented digital prints in a show curated by Sara Diamond at the 2nd Beijing Biennal. This was the prime context for going to China.
“Let my people go wireless.”
It has been an amazing six months, more experiences as an artist than many would accomplish over an entire career. It felt very global knowing that you and Rick were in Venice and I was in Beijing. The fact that I was staying at the Marco Polo Hotel did not go unnoticed. In the room, watched a Marco Polo documentary on the National Geographic channel. Although many artists (contemporary Chinese artists) have used the Marco Polo theme as projects for Venice - there is still room for many more ideas......
I have a catalogue for ”In The Line of Flight”, The 2nd Beijing International New Media Exhibition and Symposium. It is in its early stages of development, it was an excellent forum for making contacts, it was a successful venue for dialogue amongst individuals, artists, organizations and government agencies. The whole event and the Millennium Monument Museum was a bit crazy but it all came together. Some people fell apart as did their equipment. So much technology used to do in many of the works of art ‘not a hell of a lot’. Still it was impressive. One of our galleries (Floral Alphabet, 40 four letter words for CHINA) was the equipment check out space. As promised the Biennial supplied all the electronic gear - 100 brand new projectors, dvd players and computers....
Sharing our gallery and trying to set up amidst the chaos was trying. We got all our gear but things like our extension cords and remote controls kept disappearing. In the end it all worked out.
The first dialogue was last year. The idea is to make it into a regular annual/biennial event and to have it happening during the Olympic year in 2008. Mr. Zhang, head organizer/curator (Parsons NYC) plans to do something in 2006 and then in 2008. Many of the presentations were about artists projects, some very interesting, others not.
Once again Shu Lea Cheang is doing something relevant: 2030 based out of London uses ‘in the near future’ as a politic to look at the ethics, politics of jamming mobile technologies in developing and lower tech communities. They have been doing these street performances, sexy girls on rollerblades zipping through the city all while streaming live using pirate channels. (Not legal and not entirely illegal, its all about public airspace).
Its not a new or original idea but one that does need to re-discussed in the digital age......Locally its good for the emerging and others to reminded about alternatives to commercial culture - ownership.
The opportunity to do an Olympic exchange project is “everything is within reach”. I did not go to Shanghai, due to saturation but also did not feel that it was necessary. Already have a couple of artists’ contacts and was introduced to the director of the Shanghai Biennial. I am much more interested in just focussing in on Beijing - the city is throbbing.
In Beijing, they have recently designated a whole area as a art zone, called 798. Its a large funky area with one/two story manufacturing structures, walled yards, small factories, trees, lanes, etc., located between the centre and airport. It might have been a former military base. It has already become very well known, several major galleries, famous and not so famous studio’s, shops. AND I saw a couple of really interesting artists. REMEMBER SWING IN BEIJING by Shui Bo.
If we were to do something in Beijing, 798 would be it. It is happening, we have nothing to compare (maybe Granville Island without flush toilets !!!!!).
Parsons School of Art NYC wants to establish a residency program there. I have a number of contacts including the Canadian Embassy to follow up to plant some seeds. Nina Czegledy is a new media queen. She went with assistance from the embassy based on giving four talks at 3 universities and the symposium. It is possible that Banff (Sylvia Gilbert) and Sara Diamond (OCAAD) would be interested in collaborating with us.
Visualize you strolling along at the 51st biennial in tattered sinking but preserved ye olde Venice and I am in a battered taxi zipping in and out of 10 lanes of traffic going past Mao’s portrait on the gates of the Forbidden City, surrounded by hundreds of construction cranes in a mega urban futuristic Beijing, the showplace, the pride of 1 billion people.
There is no skyline, there is no sky. There is no architectural point of reference, just endless reflections of more glass and mirrors shrouded in yellow haze. The scale of everything is HUGE, it makes VEGAS look small and what it is, a flashy little theme park. Everything in Vegas is in Beijing integrated as part of everyday life, not just a fantasy escape.
CHINA is it, the energy, the power is unstoppable. There is still a lot of xenophobia. In general, the West (the art world) still likes to think of China as a struggling Communist society that so badly wants to be just like them. Nothing is further from the truth. No one wants to be American or French or German. THEY WANNA be themselves. The best Chinese everything, richest, brightest, fastest, tallest, cleanest. CHINA is going to be the superpower in most vital areas. MISSION POSSIBLE is no Long March. They will TROUNCE on the competition as we all continue buying Made In China. The only thing laying down in China is Mao Tse Tung and after viewing him, what do you do? Shop!
I love that China is America’s worst nightmare. Up to this point it is still a semi-mute subject but the fear mongering will intensify. THE YELLOW PERIL AGAIN but the rules have changed. The EAST/WEST battlefield is in the malls, superpowers duke it out in a shopping marathon, an Olympic cultural event at the biggest mall in the world.