Monday, January 5, 2009

Past Future--Shanghai Biennale: Translocalmotion

It's true: the Shanghai Biennale closed last year on 11/16, but it's been sitting in draft and I thought as a new year move I'd tie up a loose end from 2008.

'I was gonna'--I think that's past future. I took all of these photos and was gonna give you a taste of the Biennale. I had intentions and ideas, but that was 2 1/2 months into China, and now I'm at 4 months, and well, the view, the mood, the pace, the interest has shifted. Consequently, this blog'll run long, cuz I was still in 'tourist' mode--drinking up all the cool and the wow of the town. Not that I'm bitter (OK, I found out I didn't get the Creative Capital grant today) but my skin has thickened, my ears have deafened to the noise--still gasp and wheeze from the air--but can see a bit beyond the surface, into complexities that make generalization and articulation more challenging. So I'll stick to past future to tie this end.
How lovely the clock towering over Shanghai Art Museum, located within the former British racehorse-club building next to People's Park.
Yes the patriots,
next to the locomotive, the motif for the 'trans' and the 'local' that is constantly in motion.
Big shiny psychedelic ants climb down the clock tower.
The Maos welcome, beckon and bid all at the same time.
The first floor was constantly flooded with that Carpenters tune 'Don't you remember you told me you loved me baby baby baby o baby.' It was part of a video installation that included a huge advertisement to buy African products, all the while a Chinese girl in a blond bob wig kareoke lip synched the Carpenters song to an African man who walked down the middle of a street in the French Concession in native garb, who turned out also to be a nattily dressed CEO at a desk. People were not patient to watch the whole narrative. One American tourist was impressed with the flat screen TV quality.
This was cute. This was gonna be a dialogic way of viewing the one-child personality dynamic.
Here is the Carpenters/Buy African product installation. Some were patient. The song becomes hypnotic.
In another room on the first floor, a foreign grade school is having a field trip. There is an installation of suitcases and baggage from all times and hemispheres. The lady with the French accent is asking the children to choose the baggage they connect to and tell why.
On the second floor are the super stars. One from Taiwan, one from China and Mike Kelly.
This is the installation of the China artist. I was gonna write the names down, but I forgot my notebook.
Have a look at the huge geniesque dinosaurs. More shine in a low dark space.
The next room is the Mike Kelley installation.
Architectural plans for a future city of Superman. I was gonna read all the text, but felt lackadaisical.
And felt compelled to photo this room which was probably where the brits smoked their cigars.
I did feel like a goon.
So impressed by the staircase.
I guess I kind of can't believe this is China.
This is digital art that had meaning when I saw it. It's weird how when you tie up loose ends, the ends still are kind of loose, and is it the tying that's satisfying or the need to convince the self that the time and energy were not wasted? What is art without context? The artist's name is Chen Yen and the piece is called The Moving Spirit of the City.
This is a Turkish artist name Inci Eviner. I liked all the hieroglyphic images painted in a chain around the room, like the history of an immigrant in a space.
Something completely primal and refined at the same time.
Unexpected sequences.
Exquisite doodle.
Outside of this room, there were paintings of immigrant cots. Also huge wall-size photos of the migrant Chinese and countryside commerce.
There was another series of paintings called Cheers, that showed Inner Mongolians toasting in orange glow and husky silhouettes. There was another room with an installation, all four walls being projected upon, one side of coal miners in ear-piercing action, another wall of the years of aftermath, spent in a hospital bed, trying to respirate, another wall, intimate moments of their collective shower in shared streams of water.
This was most impressive to me--Bu Hua's Savage Growth--a computer generation of a girl scout walking through Shanghai and its dizzing construction. She has her own website.

At one point, I heard some 1930's Shanghai Diva music...I went into a darkened room and saw clip after clip of an abridged version of Shanghai history. An old woman narrated to me--she seemed to be there in all the stages. 'Look how there are no women watching the Chinese opera,' she would tell me, 'even the men sang the female parts.' She would tell me how poor they were, how they had to eat these hard grains in the countryside, and look, that's when the Japanese came in. That's the temple, have you been to the temple? I tell her no. Only foreigners go there, it's 40 RMB to get in. The Chinese can't afford to get in. Foreigners, and I saw some Koreans. Koreans have money now. They can get in. I just sat there and listened and watched it loop like three times.
Then there was a whole exhibit of what the racecourse and basically the recreation ground for the foreigners when they had taken over Shanghai in the 30's and 40's. Above is the race course right next to one of the main streets. Just plopped a racecourse down cuz it was convenient to get to from the Bund.
There was bowling and golf and cricket and swimming too. When Mao came in and liberated Shanghai, the racecourse was immediately converted into People's Park.
Here is one of their first rally's converting the foreign racecourse back to the Chinese People's Park.
Now it is green and lush. Somehow, for this heathen outerhound (as opposed to innerhound) art observer, the event of the Biennale could not supercede the extraordinary history of the grounds. I was gonna try and rendit the show, but memory fragility prevented a good representation of the exhibit. A loose end tied sloppily, though a noticeable absorption into China that no foreigner can escape.


Blogger Clifford said...

Is that Yue Minjun?

January 8, 2009 at 9:58 AM  
Blogger Alice T. said...

Don't she a Shanghai diva?

January 12, 2009 at 5:46 AM  

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