Sunday, May 5, 2013

April 30th, Beijing Arts District 798

Today was art day. Dylan and I intentionally got a late start so we could sleep late. I thankfully managed to sleep til 9:30 even with the "joop/repperbahn" outside my window. That is what I have discerned it to be saying. I am still not a fan of it, but I am very thankful that I'm learning to tune it out a little bit better. I'll imbed a video so you can hear it in the background, though it just isn't as loud or insistent on the video as in person. You'll just have to visit for the full effect. Anyway... I shouldn't go on and on about that. Though I will if Dylan keeps singing it like he's doing right this second. He says he wants me to have something to remember from China. THIS is not the right thing!

We decided to go to Beijing 798 Art District. Every city should have one! Apparently there was an industrial area which artists took over as they are wont to do in decrepit areas around the world. This place is now a vibrant,exciting area full of art and shopping which draws people from all over the city (and beyond, I would guess). We saw plenty of foreigners there for sure.

One of He Wenjue's images from Burma
The art was remarkably good. Top class. People whose art is in museums worldwide. One of them was He Wenjue in a show called "Daily Images". He painted very large images almost photorealistically then he scraped off the paint most of the way, leaving a very clear image but with some smearing. I wish I could show you an image of it but they were insistent in all these galleries about not taking pictures of the art. I really liked his work. Powerful stuff. Many of the images were of everyday life. One of my favorites was a woman sitting in the middle of a lovely arbor taking a picture of the plants. It doesn't sound all interesting, perhaps, but it was wonderful. There were also several of Burma and of Buddhas and temples there. Terrific.

I also liked the art of

Ying Tianqi. This poster doesn't give a very accurate sense of it, I don't think. In China they have been tearing down old areas of cities as fast as they can in order to build new, modern areas. They don't seem to be considering the ancient history inherent in the places. They tear down 2000 year old areas without giving it a second thought. The Uyghurs have suffered from this, but in this exhibit I learned that it is happening all over China. This artist made an entire exhibit all about it. When I first walked in, the first thing I saw was steel cages heaped on top of each other with heaps of old, broken, discarded furniture heaped inside of them along with other debris. There were also several TV sets with videos of people in their homes before they were demolished. Apparently the furniture and other stuff came from the ruins when the houses were destroyed. It was touching to see the old people in their homes then to compare those pictures with the junk in the cages.

The other parts of the exhibit handled the same theme in different ways. In one blackened room blocked off from the rest of the exhibit by a black curtain, there was a film running of a man who was hired by the government, he thought, to find a way to conserve one of the old areas of a city previously slated to be destroyed. He spoke with such sadness as he described the process he went through and how it was all for naught. Just his face telling the facts with English subtitles.

Another room was also black, barely lit. It contained a boardroom set up - table, chairs, water bottles, lamps, portfolios, pens at each place, all grey/silver/black. There was a strong light cast upon the scene. The description in English explained that there are "shadow meetings" where people make the real plans for what to do with these regions, away from people like in the previous film who only think they're working on it. Powerful.

They also showed a video of a city in ruins, seven years after being torn down - it had not yet been re-created in the form of "new" China. There was no indication when construction would begin.

The artist also painted many abstract paintings that looked like segments of walls with lots of texture, in grey and black, with strips of smooth color behind them.

An exciting part of the whole day for me was to see how many people were there in the arts district. It was a gorgeous day, first of all- Dylan says it's one of the most beautiful days since he's been here - lucky us! But there were so many people actually inside, looking at the art. It was remarkable. Not just talking to each other and ignoring the art like happens at openings in Richmond. No, they were looking at and talking about the art, more like in a museum. I would so love to see something like that in Richmond. Dylan pointed out that there might not be quite the depth of talent in Richmond at this point, but perhaps it would develop, given such a world-class opportunity. Shockoe Bottom Art Center could have been the start of such a region.
It was great seeing interactive art as well.  Mounted onto one building were forms reminiscent of the Men's and Women's icons for bathrooms.  They were life-size, so people went up to them and climbed in so they could be photographed in them.  That drew quite a crowd!  I love this boy's expression as he's trying to fit into the man's shape.

In addition to all these great shows and street merchants, there were also some terrific shops. I went into one where there were exquisite scarves. Scarves are a big thing here, it seems. As they are in Paris. My friend Kathy Benner is really onto something with the fabulous scarves she's creating which I've been wearing all around the world!

This picture doesn't do the shop justice, and, again, they wouldn't allow photos. They had one scarf/shawl I would have loved to buy, but it was about $2000, not quite in my budget. The picture I've drawn to include of it shows the basics, but nothing about the gorgeousness of it.
It was basically a rectangle with two beautiful sides, bordered by fox fur that was dyed blue, black, grey, and white. One side of the shawl/scarf was cashmere, dull aqua/periwinkle with a pretty rose pattern on it. It was nice, but not spectacular. The other side - oh my gosh! That's what made it worth $2000! It was filled with row upon row of handmade roses in variegated shades of blue, grey, black, and white. What I mean by roses - I tried to draw them, but the photo is blurry. Imagine taking a piece of shiny silk that's multicolored and about a half inch wide and maybe twelve inches long. Fold it in half so it's 1/4 inch wide. Roll it into a spiral so it ends up flat and looks sort of like a rose. Then do that 1000 times and sew each one onto this flawlessly beautiful shawl. Add buttons in fascinating places so that it can be worn as a shawl, a cape, a jacket, or a scarf, that side out or with the cashmere showing, though I can't imagine not wanting the spiral-rose to show. It was one of the most captivating pieces of clothing I've ever seen. I wish I could have gotten a picture of it. They had several gorgeous scarves, many of them over $100. I left as politely as I could after drooling all over them. Just kidding.

The store next door to them had very interesting and beautiful clothes too. There's a type of material which might be some sort of stretchy polyester - that makes it sound like 60's horror - it's not that at all. This stuff has vertical folds in it that react in fascinating ways when worn. They had a lot of jackets out of that stuff. They, too, could be worn many different ways. They, too, were about $100-200. I tried a bunch of them on. Some of them bulged in unattractive ways, but others hung in interesting ways. They were definitely eye-catching. Then they showed me a jacket in silk that is textured as if it's got thousands of tiny folds in it but basically it hangs like silk. It was silver/grey with flowers all over it on one side. The other side was bright pink. It's reversible. It's one of those jackets that hangs over the butt scooped in the back and open in the front, falling in a wavy way. The pink inside forms the collar one way and vise-versa. I couldn't pass it up. The price was more reasonable than anything else I tried on -around $75 - and it is so striking! I'm very excited about it. I'll now have a fabulous thing to wear to my next art opening! All I have to do now is get one lined up and paint some new paintings! Easy peasy!

After my big,exciting purchase, we headed back to Dylan's in a cab. We'd taken one the as well, but the traffic was horrible to it took about an hour and a half.a. Thankfully the ride back was better - it just took about a half hour. Each cost about $10. I'm thankful for reasonably-priced cabs here!

After chilling for a bit at his room and talking to his lovely roommate, Taka, we went to a fun restaurant to meet his friends who are leaving tomorrow (all except one of them). We had a fun meal for six with so many varied dishes - exploded lamb, Kung poa chicken, cucumber salad, tomatoes piled high with sugar, some other chicken dish, green beans and eggplant, maybe a couple more. They'd assured me that the food wasn't very spicy and warned me off the one that was. Man, am I sensitive! They were spicy to me! Tasty, but spicy. I finished up two bottles of water washing down the spice. My interpretation is different than others', but that's OK. It was very tasty anyway. Maybe one day I'll get used to spicy food. That would be welcome!

After dinner they were heading off to a club for one last night together and I took a cab back to the hostel so they could enjoy themselves without inhibitions. It's hard to share a last night with someone new when you have so many wonderful memories and stories in common. They were kind enough to invite me though. Nice people! Dylan has lovely friends!

So that was it for today. I'll put a few more pictures in here cuz there were other interesting images from the day. Again thanks for reading! ( I can't put the pictures next to the captions using the ipad. Hopefully you can figure out what goes with what!)

The Chinese seem to have a penchant for cute little bunnies. They show up all over eye place like in this statue - not bunnies, but people/bunnies. On the right are little sets of bunny ears which are attached to hair clips. Girls, young women!, actually wear them in their hair. It's a bit odd to me to see almost-adults dressing like bunnies. Dylan says that cutesie is in for girls. They're supposed to play fragile and needy. Their boyfriends carry their pursues for them, for example. What's odd about that for me, other than the obvious, is that women here seem more equal to men than anywhere else I've ever been. For example, the mechanic Dylan went to for his moped is a woman. When we had to go to another place,a young woman came up and discussed his moped with complete confidence and knowledge. It's so rare to see a female mechanic in the states, I barely knew how to react. One of our cab drivers was a woman too. She was as aggressive and assertive as any I've seen. I don't know that I've seen female cab drivers in the states. There are also many female road construction workers and sanitary workers. There just don't seem to be any jobs closed to women here the way they are in the states. I know women can technically do them in the US, but the rarely do. It was disconcerting to see the stereotypes broken like that - it made me aware of my own prejudices/ preconceived notions. It was primarily refreshing - and noticeable.

This is one of the window dressings in a store at 798. It reminded Dylan and me of Dia de Los Muertos. Lots of people were taking pictures in front of it. These next two pictures are of a woman then a couple being photographed, probably for an ad. It'll give you a sense of the cutesie thing going on.

Dylan and I had a lunch at a very cool cafe situated on the roof of a building in the tree tops. It felt so much like a place Laura and I went to in Monteverde,Costa Rica, it was like deja vu. Very strange! It was a great vantage point from which to see the goings on in the street. A bit plus of the cafe - the toilet was Western style; it was clean; they provided toilet paper; there was a sink for washing my hands; they provided paper towels to dry them too. I am acutely aware of these luxuries this week! It'll be a long time before I'll take them for granted again!

My ultra-handsome son! (One of them, anyway!)

Interesting juxtaposition of language spotted on a wall. I'm impressed by how well this person understands the nuances of English!

That's it for today! Have a great day!

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