opening night 2

Saturday, July 09, 2005

The phone line is down due to a rainstorm last night.
Opening at Imagine Gallery: Forbidden Fruits by Tung Wen Margue. He shows a series of abstract paintings of landscapes with Chinese words and Western time codes on "to introduce a fake fiction as if he were there at a certain time". Painted wooden sculptures on the floor give the show its name. Leatitia serves strong mohitos.

We hop in a cab to catch another opening at Red Gate Gallery: Huang Yan. Brian invites for dinner after. I find Yan's art very interesting. He does performances where he paints traditional Chinese landscape paintings onto faces - a personal ritual that plugs into the context of urban tribal markings. Unfortunately he doesn't speak any English and my Mandarin is very limited :-( but we have interesting conversations with David, a Chinese banker, on nationalism and the way China is portrayed on CNN. After dinner we walk through a huge vegetable market at night - buy curry and fruits.

dirt road

Friday, July 08, 2005
Walking the main roads from Shangrila to Suo Jia Cun and back through the village I can now say I know the true meaning of dirt road. In the village they are digging a ditch for the open sewer to go underground - it's a mess! Toilet functions take place behind half open communal brick shelters along the street, while fetching water and cleaning happens by faucets placed at regular intervals. Most of the buildings consist of a single room with a bed in the back and some kind of store or workshop to the street. A new one-storey building with picture windows to the street catches my attention with its white made beds. I realize it is not a furniture store but a local hospital when I spot a lady getting intravenous food and a child being examined. The road twists and turns by markets and a square with outdoor pool tables before it cuts through some farmland. The farmers' shelters are even poorer than the village houses. Everywhere people are working, cars are honking their horns, bikes are passing, mules are pulling - my son thinks it looks like Busy Town.

gated communities

Thursday, July 07, 2005
We climb Jingshan, the manmade mountain where the last Ming-Emperor hung himself. From here is a great view of The Forbidden City and we decide to enter. The 1 km by 760 m walled city, initiated in 1420, sets the scale for the greatness and power of China. Our walk ends on Tiananmen Square, the worlds biggest, where student demonstrators built a 30 m paper Mache model of the Statue of Liberty before being massacred or arrested in 1981.

In the evening we visit the Italian exhibition Rolled Up opening in neighboring compound Suo Jia Cun. As rents in the 798 area have risen, artist are driven to live and work in more distant suburbs and communities like Suo Jia Cun. Home to over 100 Chinese and foreign artists, built in 2004 without informing all necessary bureaus, it now faces threats of demolition. Media and artists are involved in trying to secure its future. From a New York perspective, these new, rather large, raw, customizable spaces in gated communities seem both luxorious, isolated and weirdly safe. My experiences from living/working in the East Village, Lower East Side, Times Square, Williamsburg and Redhook - were all individual spaces in buildings integrated in an urban fabric. Here the surrounding villages are used by the artists to eat and produce at minimum cost while the locals enter the compounds to act as assistants, cleaners and drivers. I have to think and find out more about this.

big man and little man

Wednesday, July 06, 2005
My family arrives from New York. Li Gang's driver comes with me to pick them up. Back in Shangrila, M&m go to sleep while I work. They wake up in time for dinner. Equipped with a note saying: vegetables, no meat, no eggs (in Chinese), we walk through the village to a restaurant. After some incomprehensible discussions, smiles and gestures we are served a delicious meal - amazing...

back on line

Tuesday, July 05, 2005
Something tells me to call the Apple repair place - my laptop is fixed! I take a cab to town and manage to find the small office on the 9th floor of a large business complex. The key is to call them on the mobile and hand the phone to the driver. I leave with a smile, wishing I will never see the place again.

In spite of the intense heat (40C+) I go for a walk in the area. Workers Stadium is "near by". After 10 minutes I invest in a pink umbrella. Like my Chinese sisters I am now better equipped - it is still too hot - I take a cab home and start transferring the posts of this blog from pen and paper to 1s and 0s.

pink silk pants but no money

Monday, July 04, 2005
Taxi to the Dong Si Da Xing Textile Company with Barbara and Jinny. I order pink silk pants, custom made after a pair I bought at H&M (made in Malaysia) for NOK 149 before departure. I pay 250 Yuan (=NOK) - contemplate that... Then, a long cab ride to Lido Hotel to take some cash. The machine prompts: incorrect password. Depressed and broke I tag along to the Art Supply Stores by the Central Art Academy and nearby artist owned restaurant where sister Barbara buys me lunch. Back home sister Jinny lets me use her computer and I recover the password and jump in a taxi back to Lido. I repeat the password a thousand times in my mind before nervously inserting my card. Will the machine eat it? Happiness at the familiar clicking sound of the cash dispenser.

Sister Beatriz photographs Barbara and me wearing a red scarf. It is Barbara's last night and she has invited everybody for dinner. Our Chinese friends order and the food is delicious and plentiful.

little red book

Sunday, July 03, 2005
Panjiayuan Curio antique market with 3 sisters. Beatriz, (another Red Gate Gallery resident artist) buys some nice hand made propaganda slides, while I settle for the basics: Mao's little red book with many cool pictures of him smoking cigarettes. I imagine hime side by side with the Marlboro Man...

After lunch I go with Jinny to Red Gate Gallery which is inside the Dongbianmen Watchtower on a fragment of the almost completely demolished city wall. It is quite impressive that such a historic monument houses a contemporary art gallery. The Australian director Brian Wallace who has lived in Beijing for 20 years greets us with a welcoming glass of water. The current exhibition explores "The quality of materiality" through experimental ink painting - pushing the envelope of traditional ink painting.

In this city of 16 mill. people I run into Kristin Bergaust and 2 art students, and get to test my knowledge of how to get around. Manage to hail a taxi, get to 798 and show them around to the bookstore and various galleries, we even find the Long March Space after a long walk.

Dinner with 5 sisters at the artist owned restaurant Yue Lu Mountain Dinning Place (typo on the card/menu). We are invited by Bajou who works for Art Today magazine and Today Art Museum, and had a residency at OCA. Many of the successful contemporary Chinese artists have opened their own restaurants in Beijing, often with trendy furniture and walls covered with their own and their friends artwork. Afterwards we go for wine and smoked salmon at Lennart Utterstrøm's studio in Sou Jia Cun. He collects oriental art. Meet French Leatitia who runs Imagine Art Gallery, her Chinese punk rock husband and their 3-year-old son. Walk through the village with Barbara in the dark.