Shanghai rules!

Saturday, July 23, 2005

An urge to check email causes another trip to the evil empire. It doesn't let us connect, but the coffee is still good. Xu Tan and Jin Jiangbo arrive and take us to see a multimedia exhibition at the Zendal Museum back in the Pudong area.

Jin Jiangbo has an interesting piece in the show: the audience can stick acupuncture needles into a medical doll. This causes a video projection to display various computer animations corresponding to the acupuncture points. The animations are political cartoons. Jin Jiangbo was also part of the Shanghai Exhibit at Samtidsmuseet in Oslo last year where he was responsible for the Chinese part of an interactive webcam project that was a collaboration with my friend Laura Beloff. From Zendal we drove to the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum before heading to an opening at BizArt. Two resident artists were showing paintings and video works, and we were introduced to the crew in the back room. BizArt has a non profit gallery where they show young artists, while they make money on various art/business schemes like design, publications, services etc. We had dinner with our hosts before hooking up with the BizArt crew and going to a Kareoke TV place where we got a private room with a TV and 2 microphones and a selection of Chinese and American pop songs. I have to admit Kareoke is not my favorite thing, but I like to watch. Even in Shanghai the world is small - I run into someone I know by chance downstairs in the internet cafe. Rows and rows of computers with youth playing networked games in the late hours. Life is strange. Fly home in a taxi on countless ramps and highways.


Friday, July 22, 2005
Xu Tan, an artist and a good friend of Rain comes to pick us up and take us to the Creek Art Center by the Suzhou Creek. The Creek is a private institution directed by Norwegian Lise Yuen, focusing on young Shanghai artists and contemporary international art. Xu Tan introduces me to the curator Karen Hung and I introduce my work before she shows me the 3 floor gallery with cafe and top floor restaurant. They rent one floor for commercial activities, and the restaurant helps finance the gallery that has beautiful spaces but no external funding. We have lunch with Xu Tan who is super nice and funny. He just came back from a one-year residency in Berlin, and works with politically engaged installations. One project is a public sauna in the gallery accompanied with a video featuring numerous interviews with people about their relationship to their bodies. He tells that the Chinese just discovered their bodies for their own pleasure while before the body belonged to the communist party. Saunas have become increasingly popular, and he provides one for contemplation and interaction. He shows me another project where he supplies one real and one fake dollar bill and a questionnaire asking people which one they prefer. He does not think many people in China understand conceptual art. We laugh at how fortune cookies do not exist in China, only in Chinatown. We are too late for the Shanghai Museum, and head for Fuxing Park where we find that theShanghart Gallery is closed for renovation. The park is pretty with dancing old people and fun stuff for kids. My cell rings and it is Lise Yuen calling from Oslo where she is just down from a trip in the mountains. She apologizes that she was not able to meet me in Shanghai and we agree to stay in touch. Cool! We find our way back to the train station to purchase return tickets so we don't get Shanghaied in Shanghai before heading for Pudong armed with cameras. I videotape and photograph the wild skyscrapers and the waterfront into the dark, while lights are blinking and reflections shining in the pond of a huge park named Lujiazui Greenland. My son and partner make Chinese friends - everybody is amazed at our looks and wants to have a picture taken with us. Give and take.

We find a huge mall, enter to find something to eat, and are happy to find New Age Veggie where we have an excellent meal before taking a taxi home.

sight-seeing part2

Thursday, July 21, 2005
We take the over ground light-rail as far as it goes, and discover that the model at the Exhibition Hall is not lying. Everywhere are huge developments, built and under construction: massive buildings, parks, stadiums, worker's barracks, old and new, rich and poor next to each other. We get a little lost since the map in my book and the actual railway does not correspond. We get off and discover a small market where we buy a set of speakers with sub base for 100 RMB. Back in town we try to get online at Starbucks, but a special phone card is needed. Walk through the old French part of town to Taipingqiao Park where some old men play string instruments while an old lady dances. We continue into the old Chinese area where we find a huge antique market, a warehouse for electronic goods and small stores and affairs where people live similar to in the Beijing hutongs. Later we reach a new mall in the shape of a series of temples that are full of tourists and souvenirs - awful! We find some peace in Yuyuan Garden that has a lake and a tea-house and a bamboo forest, before starting our hunt for the above mentioned phone card so we can go online. Many hours later, we succeed in checking our email while sipping ice-coffee at that dreaded place. Reconnected and charged we walk across Peoples Square - it is huge. Kids are playing in the fountain. We search in vain for a restaurant that no longer exists. When we arrive at the veggie joint from yesterday it is too late to be served, so we end up eating French fries at McDonald's - what a disgrace - but everything else is closed and we don't speak but two words of Chinese.

shame on Manhattan

Wednesday, July 20, 2005
Arrive at Shanghai Railway Station, metro to People's Square where we visit the Exhibition Hall that houses a huge model of Shanghai's planned and actual architecture. They update the model every 3 months. Amazing! They also have a 3D fly-through model of central areas and an impressive model of the new airport.

We walk to the Bund through the main shopping street, Nanjing Road, which contains an endless assortment of malls and department stores featuring world brands. At the Bund, which is the home of beautiful art-deco buildings, we have a coffee at the roof garden of the Peace Hotel. The view is magnificent. The new part of town called Pudong features skyscrapers like I have never seen before. Manhattan is put to shame? We walk along the Esplanade till we find the ferry across the Huangpu River to Pudong. We walk around in awe between the sci-fi looking towers - I am more than impressed. You know how they say "everything is so much bigger over there (meaning America), now I know everything is much bigger in China. There are trees and a huge park and flowers and even lots of people moving around between giant construction sites, newly finished developments and landmark buildings. Most of the logos feature Chinese firms, while I also recognize American banks and companies. We enter the Grand Hyatt building that is beautiful - a kind of cross between a pagoda and the Empire State Building. The view from the observation deck is awesome in all directions. It is getting dark and Shanghai has put on all her blinking colorful light displays. We walk to the subway and take it to a recommended veggie restaurant before we take a cab back to the hotel.

Shanghai for a week

Tuesday, July 19, 2005
My stay in Shangrila is over. It is one of those packing/cleaning/laundry kind of days. Still we end up in a massive traffic jam in rushhour and almost miss the train - enough excitement for a day. We have booked soft sleepers, and the standard is good. I get some hours of sleep and a lot of thinking done.

monday bloody monday

Monday, July 18, 2005

"summertime" as opera

Sunday, July 17, 2005
The donkey did not agree with my stomach and I spend the day between the bed and the bathroom. At night we go to the opening of a new exhibition space in 798 called 3+3 space. The paintings are big, a sequence of a woman's body covered in the same 15 digit number. I don't know the story. Soon a woman starts singing some kind of popular opera that includes the familiar "summertime" in a very unfamiliar arrangement. This is not an avant-garde performance, more a conservative entertainment. The paintings are signed Deng Jianjin 1996 - rather odd to show old paintings for the opening of a new space.

On the way hope we visit the Superstore and pick up some groceries. I like shopping after an art opening.