Saturday, August 20, 2005
Prepare my Artist Talk for the afternoon. Many people come to see my installation since there are 3 other openings at East End Art. The talk is in my studio and about 10 women and 1 guy show up. It is a nice informal format, and I show and tell about my life and art. Interesting questions and comments make it a good experience.

It is time to go to eat before tonight's concert at the Drive In Cinema. Faye has invited me - her boyfriend does the sound engineering. The music and sound is much better than the last gig we saw here, the security is also more present. Specially a Nina Hagen like female singer does a good performance. After, we go to 2 Kolega's Bar for more music and conversation. Take a cab home in the early hours. Again I have to fend off the 3 barking dogs in our compound before I dive into bed.


Friday, August 19, 2005

I stay up till I solve the remaining issues with the installation. My solution involves the most simple of technologies: paper and pencils. In the morning I make a trip to the Art Supply stores by the Academy. Back at Platform I run into Natalie. She tells me the cleaning lady is upset about my attitude. I am upset too, and end up in tears. It is not easy to work in a country where you don't speak the language, don't know the way of thinking and working and where the jobs are carried out so poorly. I am used to the West where you go to school for years to learn to weld, sew, work on the computer etc. Here, to survive in the city, farmers who cannot read or write are doing any job without the proper tools, knowledge or understanding. I am depressed and exhausted and sorry to have hurt anybody's feelings. We have lunch and a constructive talk about the future of Platform and end up in a very good mood. I go upstairs to unwrap the photographs and put the paper down in the middle of the tent and in the four sections of the think tank. I paint the monitor box in the yellow color used to symbolize the empire - it looks good. Rain helps me write in Mandarin encouragements to construct thoughts about water and to alternately imagine a black, green, red and white earth. It is 6:50 pm and I run downstairs to take a shower. The drain is still plugged. One of the staff helps me, and I have just put on some clean clothes when I hear Rigmor calling my name. She has arrived with Vickie and they have brought wine, juice, grapes and glasses - what great friends! More people arrive, Kathinka and Tie Qiao come with watermelons and music - hey we are having an opening!


Thursday, August 18, 2005
I open the washing machine and water pours out on the white tile floor. The drain and centrifuge does not work. I clean up, squeeze the water out of my clothes, put them in a plastic bag and take the bus to Platform where I burn the water DVD and go upstairs to check on the shoemaker. He is almost finished with the tent. I make some more adjustments, and get a call that the frame maker has arrived with the pictures. I am excited. They unpack the crate and I cannot believe what I see: The photographs are bulky and reflect the light in rings and lines - you cannot really see the picture. He explains this is the only way unless they spray mount the photographs onto foam board, a process that will ruin the prints in a few months. The frame looks good but the picture is unacceptable. I call Kathinka who translates my frustration and Danwen who tells me she never mounts photographs in China. They don't have the technology to do it... After much discussion she suggests to put rice paper between the frame and photo to hopefully put more pressure and reduce the folds. I go back to the frame shop with the workers. On the way I find a solution: glass is flat and if they sandwich the prints between two sheets of glass the problem might be solved. We try and it works! The amazing thing is that the guy who does framing for a living never thought about it. Kathinka is an angel: she comes in a taxi to translate.

The curtain worker has been waiting for some time when we get back to Platform. He looks at the transparent water series and does not really want to do the job. He says he is too busy and has to put off other work if he agrees. He asks a high price and walks out when I try to negotiate. I make Kathinka run after him - I don't really have a choice, the opening is tomorrow. He returns later and hangs the prints in the windows. They don't fit properly so he makes some crude adjustments and the result is rather bad. I am disappointed and exhausted by the lack of skills, attention to detail and care that makes everything look crappy. The metal worker comes and drills some holes in the wall to hang the photographs that have returned from the frame shop. I won't unpack them until the space is clean. The floor is still full of bird shit and feathers and dust. I have to argue to have it cleaned - nothing comes easy today. Tomorrow is full moon.


Wednesday, August 17, 2005
Finally, the rain has stopped. From the 17th floor I can see mountains surrounding the city. I have never seen them before. Mexico City is like that too.

Take a bus to Lido to withdraw money. Stop at the DVD store where I find some of my favorite movies for 10 RMB a piece. Opt for a cab back to Platform where the shoemaker and his wife are busy at work. Never in my life have I seen such a sloppy job. It is unbelievable. Rough stitches sometimes on the inside, sometimes on the outside, the tread is too tight and fastened in bizarre manners. The screen is stretched here and wrinkled there. I am speechless so I just start to adjust and point and gesticulate and somehow manage to improve the situation slightly. No precision, no skill, simple tools and a quick and dirty attitude are not very compatible with how I like to work. I don't know to laugh or cry. At least the finish is consequently bad. A real homemade, no-tech look that might be called charming. I shake my head and smile indignantly. My preliminary sketches for the tent were kind of like this, irregular and rough and attractive. When I later made precise and geometrical drawings and a model it kind of lost its soul, and I had already decided I did not want it to be too perfect and symmetrical. Well, I certainly don't have to worry about that: The tent is hovering 10 cm above ground, occasionally spinning, and all angles are wacky... I make some phone calls to find out how to ship my photographs to Norway. You need an export certificate and several customs forms and it turns out to be a very expensive task. The better solution would be to sell them here and make some money instead of spending. We'll see. I have dinner with Rain at 798, and we finally get to talk about art and things other than flooded bathrooms and sloppy work. She studied in London for three years and understands my frustration. We discuss different art systems and standards until two friends show up; an Italian artist/journalist and a Chinese friend of Rain. We debate political activism in Europe and how after 1989, young Chinese are not interested in politics, only in making money to improve their personal lives. The network is down at At Café, and I walk back to my high rise.

rain, photos and frames

Tuesday, August 16, 2005
Head to the photo lab first thing in the morning. Lots of traffic and water everywhere. Kathinka is already there. The prints are ready and we have a look. They look really good, and I am happy for a second. Next challenge: lamination? mounting? framing? There are no good solutions. The lamination will shrink and leave a sticky edge around the photograph that will only get wider over time. Mounting on aluminum will leave a rough texture caused by the glue they use. I think the manager has had it with my perfectionism, she won't be responsible for the result if I decide to use glass and frames. I call Karen and Danwen, and decide to take my prints and frame them elsewhere.

Kathinka and I hop in a cab and go to a recommended frame shop way out by the 5th ring road. Some very sweet guys greet us and the shop looks professional enough. I pick a frame and we agree on a price and delivery. They will also make a wooden crate for shipping the photographs to Norway. All seems good. Back in the pouring rain we find another cab and go back to Platform where Rain and the shoemaker who will sew the tent and fence are waiting. We discuss and gesticulate until everyone understands everything. The water is still missing in the village, and my bathroom is still flooded so I will stay another night in the high-rise. Kathinka and I are starving since we have not eaten since breakfast. We get a lift through the flooded streets to Vincent Cafe where we have crepes and tea. My feet are cold and wet but the rain never stops, so we head out again. Kathinka goes home while I go to the At Cafe.


Monday, August 15, 2005
Still no water, in this heat that is no fun. This condition makes me think of a novel I read before departure: Blindness by Jose Saramago, where all infrastructure brakes down - it could be a lot worse...

Kathinka meets me at the photo lab to translate. I am excited to see the scans and test prints. It turns out to be a difficult process. The girl on the computer is not as skilled as I hoped, and the necessary adjustments take a long time. It is 8:30 pm before we leave. The big prints will not be ready until tomorrow. In the meantime another rainstorm has past while there is still no water at Platform. I meet Natalie at 798. She has arranged an apartment for me to spend the night, and takes me to pick up my stuff. East End Art looks like Venice. The streets are flooded and my bathroom is beyond description. Water everywhere except in the faucet... Natalie claims it never rains this much and often. We joke about how my life is like my project, a real time performance centered on water. The apartment is on 17th floor and has a great view of Beijing - no flood will reach me here. I take a long shower and watch English news on CCTV.

bad morning

Sunday, August 14, 2005
Woke up to no water, flooded bathroom, no electricity, no coffee. The shoemaker comes by and he agrees to sew my tent and fence. Cannot argue with the price. He will start at 8 pm.
Rigmor calls and we meet for lunch with her American friend Vicky at 798. My plan to go to the Wall exhibition at the Millennium Museum gets interrupted by Vicky becoming dehydrated in the subway. I get her some water, make sure she's OK and see her home in a cab. I stop by At Cafe to check my mail and use the bathroom. Who knows if the water is back. Rush home, but the shoemaker doesn't show up and there is still no water or electricity, only testy dogs.