Culture

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Modern Art Galleries in Shanghai

I last left you with street art in Wuxi and Shanghai, promising to write about the commercial art galleries in Shanghai. Known as 50 Moganshan Lu or M50, I had expected a small collection of galleries. After rallying her and her to join me for a wander, it became obvious M50 is an extensive creative park. How apt that the map of the property also calls it a ‘creative park’. The art galleries that were once factory spaces are a labyrinth, offering a variety of artistic styles — from oil paintings, to mixed media, pure photography or sculpture installations. I sunk back into this environment with surprising ease, after being permanently scarred all those years, carted around by my ex as his art ‘wife’. For a change, art and I were alone, without the pompous airs. We lit candles to set the mood and held hands, which allowed me to make new discoveries about modern art in Shanghai. Contrary to misconceptions about Chinese censorship, there seems to be a lot of freedom to express oneself. M50 is accessible by taxi (not really metro) and prepare to spend a few hours walking and unearthing some hot and happening work. My friends and I searched by instinct. If an exhibition seemed worth a look, we went in. You can also gauge a map for what might interest you when you arrive or research online. There’s certainly no correct way to savior art, no matter what those pedantic art critics say. […]

By |May 15th, 2013|Culture, Shanghai|18 Comments

Vibrant Street Art in Shanghai

“You have to look at it as a piece of artwork.” — Twist, on graffiti In art, there’s nothing if not drama. After I revealed my tale of art woe…  The great love, the loss that tore my heart to pieces, until I finally recaptured the flame. The time came to move towards bigger waters. Shanghai. I ventured on a rainy Friday afternoon to 50 Moganshan Lu, or known as M50, to feast on more artwork. If you’re unaware of M50, it use to be an industrial area along Suzhou Creek, in the downtown district of Jing’an. As the millennium unfolded, several Chinese artists found the large factory spaces and cheap rent appealing. Today, the quarter of M50 is flooded by international visitors and locals, and was named a must-see part of Shanghai to visit by Time Magazine. However, before I got to explore the commercialized art of M50, my curious nature couldn’t help noticing a series of spray painted walls. Some of these walls housing nothing more than junk, replete with junkyard chickens. Droplets of rain didn’t deter me from walking for several yards back and forth capturing some inventive street art. You wouldn’t think such a nondescript street would have this, but as usual, China continually surprises me. The street: The chickens: […]

By |April 25th, 2013|Culture, Shanghai|23 Comments

Street Art in China: Wuxi

Art is a bloated bag of bullshit. Pregnant with pretention, popularity competitions and false muses. I gave it up officially in 2003 after a 10 year run. After I left my ex. My long term ex is a fine art painter. He subjected me to Jackson Pollock smeared floors, the dusty smell of dried, caked paint hardening a litter of brushes, and that nasty substance known as paint thinner — noxious if I left the windows shut all day. Not to mention art shows. Attended by anorexic, existential depressives. And those whinging milky art fags — you know who you are. There I was, planted in a throng of pomp with a frozen smile chiseling permanent grooves in my cheeks, being dictated by the circus. These shenanigans paralyzed any chance to absorb the talent surrounding me. I grew tired of gloss instead of realism. That the art world wasn’t about the work, but how well one could write a proposal for grants, flatter a gallery owner or edge out another artist. Then I grieved. Clutched a wine bottle, threw the covers over my head because deep in my sarcastic, flippant guts, I love art. Art moves me. Makes my mind swirl with possibilities. The whys. The big ‘yes’ of the universe. Here I am in China teaching, writing, going about my life. And believe it or not, besides attending festivals and skipping through gardens, I also do mundane things. The latest mundane thing was going to my Chinese bank. China is still in the thrall of a building frenzy, so across the street from my bank is an empty lot, where a building was bulldozed some months back. A concerte fence surrounds the property to show the illusion of productivity. WE ARE BUILDING HERE. STAY AWAY. I seem to withdraw money frequently because over time the wall changed. Week by week, panels of street art magically appeared. I became obsessed with the wall. Waiting for the next, next, next. Until, I burst. My roly poly art belly broke water. Giving in, I ran across the street one afternoon and stared. At every single detail. […]

By |April 10th, 2013|Culture, Wuxi|26 Comments

Visions of Plum Blossoms in My China

There’s a reason why gardens are protected in the land of the dragon. Amid continuous perceptions of China, you know which ones I mean… The indiscriminate spitting, a toddler relieving himself on the street, e-bikes nearly colliding with bodies, bone splinters in meat — need I go on? See, in a Chinese garden you rarely, if ever, encounter such harsh truisms. Gardens are the no-fly zone. They are pristine. Watered. Tended. Trimmed. Workers are on hand around the clock to clean up debris, rake leaves and fertilize. Everything is flecked with gold and wine porters all oiled up in tight-fitting loincloths fill up your empty glass! Er.. scratch that. Heh. I get my gardens mixed up sometimes. Back to Chinese gardens. Why are they so important to the culture? As a Chinese proverb says: “If you want to be happy forever, make a garden.” Gardens were constructed for emperors, merchants, scholars, artists and writers. Even the common man, by escaping to a public garden. They are meant to be discovered slowly, over time. I use to tutor a Chinese man who longs to travel and wanted to improve his conversational English. Once, he and I were walking by a canal flanked with landscaping. He pointed out a willow tree, and beside that, was a plum blossom tree. Then he pointed out another willow tree, with yet another plum blossom tree, until I finally noticed the pattern. “In China, gardens are always done this way. A willow tree and a plum tree together.” […]

By |April 2nd, 2013|Culture, Wuxi|17 Comments

Mother India is Being Raped

“People tend to forget their duties, but remember their rights.”  – Indira Gandhi Usually I comb through daily news items, share what’s interesting to me and then pay it no mind until the next round of perusing. Sometimes a piece will jolt me, nearly make me spit out my morning tea. A Guardian feature did just that a few days ago. It set me on fire. A controlled bonfire at first. An incendiary headline can do it. ‘if girls look sexy, boys will rape.’ Is this what Indian men really believe? [1] To answer the obvious, yes. A journalist rounded up a sample of Indian men in Baga, Goa and interviewed them about their ideas and impressions of the fairer sex, to explain why the hell women in India keep being beaten and assaulted. All eyes are on India now –scrutinizing a country that reportedly has some fucked up ideas on gender relations. There was the beating and gang rape of Jyoti Singh Pandey, a 23 year-old medical student. Reports say she was with her boyfriend (or male companion, as some news agencies have called him), on a bus in New Delhi traveling home from the cinema when they were attacked by six men. That was December 16th, 2012. She died a few weeks later from her injuries. By January 2013, two new rape cases were being investigated. The first, a gang rape in Punjab, a north-western state. The second, a woman who disembarked a train in Bihar (incidentally, a very conservative state) was attacked in a remote area. […]

By |March 28th, 2013|Culture|30 Comments

The Lantern Festival is All Smiles and Light

Two weeks ago I took part in the Lantern Festival here in Wuxi. Whoopie! Celebrated on the 15th day of the first month of the lunisolar calendar, the Chinese take a brief pause in their packed lives to gather, eat, and set the night ablaze with lanterns. I pestered my friends to join me at a Xihui Park in Wuxi, at the crest of Huishan Mountain. The festival’s origins are as multi-layered as Spring Festival, with mythology tightly woven in the cloth of a crimson lantern. Some myths say the festival was meant to culminate with the first full moon of the lunisolar year, others speak of the Jade Emperor’s anger at villagers who killed his favorite animal, a crane. The Emperor planned to destroy the village with hellfire, when a wise, elderly man (why is it always an old guy?) counseled the village to set off firecrackers and light the entire village with lanterns to make it appear as though it was already in flames. This ruse worked, saving the village. Another one I like is the association to Taoism. The Taoist god for good fortune is Tianguan and ironically, his birthday falls on the 15th day of the first lunar month. To appease and please, devotees coordinate various activities to bring good fortune. Either way, I got my fill of lanterns, lanterns, lanterns! Silky red lanterns on display at Xihui — early evening […]

By |March 11th, 2013|Culture, Wuxi|16 Comments