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Salon #10: The Dazhalan Project

March 26, 2007

Andre hosted his tenth salon this week, and did so not once, but thrice. The event featured the China premiere of Ou Ning and Cao Fei’s documentary film Meshi Street, which tells the story of a resident of one of Beijing’s old “slum” neighborhoods as he attempts to fight the impending destruction of his home. It’s something of a foregone conclusion that he will fail (one man and his private concerns doesn’t stand much of a chance against the bureaucratic mechanisms of the city works department), but the film does a good job of sharpening the issues around resident displacement and just compensation that strike at many old Beijingers.

The event also marked the kick-off of this year’s Get It Louder festival. The 2007 program will feature a couple dozen satellite event spaces, such as Andre’s home show.

Ou Ning discussing his work.

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DIY Opening at Tang Contemporary

March 25, 2007

Last Saturday’s opening of the Tang Contemporary’s latest group exhibition, DIY, brought out local artists and enthusiasts alike. Cai Guo Qiang made an appearance, took a quick tour of the work on display, graciously attended to a crowd of telephotos, and slipped away before the scrum became too agressive.

The stated theme of the show is freedom from a curatorial viewpoint. How exactly this is possible, since the artists were ‘selected’ to take part in the exhibition, eludes me, but here you have it from the gallery: “Nowadays, the exhibition of contemporary art normally requires a curator, this has already become an established system, and the operation of this system has increasingly led to a situation of the monopoly of art resources, the power has been within the hands and minds of a few people. Curatorial system comes from the West, the original idea was to insure the artistic quality of exhibition and to lead the art direction in levels of theory and ideology. It’s not to say that there is anything wrong with the system itself, human society needs discipline and system, but they are more functional in terms of social economy and social structure. In regarding contemporary art especially, its unique value and meaning is largely contributed by its gesture of independence from mainstream society and its critical manner towards system and authority. So the upcoming exhibition that will be accommodated in Tang Contemporary Art Beijing in March is just such an activity that consciously rejects the conventional idea of curatorial system. The exhibition actually will be curated by the participant artists themselves, it’s going to be an exhibition of autonomy. The artists try to break up with the very idea of fitting into the thematical frame work set up by curators for each exhibition by organizing an art show themselves. This way will certainly endow them with more freedom and liberty in terms of artistic creativity. Most participant artists are quite young, some of them have already acquired their reputation internationally, and some of them have just stepped on the stage. They declare that they are not against curatorship itself and therefore the system, they just want to explore an alternative way that enable artist enjoying doing their work more freely.”

Two of the more memorable pieces in the show:

He Chi’s East Wind consisted of about 40 workers, a flag, flagpole and 40 strips of rubber hose. The workers climbed into a pit and were instructed to blow into hoses as hard as they could in an attempt to raise up the Chinese flag at the top of the pole. Immediately following the performance, they were taken outside of the gallery where they were paid in cash for their efforts.

I like wolves and wolves like me. Qin Ga’s wolf was set to howl whenever a viewer approached.

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Road to Nowhere

March 23, 2007

But maybe someday…

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Farewell to Caro!

Caro’s heading back to Rotterdam, but will be missed in Beijing. Really nice going away party—complete with fireworks—gave us all a chance to say farewell for now!

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Much Ado About Nothing

“When we observe how some people know how to manage their experiences—their insignificant, everyday experiences—so that they become an arable soil that bears fruit three times a year, while others—and how many there are!—are driven through surging waves of destiny, the most multifarious currents of the times and the nations, yet always remain on top, bobbing like a cork, then we are in the end tempted to divide mankind into a minority (a minimality) of those who know how to make much of little, and a majority of those who know how to make little of much.” -F. Nietzsche

Ah, to be a fully laden apple tree…

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Gaobeidian Art District Architecture Competition

March 18, 2007

Out near the East 5th Ring, a disused factory complex is being redeveloped with the aim of creating a new community for artist to live and work. As part of the project Boloni and Thinking Hands Co. have put together a design competition. Professional architects and novice home designers alike are invited to submit design proposals for the creation of 500 cubic meter live/work spaces within the former factory buildings. Cash prizes will be awarded to the top 7 proposals. Deadline March 30. More info at

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First Snow

March 5, 2007

I don’t want to bore anyone with posts about the weather, but I thought this shot was particularly nice. It’s the first time anything has fallen from the sky in the last few months. It was just strange holding an umbrella in one’s hand.

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Fireworks = Chinese New Year

March 1, 2007

…in Beijing at least. It was illegal to set off fireworks in the center of the city a couple of years ago, but the law was relaxed in 2005 and now everyone can have a go at pyrotechnics! We chose not to engage in the actual buying and setting off of explosives, but instead dusted off the old skateboards and went for a little ride through the deserted streets around our apartment building. Needless to say, after about 20 minutes, I was gasping a bit from fireworks-related smoke inhalation. Probably didn’t help that I am fairly out of shape and had a hard time even pushing myself along on the board. We returned home to witness a final, startling display of small-scale fireworks and congratulated ourselves on our bravery and pluck.

It’s been two weeks since the fateful midnight ride and the streets are still wild with small eruptions. Maybe next year we’ll join in the fun in a more hands-on way.

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