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Yang Shaobin

September 20, 2006

If you’re in Beijing between now and October 15, Yang Shaobin’s solo exhibit at the Long March Space shouldn’t be missed. The exhibit includes two films, 8 large oil paintings and an installation recreating the dwelling of a Kuiluan coalminer. The show is titled “800 Meters” and is drawn from Yang’s experience growing up with coalminer parents and, more recently, the year he spent living among miners in China’s rural provinces. The paintings emit a vibrance and jovility that belie the everyday dangers and hardships of the life of a coalminer. But in doing so, they also dispense with the datafication of miners (e.g., 80% of global mining deaths in 2004 occurred in China) and portray a deep humanity. Plus, they’re nice to look at.

I’m glad I was able to catch up with Charles Ruas and check out some art together here in Beijing. Charles hosts a great radio program on WPS1 called Conversations with Writers. Give it a listen. Here’s Charles with Cao Fei’s great Hip Hop NYC video:

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September 18, 2006

The construction workers wear leather dress shoes and suit jackets that are coated in dust and rubble by the end of the day. They tuck their graying white shirts into pleated trousers and wield pick axes like circus strong men. At noon, they fall asleep inside wheelbarrows, breathing in flecks of paint, hands over eyes to keep noisy Beijing out. Awake at 2, the day begins again. More pulling and drilling, pounding and hoisting. The world is continuously built here. It grows from a weed beneath the ground to a tower housing ten thousand. It resembles an obsession, a disorder never satisfied no matter how shiny the structure or how expansive the space within.

Strength is collected here. Sometimes it’s 10 men, but often just one or two. They do the work of a machine or of an ox. Bodies reduced to muscles, they remind me of stories I’ve heard about humans having superpowers when the situation necessitates. The man who lifts a 10 ton truck to remove an injured person beneath it or the runner who breaks the world record against all odds. These men break records all day, 15 hours a day. The man who soders through the night in complete darkness must be breaking some record. I see the sparks falling down from a telephone pole against the black and wonder what he’s thinking.

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Rear Window

September 10, 2006

Preparing for their daily constitutional, our neighbor’s peigons will fly circles above the courtyard between our apartment buildings before returning to their roost.

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