Z is for…

…zzzzzzz, and I mean serious sleeping. This week, I’ve been off work due to a complete cacophony of illness…one thing triggered another and before you know it I can’t function anymore and my body is so acid I could run a battery for a MK1 Ford Fiesta. That’s been my “in” joke this week and it’s not even that funny. Anyway, today I feel a little better, more focussed, back in touch with reality and with a HUGE smile on my face courtesy of some China travels news…which I’ll fill you in on later.

So over the last two weeks, and yes its been that long, I’ve done the mundane things of completing my tax return online and for the first time partially self-employed, gone on many bike rides without falling off, a camping trip, keeping up with the World Cup and Wimbledon on TV until England or GB got inevitably knocked out (as it goes hand in hand with summer time) and, of course, basking in the rather lovely sunshine, although when you’re ill it just makes you feel worse. I have also attempted to start the evaluation pack for Arts Council England for the exhibition \”home\”, which I recently curated at the Airspace Gallery in Stoke-on-Trent. Sadly, it is when I get to the budget and finance section of the form I come to a dead-end, not because I don’t know what to do, but because the figures were changed at the last-minute by ACE and I don’t have a copy. I hope they do, perhaps I’ll call them on Monday. Well, I should call them on Monday to get it completed. It is another thing to do on that to-do list on the huge white board in my dining room.

At the beginning of last week, RJW and I applied for the British Council’s ‘China-UK Connections through Culture’ design curators 10-day study tour which will take place in China in October 2010. As we will already be in China, we thought it would be definitely worth an application. The study tour will include visiting museums, galleries and festivals with current design programmes as well as organisations that are seeking to develop their programme in design, including architecture, fashion, graphics, product, furniture, digital media. It is a big opportunity for networking, collaboration and partnership with Chinese and UK curators and organisations. We are still waiting to hear back, and if I remember correctly she said a response would be this coming week. I’ll let you know what happens. We really want this opportunity for so many reasons, and if successful only one of us can attend – RJW because of his relationship and knowledge of product and furniture design.

On Tuesday, I went into the research office at Uni to discover these brand new beautiful pieces of tech had appeared in the space of a week…bye bye PC’s and hello Mac daddies! The screen is a little unnecessarily huge and blinding to some degree, but it is crammed full of all the art and design applications you could ever need. I feel very lucky. They are even set up so you can use a Windows or Mac interface, even though I’m Mac minded. Nice work BIAD, and thank you.

On that day, I also received from my Director of Studies, Joshua Jiang, letters of invitation for RJW and I from Chinese institutions in order to get our visas. Some of them were beautiful with calligraphy and red printed embellished stamp marks, and I’m wishing now that I’d taken a picture of them before they got taken off me at the visa appointment on Wednesday, which I’ll discuss in a minute or two. I’ll keep you waiting.

So what happened in the 9R Faculty Research Degree Panel meeting? Well, I was incredibly nervous as to what the many outcomes could be when really I had nothing to worry about. It was merely a more informal guided conversation around my current research proposal and what changes could and should be made to make it better, clearer and understandable. In my case, as we have always known, it needs to more directive, still more directive! This is particularly in relation to the discursive context in which translation takes place. I need to introduce and state more explicitly the research through curatorial practice component and how it is related to my own curatorial and reflexive practice. We also discussed the range of associated discourses and whether the contemporary understanding of Orientalism was more appropriate to reference than post-colonialism as the latter is interlinked with the curation of ethnographic artifacts and objects. Also China in relation to globalisation and localization, and biopolitical. What do I mean by the terms “transcultural” and “contemporary”? And can I really interview 38 people and compare and contrast their views? We finished the meeting discussing a very integral notion presented by one of the panel members, a quote by theorist George Steiner:

“…the word translation is a mistranslation.”

Therefore, are there two ways of thinking embedded in my research? It was a very worthwhile session and nearly marked the end of my first PhD year.

This week has also been a bit of a PhD research through Twitter week, and I know that’s not the best place to start but it does open some doors in the way of where to look next and networks. I follow a lot of art and more specifically contemporary Chinese art Tweeters (should that word have a capital letter?), one of which, ARTINFO, tweeted the article ‘Shanghai Surprise! ARTINFO China’s Shanghai Diary’. This text  set a comparison between the art scenes in Beijing and Shanghai, stating Beijing as the birthplace of contemporary Chinese art, and Shanghai as the home of fashion, design and architecture, where “moving to Beijing to become an artist became a dream as potent to young people in China as moving to Hollywood is for youth around the world.” However, due to current Expo and the proliferation of art galleries and museums, “right now, Chinese culture is definitely having a “Shanghai moment”.” The article unravels the development of artists, specifically European or “foreign” artists, and their studios in Shanghai, where artists have more freedom in the conceptualization of their projects due to an openness to Chinese collaboration regarding public art. Coined as “negotiation” one artist deemed this “itself as an art form”. This notion made me stop and think as this word “negotiation” is one that keeps on reoccurring in reading, dialogues and discussions. Last year I attended the conference ‘Negotiating Difference: Contemporary Chinese Art in the Global’…Jonathan Watkins, Director of the Ikon Gallery, is currently planning an exhibition at the Today Art Museum called ‘Negotiating Documents’…which makes me wonder whether my own investigation of the transcultural curator through the translation and interpretation of contemporary Chinese art is rather an examination of transcultural negotiations, negotiations between artists and their practice, curators, gallerists, collectors, Directors, the press…the list goes on…this word seems to fit somehow.

Furthermore, a recent PhD graduate Kristina Kleutghen (who I have added to my links section under Contemporary Chinese Art and Creativity) tweeted me when I was getting nervous pre-9R Research Degree Panel meeting/discussion. She specializes in Chinese art from late imperial and cross-cultural perspectives, and is co-managing editor of ‘Modern Art Asia‘, a quarterly digital journal dedicated to the arts of Asia from the eighteenth century to present. I am going to talk to her about the idea of submitting to her journal, but I do prefer paper, or hard copy journals and magazines for some reason, even though digital is taking over and I’m looking at and reading magazines like ‘C-Arts‘ on my iPhone. This strange digital vs. real dichotomy leads me on to the current exhibition at the Chinese Arts Centre in Manchester called ‘Liberation’ which RJW and I saw on Wednesday afternoon. Curated by Carol Yinghua Lu and Liu Ding, it follows the blocked use of a selection of social-networking and self-publishing websites such as Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube in China and takes the form of a visual art exhibition as well as a series of events and a blog discussion among the curators of the exhibition and invited guests. It proposes a close look into the openness and potential of the Internet world as well as its susceptibility to power and political manipulation and ideological controls. As I couldn’t attend the private view, I got involved with the online facet to the project on the ‘Liberation’ Facebook page led by Brendan Fan, artist in residence for the full duration of the show. I experienced my own private view at home, whilst having dialogues with Brendan and the gallery where you had the option to email in pictures of your event. He hopes to test the boundaries of on-line communication and provide participants with a chance to meditate about the way we receive and experience information. You can find out more and get involved here.

Before going to the Chinese Arts Centre, RJW and I had our appointment at the Chinese Visa Service Centre, also known as the Chinese Consulate. We had to discuss our prospective visas with them as we needed them for a longer than average period of time, that being, 90-days, hence the need for the letters of invitation. So after a little nervous wait, some form filling and alterations and an informal chat, we managed to get a single entry 90-day visa for mainland China, as long as we go to Hong Kong at the end of our trip…which has actually now means we are going for nearly 4 months, leaving at the beginning of September, coming home the week before Christmas. I am SO, SO EXCITED with a few butterflies thrown in. The long-haul flights are booked…now the rest of the trip has got to be organised. Inoculations and injections are next, followed by organising accommodation and internal flights…before I go I have secured an appointment and meeting with Jonathan Watkins, Director of the Ikon Gallery, at the end of this month to discuss my PhD research and also his exhibition ‘Negotiating Documents’, which I mentioned earlier and will be attending the opening of at the Today Art Museum in Beijing in September. I really am looking forward to hearing more about this project.

A few other brief things…I received an e-mail stating I’d passed the SEDA Preparing Postgraduate Researchers to Teach in Higher Education course! That’s all I really needed to know, however, the course leader Alan Mortiboys, also gave some rather positive feedback saying it was an ‘engaging piece’, where my ‘enthusiasm for, and curiosity about teaching’ came through. He recommended I read ‘Inclusion and Diversity‘ by Sue Grace and Phil Gravestock, and I think I will, perhaps leading up to my next teaching session(s)…but I can have a browse through it first on Google Books.

Speaking of books, one exhibition which I hope to catch amidst library research and tip tap typing is ‘Book Show’ at Eastside Projects, Birmingham on display until the 4th September 2010. It is an exhibition of artworks, objects and structures that address the physical form of the book. They have used Ulises Carrión’s provocative series of aphorisms ‘The New Art of Making Books’ (1975) as the starting point for the exhibition, where Carrión was the founder of Other Books and So in Amsterdam, a gallery and bookstore that during its short life (1975 to 1979) became the first major centre for the flourishing international artist-led publishing scene.

Carrión’s text establishes the specific conditions of the book as a display device:

A book is a sequence of spaces.
Each of these spaces is perceived at a different moment, A book is also a sequence of moments.
A book is not a case of words, nor a bag of words, nor a bearer of words.
A writer, contrary to the popular opinion, does not write books.
A writer writes texts.

Carrión’s perspective on the form of the book de-emphasises any inherent union between the material form of the book and its printed contents, and implies that each body of material to be made into a book must somehow be addressed to the display conditions that the book offers. They have also produced a publication accompanying this show which I can’t wait to get my hands on. Oooo, that reminds me, I received in the post 5 copies of the recently published ‘INTERЯOGATION: WALSALL Handbook’, which I’m having a peek at below. The publication documents and disseminates the findings from the 2009 artists residency by longhouse, Multistory and The New Art Gallery Walsall, including the one-day project ‘INTERЯOGATION: COLLABORATION’ which I participated in as an artist and collaborator with fellow PhD student, colleague and friend Jacqueline Taylor last year. This was a fantastic surprise as I completely forgot it was being put together. I love the smell of fresh print!

1 Comment

  1. I’m so glad the meeting turned out well – what a relief! But it sounds like you had a great week in general!

    You should definitely get in touch about contributing to Modern Art Asia: our submission deadline for the November issue is September 1. Drop me a line if you have any questions, or want to sound out some ideas for submissions. And since you’ll be in China soon, we’re always looking for reviews of current exhibitions there.

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