So lot of little things to speak about today, some things which have happened very quickly, and been and gone without a second thought. The first thing that comes to mind is Ai Weiwei’s Shanghai Studio demolition which happened on the 11th January 2011. An image slide show of it being torn down can be seen here. Many, many articles have been written about it. A blog post here by the New Yorker’s Amy Davidson shows Ai Weiwei in the rubble of his studio post-demolition…and another article by the New Yorker ‘Ai Weiwei and the Art of Demolition’ by Evan Osnos states he found out about the demolition through a neighbour of the studio and friend in Shanghai. Mr Ai was in Beijing so quickly flew to Shanghai, “impressed by the speed of destruction.”
“I thought, huh, the destruction of it has already made it art. Art exists in different forms. What is art? Should we go back to the age of only sculpture? At least a hundred thousand people knew this news over the Internet. They watched it in front of their eyes…Everything is in the past. And we have to look forward…”
I particularly like this sentence by Osnos – “The loss of Ai’s Shanghai studio is largely symbolic, a brazen distillation of the kind of mundane civic drama that goes unnoticed most days in China.” Perfectly articulated.
This “event” also coincided (perfectly timed?) with the release of a trailer for his new documentary ‘Ai Weiwei, Never Sorry’. It is a teaser of what the film has to offer, although a little dramatised in parts, or is it? I think due to the high international profile of Ai Weiwei, it will certainly open Westerners eyes (even more) to the nature of contemporary Chinese arts in China, and their global relationships. But from this will further stereotyping and mass generalisation occur? It will also be interesting to see what happens (to Mr Ai) when the film is actually released. It gets you thinking anyway.
I had an interesting response to the blog post ‘Party of Politics’ I wrote at the end of November 2010, which you can see here. It always helps to have the small details clarified especially as regards the government formalities and policies. I should really speak about all this on ‘Bird’s Nest’ – Ai Weiwei in English’ that I now write and contribute to…it’s just another thing on that ever-growing to-do list.
I don’t know if you saw the previous post but I came across a great short video on the Big Think website (which I am slightly obsessed with at the moment) called ‘Creative Types: Embrace Chaos’ by Malcolm Gladwell. It just spoke to me one morning and is worth a quick watch…this website also did the same http://shutupandgettowork.com/…I have no idea who it is designed by but its a brash motivation tool. I love it! And some of the phrases…’Make a list. Do the first thing on it…immediately.’ and ‘No one else believes your excuses but you.’…so many good ones. Take a look anyway and let me know yours.
So in PhD land, I had an overwhelming two-hour tutorial with my first and second supervisor about all things China. With visuals, I spoke individually about all the interviews and interviewees, then we spoke of the next steps and how to process all this audio I have. Re-listening, memo-making, transcribing…a huge process that I just have to embrace and TODAY. As I said above ‘No one else believes your excuses but you.’ I have to get an outline of my content and chapters to them in just over two weeks. Time to put those headphones in and shut myself off from the world. Tired typing fingers ahoy!
Last week was a week of submitting applications, largely job and book-binding workshop applications to try to get some work lined up…contracted and freelance. I’m already a little anxious about funds. I have successfully got an interview for a Research Assistant post at a School of Art and Design at a local University, which I am incredibly pleased about. It’s just on to how I present my visual and written portfolio. A friend and colleague thought about using an iPad…but is that too ummm tech confident? (I’m trying to be polite). We’ll see if my brother lets me borrow his first. I’m considering applying to this Open Books Exhibition and Publication with the Royal College of Art and ‘Every Morning I Check ManyStuff’, specifically with the ‘Find and Seek’ project I was commissioned to do in 2009 in West Midlands libraries. I’m just not sure how appropriate it is…again we’ll see what happens. You can only try.
The first day back at work was a little shock to the system, my one day a week, and it shouldn’t really…its just I kept on getting the question “How was China?”…right to explain it in one word – impossible, one sentence – even harder, and a paragraph well too many words. China is still sitting in my head at the moment and I think it will take a while before I can coherently speak about it. Even my supervisors saw me phase out and struggle to articulate myself during the epic tutorial. By the way the word “epic” is such a 2011 word I think and has somewhat lost its intensity. People use it, like I do, for things that aren’t really that “epic”. So one step at a time with all the recalling. Stories slowly get told and emerge from my long-term memory, but most of the time its stuck as an emotion, that I actually miss more than I thought I would.
Finally, I got round to making the sock monkey kit my elder brother gave me for my birthday last May. So nearly eight months later, I actually gave it back to him, completed and named Herbert (Sherbet without the ‘s’), as a gift to make him smile. Sock creatures of any variety manage to bring a smile to your face I reckon. You can also see in the background the artworks I spoke about in a previous post…the prints by photographer Richard Heeps (right at the back), prints by a Vietnamese artist Tran Cong Dung (thin long prints) and three postcard sized traditionally staged portrait photographs of three unknown Chinese women that I acquired in Hong Kong. It seems a lot of my artist/academic/curator friends embrace some variety of craft just to distract their minds…knitting and crocheting actually, and they create some amazing things. Right, enough of the craft time and slightly childlike regression…now back to research…I bet you never thought you’d read something that spoke of Ai Weiwei and sock monkeys in one place, right?