The Temporary – 临时 lín shí

I thought I’d begin this post with a film (below) of when 8,000 Chinese lanterns were released over Poland to mark the first day of Summer, Midsummer’s night, on Tuesday 21st June 2011. Visually beautiful and I can’t imagine what it felt like to be there…even the video silenced me…such a “temporary” experience.

One other “temporary” happening is the prolonged detention of contemporary Chinese artist Ai Weiwei…he has finally been released after 80 days. FINALLY! Since his release, he has been charged with a tax bill of over 12 million yuan (£1.2 million), which he is (obviously) challenging. He is getting back into creating work and according to the Swiss Gallery owner, Urs Meile, who represents Ai,

“He is full of energy and again intensively dedicating himself to his artistic creation…He is able to work without interruption, to make plans and to realize projects together with his team.” – Urs Meile

He is still under a very tight guard from the Chinese government and cannot give interviews or meet with journalists. Ai…we can’t wait to see what creative offerings you have for us in response to your recent “temporary” experience. It is important not to forget those who are still detained and missing…in our thoughts and we never give up hope for your freedom.

So there has been so much talk of the “temporary” within my life at the moment…mostly temporary change as I can finally tell you THE BIG NEWS…news that I will be moving to Shanghai, China, for an academic year to lecture in Visual Arts (Fine Art and Visual Communication) to pre-BA and pre-MA students at the Academy of International Visual Arts (AIVA). A previous member of the faculty left to take a job at an architectural design firm so the post was offered to me. For many weeks I was in discussion with the school Director about the what, where, when and why’s of the position…and how it would fit around my PhD studies (a possible sabbatical might have to take place). The contract was finally confirmed at the end of last month…my flights have been booked…and I leave at the beginning of October (eek!). I will work full-time for the first semester and part-time for the second semester, returning to the UK in-between in mid-January 2012 for a few weeks whilst the Chinese New Year takes place. So I will be in China until June 2012 time or maybe later…I have a few ideas up my sleeve as to where to visit afterwards for a brief, and I say brief, holiday. There is so, so, SO much to do by then…and i’m trying not to get overwhelmed by it all. The next thing is to get a work VISA…this means I can get a Chinese bank account. I like getting debit or cash cards in a different country as it makes the whole experience feel a little more real. All very exciting, and I’m pleased that I will be able to get to know Shanghai…China…and the people I met out there last time, a lot, lot more. Many stories to come, right? My finger tips are already scared about how much typing they will have to do. I’m smiling whilst I type that as you all know I actually love it. I’m thinking of investing in a Flip video cameras so I can upload more and more onto the blog for you readers out there…I want it to become far more visually accessible. Has anyone out there got any other suggestions as to similar devices? As I hear Flip is about to disappear off the face of the earth. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

As of last month, I am officially the Coordinator for the Centre for Chinese Visual Arts (CCVA) based out of the Birmingham Institute of Art and Design (BIAD), UK. The Director and I are currently in the process of redesigning the website in time for the annual conference in October in Beijing, so I haven’t put the hyperlink in here…but watch this space! As soon as I get any sneak peeks I’ll let you know. It’s going to be contemporary, simple, and interactive website where some of the other PhD students within my department, whose research is related to the CCVA, will contribute. Once this aspect of the CCVA’s development is complete, I will then go on to help with providing curatorial and management support for exhibitions and conferences, organising events, editorial support, whilst being the main web editor for the CCVA website. I am incredibly excited by this role and the possibilities of what projects I might become involved in.

Regarding the journalism and writing side of things, I have written an article and review of the Huang Yong Ping exhibition at Nottingham Contemporary, UK, which has been published online at Art Radar Asia entitled ‘Chinese artist Huang Yong Ping’s once-banned ‘Bat Project’ gets first European showing’. Take a look if you have the chance. There are some fantastic visuals on there. Furthermore, I have been speaking to Chris Moore, Editor-in-Chief from Randian, an online magazine about art and culture in China, about my more official and frequent involvement as a contributing writer. This is again very exciting, as I am going to be able to be paid to write from the UK and China and more personally…my own point of view!

Last weekend, RJW and I managed to catch a few events as part of the Manchester International Festival that’s currently taking place until the 17th July 2011. We managed to see the opera ‘Dr Dee’ by Damon Albarn and Rufus Norris at the Palace Theatre…quite a melancholy storyline with an ingenious use of paper to divide the set. You could see it was a complete labour of love…Damon’s passion for his opera was clear throughout the performance. If you get the chance I would recommend it. RJW and I were staying in a hotel at MediaCityUK on Salford Quays and came across the project ‘Music Boxes’, a musical adventure for children housed in shipping containers as part of the festival. Some containers were miniature performance spaces, some were specially adapted recording and animation studios, while others were interactive installations allowing the very young to explore a fantasy world of sound and music. RJW and I wanted to go and see what it was all about as, from outside, it sounded amazing…but as we don’t have children and aren’t children any more we weren’t allowed. A really creative educational concept.

On Wednesday night, I have a ticket to go and see ‘The Life and Death of Marina Abramović’ again as part of the festival. It stars Robert Wilson, Marina Abramović, Antony, Willem Dafoe on at The Lowry…I’ve heard mixed reviews so far from colleagues and friends. So I’m in Manchester that day as I have a meeting with the Chinese Arts Centre as regards my ‘evaluation in practice’ aspect of my PhD…the curatorial project that acts as a working case study of my research. The proposal looks into the idea of ‘The Temporary [临时]’…it aims to be an open “transcultural” curatorial platform for the discussion of the fast-pace of change within daily life in China today. By observing first-hand the translational route of contemporary Chinese art, it will question how the Western reception bears influence on the contemporary Chinese artists, their artistic practice, and the Chinese contexts of their artworks, from the Chinese to the Western perspective. I won’t say too much more about the artists in mind or the specific concepts as there is so much in discussion at the moment. Whilst in Manchester, I also hope to see the group exhibition ’11 rooms’ at the Manchester Art Gallery, which includes the contemporary Chinese artist Xu Zhen…it should be a very interesting day and I’ll let you know what happens.

The day after that on Thursday, I’m heading up to Liverpool to meet with the now ex-Director of the Liverpool Biennial, Lewis Biggs, to discuss my PhD research and how he has been so instrumental in getting contemporary Chinese art into the Liverpool Biennial and the UK art scene. He only finished in his role just over a week ago, so he is wrapping up loose ends at the moment before heading off on a well-needed break. I think I have his time for an hour and a half…I then have to get back to Wolverhampton for a meeting about a new online photography magazine, as I am on its editorial board.

On Friday, I went to visit my godparents in Sheffield. I call them Aunty and Uncle, and they should be, but they’re not “real” ones if that makes sense, not by blood…I think most people have someone like this in their lives. Anyway, my godmother has four pieces of work in the The Great Sheffield Art Show. She applies nearly every year with her paintings and collages from her amateur art class, and usually has most works accepted. It is a show of over 1400 works by semi-professional and mostly amateur artists set alongside a handful of professional artists…it’s always good to take a look at where talent begins, right? I came across a couple of pieces and artists that showed real potential. This included one of the professionals called Paul Schatzberger…very Andreas Gursky-esque if that makes sense, from that Hilla and Bernd Becher style and schooling. The photographs I liked aren’t on his website but I would take a look. There is definitely something about them. I also came across the papercut works of Natasha Bowman…it fed my love of paper and book arts.

Natasha Bowman, 'The 1st Year' and 'Freedom'. Images © the artist.

So as I stare down at my ever-growing to-do list, I am trying to see what else is coming up…well I should start with tomorrow when I’m meeting with Director of the Ikon Gallery, Jonathan Watkins, helping to welcome the four winners of the 2010 John Moores Painting Prize China. The artists Zhang Wei, Zhang Zhenxue, Zou Tao and Li Zhouwei, will be accompanied by Ling Min, who is Professor of Art History at Shanghai University Fine Arts College and visiting scholar of art curation at Goldsmiths, London, UK, in 2008. In 2009, she joined the cultural leadership exchange program with a four-month placement with the Liverpool Biennial, which I could actually talk to Lewis about on Thursday (noting down now). I will have the opportunity to introduce myself, the work of the CCVA, and have an open agenda to discuss my PhD research…I might even consider one of the artists for ‘The Temporary [临时]’. We will see. So I reckon I might have said enough already today. There is really a lot to come over the coming weeks…A final thought, which a good friend sent me this quotation this week…I stand by it.

“I never set out to become anything in particular, only to live creatively and push the scope of my experience for adventure and for passion…This is where my heart beats hardest…Most folk don’t even know who we are, and what we do or how we do it, let alone what they pay us for. I never want to take this for granted so I try to keep motivation simple, real, and positive…If I only scrape a living, at least its a living worth scraping…If there’s no future in it, Then this is a present worth remembering.”

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