Weekend Reads #4

Weekend Reads continues again (read parts one to three here)…a round-up of articles and words that I’ve come across in relation to societal, governmental, commercial/economic and cultural aspects of China and Chinese contemporary visual culture.

One thing to note is the forthcoming BBC Four TV show ‘Art of China’ with Andrew Graham-Dixon, episode 1 airing from 9pm-10pm on 30 July 2014. In this first episode, Andrew pieces together the recent discoveries of ancient art that are re-defining China’s understanding of its origins. “He’ll come face to face with an extraordinary collection of sophisticated alien-like bronze masks created nearly four millennia ago and will travel to the second-longest river in China, Yellow River, to explore the tomb of a warrior empress – where he’ll discover the origins of calligraphy. Always seeking to understand art in its historical context, Andrew visits the tomb of the First Emperor and comes face to face with the Terracotta Army. He’ll end his journey in Western China looking at the impact of the arrival of Buddhism from India on the wondrous paintings and sculptures of the Dunhuang caves.” Looking forward to watch Andrew’s narrative unfold and to see if he enters in the world of contemporary Chinese art.


Li Chengpeng’s Social Media and Blog Accounts Suspended – NY Times blog, 9 July 2014
The social media and blog accounts of the widely followed social and political commentator Li Chengpeng have been suspended in what appears to be part of a continuing effort by the Chinese government to crack down on outspoken voices online.

This chart shows how Chinese became the new French – The Washington Post, 28 February 2014
Chinese has overtaken French as the most common language in the United States other than English or Spanish, while Tagalog and Vietnamese have leapfrogged Italian and German.

Mainland media regulator bans journalists from sharing information – South China Morning Post, 9 July 2014
The mainland’s media regulator has issued a directive banning local journalists from privately revealing any information they obtain during the course of their work. The regulation would in effect ensure information is reported only after going through the tight censorship process.

Why China is land of opportunity for young Taiwanese – BBC News, 26 June 2014
Confident and fluent in English, 24-year-old Nelson Lai would have no trouble finding work in his native Taiwan. But for his first “real job”, he chose to go next door to mainland China. “I will make $45,000 [US$1,500] a month and get free food and accommodation. The salary is much higher than what I got in my last job in Taiwan,” said Mr Lai, who will handle international sales and marketing for a Taiwanese bicycle manufacturer. But it’s not just money that beckons. “Given the drastic changes happening in China, I think it’s a good opportunity to learn something about China,” he says.

China Taiwan

The stay-behind effect of Chinese in Africa, Howard French – China Herald, 27 June 2014
The stay-behind effect is one of the phenomenons author and journalist Howard French describes in his latest book China’s Second Continent Chinese workers arrive on an mission for their company in Africa, and stay to hang on, as they discover it is not such a bad place for them. From NPR. Howard French: As far back as mid-’90s, China’s political leaders had the foresight to understand that Africa had a great deal of unrecognized economic potential — and had a particular kind of demographic profile, meaning that Africa’s population was set to increase very rapidly. There was a great prospect that Africa would also have, along with this demographic rise, growing middle classes. So China was — at the same [time] it was seeking to secure natural resources — it was beginning to think about Africa as a place where it could develop markets, important markets for the future.

Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei′s multimillion-yuan studies find smog is from neighbours – South China Morning Post, 2 July 2014
Smog-plagued cities Beijing, Tianjin and Shijiazhuang have each splashed several million yuan on research that could pinpoint the sources of the toxic pollutant PM2.5 in their air, with initial results showing other cities are a source. At least another 32 cities on the mainland would conduct similar studies and publish reports by the end of this year, which some experts said would help fine-tune pollution prevention measures, The Beijing News reported today.

Urban Future for China – China Daily, 30 June 2014
Asia must avoid outdated Western strategies, chart its own destiny. “Cities are cultural artefacts” says Tom Kvan from the University of Melbourne.
“They must reflect the culture of the way people live and wish to live.” And as Asian cultures use space in a different way to those of the West, the region needs to evolve a different way of planning the cities of the future, rather than following an outmoded European or US model.

Beijing Wants to Understand Its Smog – MIT Technology Review, 8 July 2014
In a new tactic in Beijing’s growing battle on choking smog, sensors and analytics will pinpoint the source and trajectory of polluting particles and forecast levels three days in advance down to the resolution of individual streets.



Time for Chinese business to look to the future – chinadialogue, 8 July 2014
In the future, Chinese companies will need to limit and to take responsibility for the environmental harm they do, says chinadialogue editor Isabel Hilton. The risks that climate change and environmental stresses pose to business are increasingly clear. In the last two years, for instance, an urgent debate has begun among investors, NGOs, banks and think tanks over the value of the fossil fuel reserves that are entered as assets on the books of the world’s largest oil firms.

Tough Times For the Most Interesting Man in China – Bloomberg View, 9 July 2014
What does it take to bamboozle the self-described “most influential person of China?” If that person is Chen Guangbiao, the Chinese billionaire who held a luncheon for several hundred homeless in Central Park two weeks ago, it might require little more than a certificate from the United Nations naming him “the world’s most prominent philanthropist” and “global peace and goodwill ambassador.” According to Chen, he donated $30,000 to something called the China Foundation for Global Partnership in advance of the lunch, with the understanding that they would present the award to him there.


Two Chinese Designers Challenge Traditions, Old and New – ARTSY, 9 July 2014
Like many designers, Naihan Li and Zhoujie Zhang value practicality over grand gestures, but their works present a unique sort of revolution: that of everyday life. Gallery ALL, a new 2,400-square-foot gallery in downtown Los Angeles specializing in contemporary design, is currently in the midst of their inaugural exhibition showcasing the work of these two Chinese designers, who are showing their works in the U.S. for the first time. The show is an important step in carrying out the gallery’s mission to bridge the design gap between East and West—just one of cofounder Qingyun Ma’s many goals for the new space. “There are many young talents and promising designers all over the world, but very few get the chance to present their works to a global market,” he told the gallery, hoping that, “…by fusing the worlds of art and design, we are creating a lifestyle that crosses cultural and economic boundaries.” This is particularly important at a time when contemporary Chinese art is most frequently associated with politics and dissident artists, namely Ai Weiwei or Yue Minjun.

Secret oasis: the artist who’s hidden a swimming pool in the desert – The Guardian, 9 July 2014
Meanwhile, Ai Weiwei is hiding a work of art in Warsaw with a much longer planned timespan before it is found. To Be Found is an archaeological tease: three trenches full of broken pieces of facsimile 14th-century vases will be covered up and left in Warsaw’s BródnoSculpture Park. The buried artwork is intended to be rediscovered by future generations.

Xiang Liping on what to expect at the Shanghai Biennale 2014, interview – Art Radar Asia, 4 July 2014
From interactive exhibitions to Instagram, the 10th Shanghai Biennale employs various means to reach out to the public. Xiang Liping, Chief Coordinator of the Shanghai Biennale 2014, tells Art Radar what can be expected from the young biennale bursting with vitality and potential, arriving in Shanghai later this year.

Stone and Mist: Chinese Landscape Photography by Michael Cherney opening 6 August 2014, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
http://www.nelson-atkins.org/art/exhibitions/stone-and-mist.cfmEnjoy the remarkable photographs of American-born photographer Michael Cherney, who has lived and traveled in China for more than 20 years. Although he uses a camera to capture the images, he prints and mounts them as traditional Chinese scrolls.

In China, Four Seasons of Design – NY Times, 10 July 2014
Isabelle Pascale, founder of the boutique Wuhau in a preserved corner of Beijing, showcases the work of contemporary Chinese and Western designers.

Chinese Artist Exhibits Gorgeous ‘Sculptures’ Built By Bees – The Huffington Post, 5 July 2014
The Beijing-based artist and beekeeper Ren Ri is a focused man. His new three-part series — titled “Yuansu” in reference to the Chinese word for “element” — turns bees into his collaborators. Yuansu II features sculptures made by bees, of beeswax.

Self Improvement: the life and times of Ai Weiwei – ABC Sydney, 9 July 2014
Are you one of our regular students for Self-Improvement Wednesday? Each week, you get to learn something new. Your lesson this week: The life and times of the contemporary Chinese artist and dissident Ai Weiwei. Ai Weiwei is one of China’s most prominent artists and an outspoken defender of the rights of the Chinese people to communicate via the internet.

A Search for Traces of J.G. Ballard in Shanghai – The Wall Street Journal, 1 July 2014
The search for Ballardian Shanghai — local traces of British writer J.G. Ballard, that is – begins on the pavement outside XinYue Club to confused stares from the restaurant’s waiters.

Chinese art shown in the Louvre – xinhuanet.com, 10 July 2014
An art exhibition featuring Chinese calligraphy, paintings and contemporary works is on show at the Louvre Museum. The show, titled “Chinese Dream,” is part of activities celebrating the 50-year anniversary of diplomatic ties between China and France.

China’s wealthy building new museums to display the country’s treasures – 27 June 2014
It is barely five decades since museums in China were being set alight and paintings destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. Today, though, a very different kind of cultural revolution is occurring. Like Feng Huang, the mythical phoenix consumed by fire and reborn from the flames, dozens of museums are emerging from the ashes, their walls filled with paintings.

China collaborates with V&A for first major design museum – Art Radar, 20 June 2014
The V&A signed a collaboration deal with China to set up the country’s first major design museum in Shenzhen. On 17 June 2014, the V&A and China signed a collaboration to build and launch the first design museum in China in the Southern city of Shenzhen. The museum will be jointly run by the V&A and local professionals and will boost China’s design industry and creative scene in Shenzhen.

Chinese artist given pride of place at Chatsworth – The Telegraph, 7 July 2014
The classic vista of Chatsworth will appear very different this summer as one of its best known landmarks is replaced by a work of Chinese contemporary art. The Sea Horse Fountain has graced the South Lawn of the Derbyshire stately home, seat of the Duke of Devonshire, for more than 300 years. In need of restoration work, it has been removed for the first time in its history and in its place visitors will see Tao Hua Yuan: A Lost Village Utopia, a sculpture by the Chinese artist Xu Bing.

Xu Bing Chatsworth

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