Saturday, October 27, 2007

the reason we love beijing? #798

we had the chance today to either go to the forbidden city,
which happens to be right next door to the hotel
(literally. hotel, then biiiig wall surounding a bunch of old buildings.)
or trek out of the downtown area to a bunch of crumbling old warehouses that are supposedly becoming the new art scene of china.

so of course, we hired a car for the day (highly recommend this, as NO ONE here speaks even a smattering of english, or is interested in trying. it is kind of hysterical, they are almost like americans here, when they don't understand your language, they just speak cantonese LOUDER and FASTER at you. i swear i've seen americans do the same damn thing in paris.)

we drove a good 45 minutes outside the city (ok, not outside. through. it's like houston here, it just keeps going and going and going. there are so many huge buildings and cranes churning here, that even though the city is a huge grid, you get lost in a heartbeat. it's all modern, it's all striking, and it's all overwhelming.) and then turned into what appeared to be this crumbling bunch of old factory buildings. actually, acres of old buildings. and some big plants still working, steam belching into the air and the sidewalks.

did i mention the fog? it's settled in for good here.

which normally would be a problem, but oddly, here, has become a bit of a mood enhancer. you always feel like you're on a backlot, that the action is about to begin on some noir thriller, and you have a pivotal role to play.

so, anyway, cue the fog, the old buildings, the steam . . . and the international modeling competition.

that's right. got dropped off, heard the booming music, wandered right into a multi-culti modeling walk off. it was like all of mainland china, plus half of russia were milling around in leggings and heels, waiting to walk the catwalk for the judges. we hung around for about ten minutes before people started staring and then coming up to us. apparently a BIG deal that americans had come all the way to the 798 for the competition.

oh yeah, the 798. it's the name for the area, and the original building address in the center of it all.

so we started to walk, and our pulses started to take off. because it is not a burgeoining art scene. it is a MAJOR art scene. there is stunning art everywhere, on the streets, grafittid on the walls, and every other doorway is a stunning, completely finished out, glassed in minimalist gallery space. then crumbling space, then space being rebuilt, then glam gallery again. then street art. then gallery. then gallery. then pile of rubble.

we were almost running through the district by the end.

we eventually found the heart of the complex, a courtyard called possibility. literally. and it put modern re-use archictecture to shame. stunning use of space and glass, repetition of form, vast interiors being finished out. . . you've heard me say this before, but i wanted to MOVE IN. and you could stand there and watch the labor being done with bamboo winches and manual labor, the sheets of glass being installed, the iron window frames being winched up to the third floor by just two men . . . the speed is unreal.

we walked into the back glass building and found the overview and scale model of the finished place. the chinese do NOT fool around. the whole 798 is planned, scaled, building. and it's all just for ART.

which leads me to the next point. the calibre of artist? international. i'm going to have to dedicate three more posts to show the range . . . for instance, here's grr and avec, international stars:

am i sad i missed the forbidden city? you tell me.

#798 - dongi lee

#798 - yang maoyuan

Friday, October 26, 2007

#798 - chasing tim, i find anish kapoor

this was otherworldly.

we went into gallery continua in the 798, just randomly. there was a corridor to the left in the reception area, a non-descript entry to a curving hall. we started down it. it kept going. and turning, and turning and getting dimmer and dimmer.

we started to laugh, and then run, chasing each other down this constantly curving corridor, until, like daybreak, light, and suddenly . . .

we broke from the hall into a circular chamber, and were facing . . .

a cyclone.

a continuous, swirling, tight vapor stream, pouring down from a vent in the middle of a round room, twisting and turning, serpentine and ephemeral . . . it broke my heart and made the poet in me want to wrestle it to the ground. the floor beneath it was damp from contact, but there was no sign of it being touched.

mesmerized. immobile. us, not the art.

it was an installation by anish kapoor, a man whose work stuns me every time i see it. from cloud gate in chicago, to this, he finds a way to force the beauty of the material world into a strange, startling perspective, to beg contact from the viewer, to demand you stop, and feel the world.

from that room, which i didn't want to leave, we found levels of his work, mainly because tim kept moving, moving, moving . . .

from paintings made with pigment and forced smoke:

to carved alabaster pieces meant to almost constrain the light around them:

to video installs that recalled wounds:

to giant bubbles that seemed to be merely residing temporarily on walls, until moving on:

get thee to galleria continua. bear witness.