Congratulations to the organizers and participants of the 9th Shanghai Biennale! It was a tremendous effort lead by the great talent Qiu Zhijie. It was such a pleasure to be a part of the amazing team that coordinated the Biennial. I certainly learned a lot about what it takes to put together this kind of show.
For the Curators a massive amount of research to find artists and funding. They must also coordinate with the museum and the artist. Dealing with all the politics on a personal level one moment and an international level the next. Then, they must carefully consider the very physical logistics of the space and installation of the work at a moment “art” can literally include anything. Not an easy task, but what could be more exciting?!!!
The Artistshave to deal with being in a foreign place with tremendous restrictions on their time and often their resources. I am sure the shift of place affects their psyche, but they should at the same time produce their work, re-created their idea in a clear defined way.
The Audience has the easiest, but possibly most important role. assimilating the work. I went to Shanghai on three occasions, and on each trip I identified with each separate role. Each role has it’s own set of challenges. I was neither a curator or an artist, and on my final trip I was there with my family. I therefore identify most with the audience role. The experience of the audience is so crucial. I really wish I had been able to see more of the show, but my 3 day trip was simply not enough time to visit the huge set of exhibits. Art takes time to be absorbed.
Considering the challenges and the vast scale of the project, I have more respect than ever for the efforts of Qiu Zhijie and his team.
The grand opening of the Shanghai Biennial is fast approaching. The main curator organizing this massage production is also the main adviser for my masters degree program at China Academy of Art, Professor Qiu Zhijie (邱志杰). The biennial will be in the brand new museum for modern art in Shanghai, the first exhibition held in this space. The existing factory space has been renovated and the new work is currently being installed.
The biennial’s framework has also been expanded this year for the first time to include several project outside the museum space, such as, the City Pavilion project and the Zhongshan Park project. In professor Qiu’s opinion, representing one’s city in this exhibition carries even more significance than representing one’s country and yet doesn’t present as strong of a political statement.
There will be about 28 cities represented, and I will be helping to build the Pittsburgh pavilion. Tomorrow the heavy work begins. I’ll update you on the progress.
The Shanghai Biennial is the reason I am away from home and free to write this blog post, but weather in Shanghai or Hangzhou, my experience walking on the street in China remains a constant challenge. Today as I stopped to buy a snack from a man selling wraps on the street, I lamented the fact that everyone constantly comments on my hair. The problem is the inevitable question and often belligerent and incorrect answer: “Is her hair real or fake?” “Of course it’s fake! It must be fake!”
It really maddens me that everyone believes my hair is fake. So much so that the question is rebuffed as a stupid one. And then there are the constant giggles and comments about my skin color. Women in China go to extreme lengths to prevent their skin from getting tanned. They prefer pearly white skin as a status symbol.
One of my friends in the art program, a tall and handsome white man from France pointed out that the issues of hair and skin are prevalent also in the black community. He says he always has to deal with people commenting on how tall he is. I don’t think he gets it. I guess I’ll have to take him out for a 30 minute walk one day. When people see two of us walking together as a couple, I’m sure he’ll begin to understand the depth of the problem.
I of course talk with tons of people everyday about where I am from and let them touch my hair. Today a woman in the restaurant where I ate dinner counted out my dreads. Apparently I have 220 dread locks. That was a fun interaction. On the 15 minute walk home I told myself that I should just focus on things like this and ignore everything else. It worked for about 5 minutes. A few people passed and stared, the usual question rang out. Ok, I can handle it. Then a couple passed by. The guy said, “Oh a black women.” After a few seconds they started to laugh loudly. I just can’t understand why that was so f—ing funny.