Saturday, December 27, 2008

Shanghai Surprises

The weather gods were merciful, permitting short windows of opportunity for take-offs and landings despite frigid temperatures and glazed runways. Remarkably, we made all our tight connections from Boston to Shanghai just moments ahead of the worst ice storm in recent history. The full moon hung against an indigo sky above a frothy sea of rose tipped clouds at dawn as we reached 35,000 ft.,a special sight I'll never forget.

I am up in the wee hours of the morning wrestling the otherworldliness of jetlag, sleeplessly sleepwalking, slowly readjusting to the twelve hour reversal of night and day.
Back in the silent snow-covered woods, where few trees escaped the ravages of the fierce winter storm that ripped icy branches and power lines down for many days, I think of the futuristic forest of eye-boggling architecture I found myself in for almost two weeks.

From this rural dirt road to bustling city boulevards lined with buildings which seemed to defy gravity with unexpected bulges and curves, and even invoked mild vertigo in the viewer from certain angles. At night the city takes on a new life, outlined in purple and blue neon, alternating bands of color climbing skyward and descending to begin again.It is New York, L.A. and Las Vegas all rolled into one sophisticated over-the-top hybrid.
As whisper quiet Mag Lev trains flash by at 430 kph at top speed, local Fashionistas take it all in stride in knee-high stiletto heeled boots.

More traditional glimpses of old Shanghai can still be found in Nan Shi, the tangle of tiny lanes lined with dusty bicycles and overhung with drying laundry located behind the old colonial fa├žade known as the Bund.
Here incense wafts from Taoist and Buddhist temples, their courtyards surrounded by candle lit alcoves dedicated to Kwan Yin, Goddess of Mercy, the Buddha and Taoist Generals and sages. It was here I felt I had finally “arrived” in China. Marveling at the triple-tiered upturned roofs, enchanted by the drums and flutes played by a robed procession of chanting priests and laity, I opened my senses to this experience and was richly rewarded. Finding passageways to Ming period classical gardens with ornate rockeries,stunted Luohan pines and jade colored pools teeming with fiery orange carp added to the spell. This was the China of 19th C.Romanticism. Days later, sitting in the chilly fog by a still garden pond in Suzhou, ancient silk city visited by Marco Polo, I enjoyed fresh chewy noodles in scalding salty broth, garnished with emerald green bok choy and savory cilantro. Simple, soulful, perfect. These pleasant memories are the Christmas presents I unwrapped this year.

Our art project at the Zendai Museum was joyfully presented and enthusiastically received by passers-by in the trendy Thumb Plaza in Pudong. Original music that master guitarist, John Sheldon, created for this piece bridged the language barrier with ease and had everyone bopping to the rhythms of East meets West. Pictures and sounds of Eye to Eye are soon to be featured on our blog http://eyetoeye-intrudes.blogspot.com/ if you’d care to share the experience.

For a trip through a classic Ming garden visit http://www.yugarden.com.cn
I hope your holidays were happy ones!

Monday, December 8, 2008

East and West Interface

As the temperature plummets to zero and weekdays rush headlong into holidays, I find myself totally oblivious to this ritualized preparation for celebration and it is a bit disconcerting.

For I find myself absorbed instead with visas and flight plans and packing for a surprise trip to Shanghai and rushing to finish an art piece that will be presented at the Zendai Museum of Modern Art there.

Over the summer, three other artists and myself collaborated on an interactive project called “Eye to Eye” and submitted the proposal to the Zendai’s Intrude 366: Art and Life call for artists.

This year long art event ambitiously features “one cultural headline a day” from 100 Chinese artists and 266 Western artists who “intrude” upon the everyday lives of the people of Shanghai and introduce new ways of looking at, thinking about, and perceiving art.We were delighted to be invited and our proposal will be presented on December 20, 2008.

For those who may have interest, a blog is being created about this and our time in Shanghai.If you want to see some of the images please go to
http://eyetoeye-intrudes.blogspot.com .

We have been so busy fabricating the 732 images of Western and Eastern “art eyes” needed to produce the strand of interfacing symbols, that only a rough sketch is up at this time. These small paintings on standard shipping tags will be cut and taken away by passersby on the city sidewalks bringing two artists, one Eastern and one Western,together as the strand shortens. Following is the essence of what will be handed out to explain this Western concept to the Shanghainese.

"Seeing “eye to eye” is a North American expression that implies that two individuals (or groups) can come together on a level playing field to express their own perspective while also acknowledging the other’s viewpoint.

It is a courageous act to see “eye to eye”. It causes one to open oneself to the possibility of new thinking. It is a step towards standing on common ground and arriving at mutual understanding.

In this time of expanding globalization, it is more important than ever that this concept of attempting to see “eye to eye” be promoted to open dialogue and insure meaningful cross-cultural exchange between nations.

“Eye to Eye” underscores the commonality between East and West via the human eyes that look out at us from Eastern and Western art.

The “Eye to Eye” project collapses the past with the future. It places us in the present to combine art images that may be obscure with images that have saturated contemporary culture.

Using the simplest of means, “Eye to Eye” offers profound possibility for forging a rich collaborative cultural vision for the future.

You are invited to take away a piece of this artwork as a symbol of a mutual exchange of ideas. Your participation shortens the distance between East and West and permits us to see each other in a positive way."

What a delightful adventure awaits in a few short days, as I leave these silent woods and meld into a sea of 20 million souls!

May each of you find delight in the winter celebrations to come, as we bring 2008 to a close and prepare for a brand new year!All best wishes to you....