Sunday, April 09, 2006

Went to Dashanzi last night, meeting the Subterraneans and a number of other people, to catch an art exhibition by Ai Weiwei at Galerie Urs Meile. The son, I believe, of the famous Chinese poet Ai Qing. He was displaying an installation entitled Fragments of a Temple. You can read more about the artist's intentions here. Ai Weiwei is also one of the designers of the New Beijing Olympic Stadium, which takes the shape of a giant bird's nest and is beginning to look quite remarkable. Anyhow, someone suggested that we should make an appearance and give a spontaneous performance, if possible, and that was what we intended to do.

It was not easy to find and, after walking around in the entirely wrong area, we jumped into cabs and, following Zhou in the lead cab (one of three in our caravan), finally found the right place. The gallery was beautiful and appeared to be very new. There were quite a few people milling about in front of the entrance, holding their wine glasses and talking or smoking. We entered and cased the joint.

One large room displayed the large wooden sculpture consisting of old remnant pieces of temples, and in another room a video was playing. The sculpture was impressive and large enough to walk beneath and among the large pillars. Zhou asked Ai Weiwei if it would be OK for us to perform, we wanted to perform within and around the sculpture, and there was no problem. After about 30 minutes, we thought it was the right time to strike and off we went. People didn't seem to know what was going on as our voices reverberated in the cement-walled room and we walked among the pillars and each other ranting poetry, but by the end of our performance it seemed like everyone was more comfortable. The gallery proprietor was so pleased that he invited us to eat dinner with him and his friends afterwards.

A few of us had already eaten and we had another exhibition to attend, so Zhou and Jorge went to eat and the rest of us went to the Beijing Cubic Art Center showing a 3-D 'game', entitled Nowhere, which was quite impressive. The gallery was owned by a friend of Angela's. Initially, simply watching the screen for 10 or 15 minutes while we sipped our beers, we weren't too interested. It just seemed like a large empty room with trippy computer graphics projected on the walls and ambient background sounds. Once we realized that we could actually interact with the 'game' by using a mouse in the center of the room to enter different realms, we played for about 40 minutes before heading off for increased debauchery. The designers, who filmed us playing and exploring the game, told us that it had been originally designed to be controlled with a person's hands. Fun stuff!

No comments: