Went to see a show of contemporary Chinese art at the museum here. Mostly photos of performances and some videos. Almost all of them had to do with Chinese history, especially the last century, when everything seemed to get thrown into a washing machine.
Lots of references to change, memory, tradition, globalization and capitalism. And lots of artists, especially the men, in various states of undress. I was reminded of the late 20th century art of Eastern Europe, which, as with this stuff, featured a lot of artists using their bodies as the canvas or subject. Commentators claimed that Eastern European body art took place partly because under an oppressive regime the body became something that "belonged" to the individual. They also claimed that lacking art materials the body was a cheap and handy focus and subject. Maybe some of this Chinese work developed under similar circumstances — much of it was done in the 90s.
Nice to see so many Chinese folks checking it out — seems they're curious what's going on in the motherland — and how the artists' responses to history and the present matches with the visitors' own impressions and information. It's as much an Op-Ed piece as an art exhibit. A way of asking, what do they think about this? ...and what do I think about this?
Went to breakfast w/David Wild and his daughter Michiko at the Swedish Cultural Center. They serve pancakes with lingonberries or strawberries with ham at a buffet in the basement one Sunday a month. Ladies in costume played accordions on a little stage while other costumed folks danced. Through the window we could see the water — the sound, maybe? — trees and houses on the opposite shore. A seaplane took off. The accordion ladies were replaced by fiddlers and an elderly woman on guitar. A woman sang but seemed not to be moving her lips — as if she were lip synching to a voice from elsewhere. The dancers did skips and leaps. A man did a handstand.
Being close to the Redmond Empire I was slightly apprehensive that the humor in my talk here might not be as apparent. People might take Microsoft products and behavior as something essential to the survival and the economic health of the region, and therefore not a laughing matter. On the way back to the venue I imagined, what if everything that got laughs previously was suddenly met with stony silence? Humor is such an undefinable inscrutable thing, what if one time it's just not there? It could vanish into thin air, couldn't it? I wonder if standup comedians go through this? No wonder so many of them are a mess.
But in the end I got pretty much the same chuckles and guffaws as elsewhere, though being a larger hall the feeling of intimacy was lessened... but they did have an overhead projector backstage that I could wheel out for some show and tell.