Just a quick note to say you can now buy some of my cat brooches on Unexpected Boutique. co.uk
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While we were in Beijing we noticed something present on all our maps titled ‘798 Art Zone‘. After we’d recovered from our hectic time tramping around Japan’s cities by replenishing (bloating) our weary bodies with depravedly large quantities of expertly fried rice, we thought we’d go and check it out.
On the day we chose to explore, it took a while for us to reach the place as we were staying in the Dongsishitiao area and we needed to catch a local bus quite far out. (This part was quite confusing and involved a lot of pointing at maps and hoping people knew what we were getting at.) When we eventually found it however, we wished we’d set off earlier, and here’s why.
The Art District is quite a sprawling site made up of a wealth of disused state-owned factories, and is named after a particular ‘Factory 798’; originally an electronics factory. Since 2002 the area has been repossessed as studios, gallery spaces and work shops, and has become a hub of contemporary art, sculpture, architecture and the like. For these reasons it has rather an agreeable industrial, crusty, moss covered, salvaged, reborn atmosphere and is supporting an ever-growing artist community, who’ve propagated them selves with enviable books stores, bars, art shops and restaurants. The fiends.
We had a nice time wondering around some of the exhibition spaces – one of the halls was showing a collection entitled ‘Turn on, Tune in, Drop Out’ which displayed the video piece(s) ‘Luis, Lucia’ by Joaquín Cociña, Cristóbal León and Niles Atallah – a pair of fairly gothy children’s-nightmare-generating whole room stopmotions, which some might argue are no more sensational than you’re average nisan micra advert, but which I personally am still pretty impressed with. This probably has more to do with the fact I could never be bothered to do it my self.
(watch them here)
The hall next door to this was also showing a large selection of the sort of grostesque, dreamscapey, animal infested painting/scuplture that you might expect to find if you took Matthew Barney’s head and shook it out over a nice white piece of paper.
I was kind of bemused as to why such a culturally important area had developed so far out of the city centre, but as it turns out, around the time that the factories were reborn as studio spaces, anything experimental or innovative being produced was generally frowned upon by the Chinese government. For this reason through-out the 80’s and 90’s beijing’s more avant-garde artists were clinging to the outskirts of the city, slumming it in run down buildings that they were inevitably evicted from, so the transition from here to the district of cheap cavernous workspaces of 798 must have been a no brainer.
There were also giant rubix cubes, giant gorrilla/man sculptures, trees cocooned in wool, a huge bird cage set up for people to picnic in (below), and a hell of a lot of other great stuff which I didn’t bother to photograph because I was enjoying my self too much.
Anyway, it is a historically interesting sight, an incredibly good idea and I am very jealous of every one who has the pleasure of practicing there. If you are in Beijing, Go and see it.
Yo. Today I am sewing more brooches to be sold at Unexpected Boutique
They might get buttons for eyes…but I kind of like them stitched for now. I’ll probably be sewing a lot of this stuff on the train with a thermos-flask of tea to stop me from freezing to death, as I’m off to Leeds today to see all the people I’ve missed for six months. TOO exciting, so much dancing is going to happen!
Back in England!
Today I am e-mailing the Kyoto International Manga Museum about an exhibition of Japanese Folklore I saw in August while we were there.
Japanese Folklore is heavily influenced by Shinto and Buddhism, as these are the two main religions in Japan. It features some of the most surreal characters and story lines I’ve ever come across, and I got particularly excited about some of the ‘Yōkai‘ or monster spirit characters, as they have the ability to shape-shift, have supernatural powers and tend to be pretty irritating – for example, there is one character who hides in trees above paths that travelers often tread, transforms him self into a giant disembodied head, and falls out of the tree infront of said traveler to terrify him. There is another character who has a giant eye instead of a bottom, and uses this to terrify people in a similar fashion by pulling down his trousers when they least expect.
Often these characters are a mixture of human and animal, and some can originate from as exotic locations as ‘The Capital of The Moon’ so there’s no end of fun to be had reading about them.
This is ‘Kappa’; a kind of humanoid child sized amphibious river spirit. Kappa inhabit ponds and rivers in Japan and like to fart loudly and look up lady’s Kimonos. Kind of looks very similar to ‘Ponyo’ from Miyazaki’s new film of the same name, but where as Kappa are quite happy just being Kappa, Ponyo is a goldfish who wants to be a human girl. (Sigh, awesome)
I was really impressed with the KIMM – not only does it have an absolutely phenomenal library of Manga new and old, it has a complete history of how it developed and a tonne of interactive stuff like this:
You can also enjoy a beer outside on the astro turf – complete with fake dirt!
Want to go back to Japaaaan.
Tomorrow (The 25th of January, ’10) is the opening of “As is Painting, so is Poetry” at The Norman Rae Gallery, Langwith College, York University – ‘ A showcase of work by ten sets of british contemporary artists exploring the relationship between written word and visual communication.’
Some of my illustrations from my last six months travelling around South East Asia will be displayed alongside work by some awesome artists; Amelia Crouch, Jon Owen, David Steans, Hardeep Pandhal, Kirsty Noble and Gareth Durasow, Nous Vous Collective, David Prosser, Lucy Cheung and Sarah Dee Barrett.
Plus it’s free, and there’s wine.
In other news, I’m currently in Kuala Lumpur, waiting for the Hindu Festival Thaipusam on the 30th of this month. More on that later…
We visited the Kuala Lumpur Art Gallery today, and I was very much impressed with a painting by Zhang Zhengmin, featuring a man covered in pig stamps throwing up over a bird.
Afernoon. This ‘blog’ is going to document creative stuff and impending trip to Asia, along with stuff what I think is good…I think? Yeah lets go with that for now.