Souvenir from Shanghai – Ai Weiwei and his fighting against imprison of art

This weekend for the first time in its history the Royal Academy of Arts is opening their galleries around the clock for the entire final weekend of Ai Weiwei –  56 hours nonstop!!!

screen shot

Screen capture by author, 13 Dec 2015.

Ai Weiwei is one of China’s most influential artists. What makes him so special and famous is his talent – thought-provoking art projects, as well as his struggle against China’s authority.  But interestingly, his exhibition in RA started while China’s chair man Xi Jinping was visiting UK – the authority and the one struggling with the authority visiting London at the same time. It might have some political meaning or it might not…

‘Souvenir from Shanghai, 2012’ (Cat.19 in the exhibition) is a concrete and brick rubble from the Ai Weiwei’s destroyed Shanghai studio, set in a Qing dynasty (1644–1912) rosewood bed frame.

DSC_2016

Ai Weiwei’s ‘Souvenir from Shanghai’, photo by author, 25 Oct 2015, in RA.

The story behind this project is though provoking. Approximately two months before the Sichuan earthquake, the city government of Shanghai approached Ai with an invitation to build a studio in the nearby agricultural area of Jiading as part of a new cultural district. Although he initially demurred, the artist changed his mind and designed a building with an undulating roofline and a central courtyard.

DSC_2018

A model of Ai Weiwei’s home and studio in front of ‘Souvenir from Shanghai’, photo by author, 25 Oct 2015, in RA.

But by the time the project was realised in 2010, Ai’s relationship with the authorities had soured. He had published his criticism of the Beijing Olympics in such international publications as The Guardian; campaigned vociferously for the rights of the families of  earthquake victims, as well as those affected by the tainted infant formula that caused the deaths of six children and illness in over 300,000 during the summer of 2008; and suffered a beating by the Chengdu police. The Shanghai authorities suddenly notified him in August 2010 that he had failed to apply for the proper building permits and that his studio would be demolished. They razed it on 11 January 2011, yet paid Ai more in compensation than it had cost him to build.

Ai’s art has a clear characteristic which is political-themed.

Everything is art. Everything is politics.

(web resource)

Some opinions collected by myself around me:

  1. The power of decision making in nowadays China is still hold in the hands of a small number of people and others do not have the rights to speak against the decision makers.  Like in the feudal age.
  2. China is making progress on these issues but it takes a long time to finish the transforming and the country is in the middle of it. Just give it time.
  3. Ai Weiwei is a fake-artist who is good at pleasing the western public and politicians with claptrap-themes which are against China so they can put their fingers into China’s internal issues. The western would like to reach the conclusion that communism is not going to work so China would follow the westerns’ guidance.

 

Did you just ask what’s my opinion? Well, Ai Weiwei’s exhibition is the easiest one for me to understand among all the art exhibitions I have visited  🙂

 

 

ps.  13 Dec is a national memorial day for Nanking Massacre (AKA The Rape of Nanking).  May there be peace in the world for good.

 

 

Reference:

Bracker, A. (2015). Ai Weiwei: An Introduction to the Exhibition for Teachers and Students. Available: https://royal-academy-production-asset.s3.amazonaws.com/uploads/00adeea4-2828-421c-9c9e-1a935b01ca0b/AWeiwei_final_lowres.pdf. Last accessed 13/12/2015.

Royal Academy of Arts. (2015). Ai Weiwei. Available: https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/exhibition/ai-weiwei. Last accessed 13/12/2015.

Advertisements

Bing’s Souvenir Poker Cards

Bing is a strong Chinese woman in her late 2os, and she has been a traveller for many years. She is from Heilongjiang Province and came to UK to study in 2010 and went back to China this year. Her plan is to run a youth hostel in Harbin.

Her story with souvenirs were started by a set of poker cards she bought in the Forbidden back in the winter of 2006.

Li Bing's Forbidden City Poker Card

Bing’s first set of souvenir poker card. Themed on Forbidden City. Photo provided by Bing, 24/Nov/2015. Same below. 

“I bought this set of poker cards because each card of it has a thorough and detailed introduction of an ancient building in the Forbidden City. It is a souvenir comes with knowledge of the place I have visited – it can help me understand the place better. Also, it is quite small so easier to carry home than other souvenirs. Not so likely to be broken and it is easier to keep.” Bing said.

After nine years of collection, Bing’s poker cards have reached a certain number. Most of them were bought at the site of interest, but some of them came from some special shops which only sell cards.

“I don’t might where the cards are produced. It would not affect my opinion and feelings towards them.” Bing said, “I’ve never used them as normal playing cards, they are my precious souvenirs. I store them in a safe place and take them out to have a look when I remember them or when I am in the mood.”

Li Bing's Poker Cards

Bing’s collection of souvenir poker cards.

 

Beside souvenirs, Bing also collects cards in other ways, like in instant noodles (in some certain era, some brands of instant noodles would put cards in the package for customers to collect. Those cards might come from pop TV dramas, novel illustrations…e.g. Pearl Princess, see below).

Cards of Pearl Princess

Bing’s card collection of TV drama, Pearl Princess. 

After collecting cards, Bing is interested in  collecting other souvenirs. When she travels to a new place, she would buy a set of poker cards, a fridge magnet and send herself a postcard.

It is possible that one of them is missing or she forgets to buy one of them, but she would not buy place souvenirs online. “Missing is missing, I accepted it as part of the place experience. I understand some people buy collections online because they want to have a ‘completed’ collection. But for me, I only want to keep the ones I take home from the places I have been to. Even I forgot to buy, I would not look for them online. It means different.”

Bing started collecting fridge magnet only 1 year ago, so “my collection is not many”, she said.

Li Bing's Fridge Magnet

Bing’s fridge magnets collection. 

Li Bing‘s postcards 2

Bing’s post cards collection, the text side.

Li Bing‘s postcards

Bing’s post cards collection, the pictorial side. 

Bing’s plan is to run a Youth Space – her own youth hostel – in Harbin next year, and she would display all her souvenir collections in the Youth Space.

Best wishes to Bing and I would update here when her Youth Space is open and continue following her souvenirs’ life.

On Chinese people buying London souvenirs which are actually made in China

Been thinking about saving money recently, and got a post box money box in a gift shop / souvenir shop after the Landscape Surgery today.

Image

It is a lovely money box, representing part of my life in London: saving money and will get the money ‘posted’ to somewhere when I need them.  This thought looks cool, right? 🙂

I wanted a money box, as well as a souvenir from London, so I bought it in the central London, in the gift shop at the corner where Tottenham Court Road meets Oxford Street.  But  I found this at the bottom of the money box:

Image

It is ‘made in China’.

It is unavoidable that many crafts are made in China and transported to London, and many of these crafts are sold in the souvenir shops.  So what do you think of Chinese people buying London souvenirs which are actually made in China? Is it as stupid as it sounds like?

First of all, it needs to be defined what is a ‘souvenir’, and why people want to buy it.

According to Oxford Dictionaries, a souvenir is ‘a thing that is kept as a reminder of a person, place, or event’ (http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/souvenir, accessed 28/11/2013).

(To be continued…)