Monday, September 29, 2014

Drawer # 5.4: Tian Ai Lu or Sweet Love Street

He-Whom-I'm-Trailing and I, we live off of Sweet Love St. 

Despite the maniacal buses that are its main traffic, Sweet Love Street is really a very Sweet Street. Unlike the average Shanghai street, lined with London plane trees, Sweet Love Street is lined with super tall super straight cedars. And while it's true that Sweet Love Street is made up mostly of walls separating the street from the adjacent living lanes, the walls are adorned with marble plaques inscribed with the love quotes of Pushkin & Goethe & Tagore. There are typos in the inscriptions.... Poor Yeats "loved the sorrow of your chang in gface" and some dubious choices... "whereso'er I am, below or else above you..." but still, you can't help but feel the sweetness as you walk back from the local Starbucks, hand-in-hand, on another lovely Sunday afternoon along Sweet Love Street. 

But maybe the sweetest thing about Sweet Love Street is the postbox at the end of the street. Local lore has it is that should you post a letter to your love from that Sweet Love Street postbox, it will get postmarked with a heart stamp. Fact checking online, it sounds a little more complicated: you have to go to the guard house of a lane several blocks away where the guard will stamp it for you...or maybe it's at the p.o. in the park but then only for "special anniversaries." Like love, I guess, a little complicated...

Be that as it may. Today, it's seven years since He-Whom-I'm-Trailing & I got hitched so I've pulled out the drawer whose theme is wedding favors. We end up with piles of them whether we go to weddings or not. They are always cheap & tacky & therefore, somewhat irresistible to me & so a few just had to end up in the cabinet. And Double Happiness cigarettes: always a must at weddings...

And finally, that little red rectangle of traditional wedding fabric, it's a flip book. From our very own wedding, the dress rehearsal for our first dance, which looked a little something like this:

Post done, I'm off to Sweet Love Street. After all these years, I'm going to test that mailbox...if my love note does indeed come back to my love with a love stamp, I'll add it as a Curiosity!

Drawer #5.4  From top 1. Two Googley-Eyed Cow packets containing chocolate 2.Double Happiness brand cigarettes, double happiness matches & Elephant matches with a Made in China image on the liner beneath 3. Sequin-covered heart wedding favors 4. Flipbook of artist's wedding dance with traditional wedding fabric patterned cover. Photo credit full drawer: Bruno David; all others: me.

For related drawers, check out Drawer 3.2 & Drawer 5.6.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Native Repair #1

I've been giving a lot of walking tours lately. On various themes: Art Deco on the Bund, Shanghai Off the Beaten Track, Creative Shanghai (Art & Markets near the Bund.) I love doing the walks; they bring me close to the textures and details that make the city inspiring to me. (So please contact me if you are game for one!) 

What I love best is that every walk, no matter how well planned, offers itself up as improvisation. I  think of it as the walk throwing out a few gifts & I walk with curious anticipation. As we turn to exit from a derelict building, suddenly, there's a wedding shoot, the bride in a voluminous strapless gown voguing in the doorway, brilliant scarlet against all the concrete grey. Or, as I stop on a corner to show images on my iPad of Little Victories, an mobile art gallery created by artists from the Swatch Art Residency, a posse of rough&tumble three-wheel-deliverymen gather around for a rousing discussion amongst themselves about...well, I don't know exactly what but they sure are excited to see their tricycles on my screen.

Or just something perfect like this:

An improv known from my travels in Africa as "native repair."

For more chair repairs, ones that put my favorite pink plastic string to work, click here. For many more images of variously patched up chairs in Hong Kong, see Michael Wolf's wonderful collection of photographs, Bastard Chairs. And finally, to come make art in Shanghai, click here to apply for a residency at the Swatch Art Hotel.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Smoke Flowers of Cai Guo Qiang

In Chinese, there are firecrackers, 鞭炮, bian pao, in whose name the second character gives a nice little onomatopoetic blast. And there are fireworks, 烟火, yan huo, which literally translates as "smoke fire", which I misheard early on as the very poetic 烟 花, yan hua: "smoke flowers."

But in the case of the fireworks performance of the artist Cai Guo Qiang... they really were smoke flowers. Eight minutes of colored smoke (environmentally safe food coloring) on the themes of "elegy, remembrance & consolation" that gave me that feeling one sometimes feels so powerfully, of being privileged to be right here, right now, at this very moment in time.

Here's a little gif of images shot during the opening salvo of his current exhibition, "The Ninth Wave," at Shanghai's Power Station of Art. Thru 10/26/14.

gif maker

Click here for the artist's video of the full performance ('cause it's really not the same without the pao!),  here to experience Cai Guo Qiang's artistic power & charisma,  and here for Peasant da Vincis,
an early project of Cai's in Shanghai, that I also truly loved.