Monday, October 26, 2015

Things that Don't Fit in a Drawer #12: To Give or Not to Give Up

In the days of old, when He-Whom-I'm-Trailing & I first lived in Shanghai, before Skype & pre- weChat, in order to make an international call, we needed something called an IP card.

The IP Card gave you a super long string of numbers that you had to punched in to your phone in order to access an international line. Somewhere in the course of the sequence of numbers, you inevitably screwed up which meant you had to punch that whole incredibly long set of numbers, sometimes several times, before you finally got a [crackly] line thru to the States. It could drive you nuts. If you needed help in [so-called] English, the IP card gave a number for that too. That help number gave you two options: you could "press 1" to hear...umm... something not quite intelligible... Or, you could "press 2 to give up."

Which also became the code for "having a really bad china day."


So, yesterday, on the street, I tried to decipher the meaning of this t-shirt ... If it's advertising a help line, then, painfully, the phone number is one digit too long.

You might as well "press 2."

Which is the gallows humor way around to the real point of this post: to say how proud I am of two "Everyday Heroes" who are putting their time in on Not Giving Up On Yourself: my nephew, Tim Shmigel, who raised $41,000AUS to date for Lifeline, an Australian crisis support and suicide prevention organization, by walking 6000 kilometers from the bottom to the top of Australia (and then biking back down to Sydney!) and my brother, Peter Shmigel, who has just taken on the challenge of growing Lifeline's outreach by becoming its CEO. Amazing beings, both of them!

Tim's goal is to raise $60,000 so, if you've the inclination to help, here's the donation link: Any size contribution is deeply appreciated!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Drawer #66: Pinwheels!

A video posted by @cshmigel on

The summer blew by without blogging but the Cabinet itself, in its new NC home, did not go unattended. After several years of only opening drawers digitally, it was interesting to re-install all the curiosities back in the drawers & give the whole project a good think.

There were several drawers that were empty when the cabinet shipped out in the late fall of 2010 and several small book projects that were meant to be in the drawers that never got done and a box of things in Shanghai that have been wanting to get into those empty drawers... & so that's what the next months are dedicated to as I get the Cabinet ready for a show opening April 1 in Washington D.C. at the Hillyer Art Space.

Along the bottom of the cabinet are 3 large drawers.

And  it occurred to me that one of them would be a good home for my Shanghai Daily book, seen below as installed in my first "chinese" show, Chinese Garden for the Delights of Roaming Afar, at Laumeier Sculpture Park back in 2005.

The book is a collection of articles & photos extracted from the Shanghai Daily, the government-run English language newspaper, the newspaper scraps taped into the study notebooks used here by school children. In my first years here, I loved reading the Shanghai Daily with its strange facts about things like the percentage of cookware at the market found to be faulty & the obstructive dangers of laundry displays & the doings of the Beijing Opera school (above) & moralizing editorials about visiting your elderly parents...I mean, with all that is going on the world these days, how can you not love "Chicken & Chatting prove keys for long life" from today's edition:

I also loved the little notebooks I taped my selections into, with their retro-futuristic covers (as Shanghai's urban philosopher, Anna Greenspan, might call them) and their interior pages gridded & lined in various ways appropriate to their subject.

Eventually, I bound all the little notebooks together into a satisfyingly chunky paperback.

Traditionally, Chinese books are soft-covered with stab bindings. Their profiles are relatively slim, perhaps 1/2- 3/4" thick, which means that a long text might require several volumes. These volumes are then encased in a hard board case wrapper that leaves the top & bottom edges exposed. An example with just a single volume:

My friend Petra Johnson has been making great use of this format to document her Walk With Me project & she graciously took me along to the Chinese Art supply store on Fuzhou Lu where she has her cases made. Not only did they make a beautiful wrapper for the Shanghai Daily book - though it must have been mystifying why one would put a beautifully crafted case around such a mess of a book! - they also sold the kinds of papers I'd been looking for when I first started lining the drawers...Not being able to locate those papers then, I resorted to chinese brocades with their acidy bright colors & I suppose it was for the best...they certainly put the noise & the flash, the neon, into the cabinet in a way these papers wouldn't have.  As seen below: the original version of Drawer 66 on the left & the new drawer in progress with the encased book & new papers on the right...

But those violet sequins are going to have to go somewhere; they are just too luscious!