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Mr. SouTian: A Tour of the Artist’s Studio

Mr. SouTian is an artist who lives and works in the Song Zhuang area. Song Zhuang is an area outside of Beijing which has been developing as an artist community over the past 25 years. Starting as a rural retreat for artists who wanted studio space outside the city, the area now attracts foreign artists and students from art schools. It also attracts tourists and members of the art world who want to visit artist’s studios and galleries.

Mr. SouTian identifies as a sculptor, a painter, ceramicist and a calligrapher. During the course of the visit to his studio, the fieldwork team was able to see work in all four mediums. The tour of Mr. SouTian’s studio space began in an open room with some of his finished works on display including ceramic work, painting, calligraphy and sculpture. The first piece Mr. SouTian explained to the fieldwork team, which hung in the entryway to the studio, was a painting of Mao and several individuals reacting to Mao’s presence. The artist described this not as a criticism of Mao but was instead was a representation of the variety of responses people can have to Mao and his legacy. Members of the fieldwork team found a resemblance between people in the painting and the artist himself.

The open space of the studio, which displayed finished work, was about fifty feet by fifty feet. There was another corner of the studio with a work in progress. This painting in progress was off to the left when you first walk in to the studio and was propped up against the wall. In the work area there were reference books stacked under paints and brushes. One book was open to a page with pictures of starfish and sharks, which the team was able to recognize in the painting the artist was currently working on. The video below has close up shots of this in progress painting and further information about the artist’s practice. The studio also had a pool table and Mr. SouTian had converted it in to a calligraphy workspace. The pool table had paper, inks and brushes on top of it. The table had a thick mat made of wool one quarter of an inch in height. The wool had newspaper on top of it in order to keep the ink from soaking through on the surface of the pool table. The pool table also had several crumpled pieces of practice calligraphy paper on it.

Mr. SouTian discussed the significance of the combination of materials he uses in his work, specifically with regard to his ceramic work. He created porcelain busts of communist figures such as Marx, Engels and Mao. He paints on the ceramic figures using, what he described as, traditional Chinese brush painting techniques. Mr. SouTian’s work in all mediums often has a mixture of contemporary and historically practiced themes or techniques. He told the fieldwork team the mixture of contemporary ceramic techniques and Chinese brush painting techniques symbolizes the contrast between “common people” and the refinement of political thinkers. When he first showed the busts to the team, Mr. SouTian asked us if we were able to identify the names of any of the busts of political figures.

Mr. SouTian conducted the tour of his studio in Mandarin. Two members of the fieldwork team, YuTing and Jo, translated for the group and translated questions from the English speakers in the group for Mr. SouTian during an interview. It was very hot inside his studio and Mr. SouTian gave all the members of the fieldwork team fans during the interview portion of our visit. This space was much quieter and there was less noise from construction of nearby buildings in Mr. SouTian’s studio. After the interview we continued the tour behind a wall dividing the studio from a storage area. The storage area had covered sculptures and a cardboard bucket where calligraphy practice sheets, some of which were more than three years old, were stored. The work area had materials, such as acrylic and oil paints, stored on a rolling platform lined with cardboard. At the conclusion of our visit Mr. SouTian signed several cards with images of his artwork for the team. He also did calligraphy on the pool table on a fan for Professor Blandy. He used ink and brushes already out on the pool table and finished the piece with a wax seal.

Looking through the images of work in Mr. SouTian’s studio included below, can you notice any themes from Christian artwork mentioned during the video clip? Where can you identify motifs created by Chinese brushwork? How do you interpret the interaction between these themes in his work?

Mr. Her Makes a Noodle Lunch for the Fieldwork Team

On July 13th, 2011 the entire field school team made their first visit to Mr. Her’s studio. Mr. Her showed the team around his studio, which is currently under construction. He discussed with us several of his finished paintings. The paintings were lined up under a covered walkway with an open wall to a courtyard. He is originally from Su Pu village in Southern Ningxia Hui Autonmous District in North Central China. He explained the strong influence his home has on the imagery in his paintings. Mr. Her also described the materials he used, where he obtained the materials in Song Zhuang and how his canvases were constructed. There are several stores in Song Zhuang where artist’s materials are sold since there are so many working artists in the area.

Mr. Her told us he was working very closely with the workers helping him build the studio to make sure it fit his specific vision. He wanted to make sure his studio and gallery space would be the best space for presenting his artwork in. For example, the courtyard has hand carved images of oxen in the stone walls that Mr. Her created. His studio is still under construction and is representative of many studios in the area with regard to its state of completion. During the course of this first tour, Mr. Her told the team he would make the fieldwork team noodles the following day.

When the team returned to his studio the following day Mr. Her had already prepared the dough and it was ready to be kneaded. The team documented the preparations of the noodles from this point on. Mr. Her described the process of making the dough. He woke up at six in the morning (he was making lunch for us) and began preparing the dough which would eventually be the noodles. He told us it was important to let the dough sit for one to two hours before kneading it so it would reach the right consistency. During the morning he had also obtained the other ingredients of the soup, including vegetables and meat, and beer for the lunch.

Throughout the noodle preparation, the sound of construction could be heard in all four directions around Mr. Her’s studio. In the courtyard you could clearly hear the sounds of drilling, construction materials being moved at the sites of nearby studios and buildings. You could also hear vehicles and trucks moving down the streets around the studio. If you listen to the audio recording of the noodle preparation below can you pick out these sounds? What other sounds can you hear? The sounds of construction could also be heard in the partially enclosed area in Mr. Her’s studio where the noodles were being made, since he was still in the process of installing doors and walls. The partially enclosed area where he prepared the noodles had a second floor above it. It was still under construction and would eventually become a gallery to show his finished work to visitors.

While Mr. Her was making the noodles the materials he had out on the work table included cutting boards with flour, a teapot, ladle, chopsticks, knives, rolling pins, a lazy susan with tea and condiments, two rags, a bowl of flour and a half chopped potato. He used a table about two feet above the ground to knead, roll and cut the dough. The table was in the center of the partially constructed room and the stove was to the side of the table. Since the table was in the center of the room it was easy for the fieldwork team to document the process. Mr. Her kneaded the dough and showed one member of our team, Jeanette, how the knead the dough using the technique he was using. Jeanette received feedback from the fieldwork team and Mr. Her about how to best knead the dough to create the proper texture of the noodles. After several minutes Mr. Her began to knead the dough again.

The whole team formed a semi-circle around Mr. He while he was kneading and cutting the noodles in order to document the process. His wife videotaped and photographed the group gathered around Mr. Her. Neighboring artists, including Mr. SouTian, also came in towards the end of the preparation and ate lunch with the fieldwork team. When Mr. Her moved to the pot of boiling vegetables and meat in order to put the noodles in, the whole team moved with him to follow the process of putting the noodles in to the pot. After documenting the process of preparing the noodles, the fieldwork team had lunch with Mr. Her and some of the artists with studios neighboring his.

When you watch the video and look at the photo gallery, what kitchen utensils are like the ones you would use to prepare noodles, pasta or another similar dish? Do you think you could recreate the technique used to make these noodles after watching this video?

Listen to the sound recordings below. What sounds can you pick out from the background of the recording of noodle preparation and the recording of the fieldwork team having lunch?

Mr. Her explains his process while he prepares noodles by chinavine

Lunch conversation over Mr. Her’s noodles by chinavine

Jiangou Village- Red tourism

Jiangou Village- Red tourism

A small village located near the Miaofeng Mountain 50 miles outside of Beijing, Jiangou is an emerging tourist destination.  While the temples on the mountain are used by religious pilgrims, Jiangou caters to a different kind of pilgrimage, those individuals who want to feel more connected to their communist roots.  Red tourism is a subset of cultural tourism and has been supported by the government since 2005.  Many red tourist sites are found in eastern China and are in rural or poor areas of the country.  By celebrating the historical routes of the party, many villages have seen economic growth due to an increase in tourism.

During Japanese occupation, Jiangou had a secret communication station for the Communist Party.  Radio transmissions as well as other supplies such as food and medicine were transferred from Jiangou to Beijing.   The site of the communication station has now become a museum where visitors can learn more about the site, its historical significance, and celebrate their communist roots.

While visiting Jiangou, the ChinaVine team had the opportunity to meet and talk with Mr. Zhao, now an interpreter at the Pingxi Transportation and Information Museum, who told us more about the history of the village and his work with the then emerging communist party in the 1940s.  Mr. Zhao spoke of his personal involvement with the communist party, acting first as a messenger for secret messages sending them to nearby villages and secondly, escorting important figures outside of Jiangou.  He talked about the harsh conditions villagers experienced before the building of new China and the level of secrecy that was needed in order to perform their mission at the communication station. While many red tourism sites have centered around Mao Zedong, Jiangou was home to other key figures of the red revolution including the foreigner Michael Lindsey who helped educate villagers on radio transmissions.

Unlike other red tourism sites, Jiangou is in its initial stages of tourism development but has seen an increase in tourism to the village.  While we were at the museum, we witnessed a group of people who rented out the hall the museum in order to sing traditional communist songs.  Our field school residency occurred just after Foundation Day, celebrating the 90th anniversary of the party.  It is interesting to think about the shift of opinions younger generations have about the CCP and Mao opposed to earlier generations and how there are represented in what the team experienced both in Jiangou Village as well as in the city of Beijing.

Field Work Team
Megan K Lallier-Barron – Field School Archivist
Nan Yang – Coordinating Field Worker
Jeanette O Lo – photographer and videographer

Zhang Jianhua

”Very few works speak to social problems.  Chinese contemporary art doesn’t make people understand.  It has lost its function and its very important social, avant-garde, and revolutionary features.”- Zhang Jianhua

Zhang Jianhua is a contemporary sculptor known for being controversial.  The subject of his work often involves poverty, exploitation, and death.  Through his four sculptural series, Zhang brings to light many social issues China would like to forget.

Before attending the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Zhang grew up in a small village in the Henan province of China.  His urge to be an artist started when a teacher praised him on his calligraphy.  In his life time, he has worked as a farmer, a miner, and an artist assistant before attending university and starting his own artist career.  The main body of his sculptural work reflects his own life and depicts many individuals he has come in contact with.

His first series, the Zhuangtang Village, focused on rural Chinese peasants.  Using his own home town as a model, featuring actual villagers in his work, Zhang depicts the hardships facing farmers today.  When asked in an interview why he sculpts peasants, Zhang replied “The problem of how to deal with the countryside is China’s most challenging social problem.  I detest corruption, and peacefully use sculpture to express my contempt and to present a reality more real than reality.”

Zhang’s second series, Coal-the black Gold is about the strife of coal miners in China.  To prepare for this series, Zhang visited coal mines in Henan and Shanxi provinces, working and living with miners, even experiencing a mining accident where some of his friends were injured and killed.  This series includes sculptures of miners alive and dead and comments on this exploitation from miner owners as well as the public at large.  Adding a performance aspect to this series, Zhang would often dress up in typical miners dress and lay with the dead miners in his installations.  This performance aspect will carry onto his third series, The Night Jasmine.

After exploring farmers and miners, Zhang turned to another social problem, prostitution.  As with his previous series, Zhang gives his own commentary on the often neglected issue of prostitution.  Here Zhang created a complete environment with an illegal taxi in front of a store front where prostitutes are waiting inside.  Further back, there are a series of rooms graphically depicting what the customers are paying for.  Zhang also wrote a performance piece to accompany his installation where the actors perform on a stage mixed in with his sculptures blurring the lines of reality.

His current series, City Monument, Zhang focuses on urban development and modern philosophy and religion.  Hundreds of small figure sculptures are placed within a decaying urban landscape featuring prominent Beijing architecture such as the Bird’s Nest and CCTV building.

Zhang has worked in the 798 artist district in Beijing, and his work has garnered international attention.  The ChinaVine team interviewed Zhang in his studio where he is currently working on City Monument in the Song Zhuang art district outside of Beijing.

Field Work Team
Megan K Lallier-Barron – Field School Archivist
Nan Yang – Coordinating Field Worker
Jeanette O Lo – photographer and videographer

Jian Gou: Cultural Tourism

The temple above Jian Gou, a village outside of Beijing, is a location of significance for Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. Until 1986, when a road up the mountain was built and the restoration of the temple began, the only way from the village to the temple was by pilgrim trail on foot. This area first attracted scholars in the 1920s when they visited the Miao Feng Shan area to document the temple. The temple has, and hopes to continue, supplementing the documentation and photos with the materials collected by these scholars since the temple was partially destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. The village of Jian Gou has links to the temple, red tourism and roses cultivated in the area. The village attracts tourists interested in all three areas. The temple site is accessible from the village on foot or by vehicle. Red tourism sites are located in and around the village and rose cultivation sites are also accessible by car in areas around the village. In this area, roses were first cultivated as decorative flowers before they were used to make tea and food. In 1997 farmers began developing their farms in the area to grow more roses to make into tea. Mr. Wu, the owner of the restaurant we visited for lunch and interviewed, told us that currently sixty percent of the village grows roses. Since 1997 the number of restaurants in the village began growing due to increased visitors in the area. Since that time, Mr. Wu has noticed an increase in foreign tourists, including French and American tourists who began visiting the area. The growth of foreign tourism in the area is noticeable since signs in the area which direct to specific attractions are in English, such as directions to the rose valley national forest park. However, the lengthier interpretive signs and those with historical information are not available in any foreign languages. Furthermore, the number of farmhouse style restaurants in Jian Gou grew from three to the current twelve as the region became more popular for tourists.

The fieldwork team ate lunch at Mr. Wu’s restaurant along with a courtyard full of tourists who arrived at the location in two groups of about twenty people. There was a parking lot across from the restaurant on the main road where large tour buses could park and the drivers of the buses could wait for the large groups. There were also several stands in the bus parking lot, of which three were open, selling rose jam, rose team and other gifts such as fans. We also noticed several smaller groups of one to four people who rode their bicycles up the road the mountain and were resting along the main road in the village. The fieldwork team’s lunch included a fried type of pancake made with roses from the village inside of it. The team was also served fish, vegetables, stewed chicken and rose tea grown in the area. Dishes were brought out as they were ready to be served. After lunch, Mr. Wu, the owner and cook at the restaurant, led the team to a bedroom to conduct the interview. From within the bedroom, which was set off from the courtyard where lunch was served, the toasting of the tourist group enjoying lunch and drinks could be heard. The bedroom contained a prominently placed poster of Chairman Mao positioned over the television set. The prominence of the Chairman Mao poster was apparent in the kitchen of the restaurant as well and in the government offices we visited in the village. The room we interviewed Mr. Wu in also had a kang in it, which is a bed historically used because it can be heated from beneath in the winter. Sounds from cooking in the kitchen while lunch was made for the employees, employees cleaning up the dining area and a radio could also be heard. Even though the bedroom was chosen because it was detached from the restaurant, the sounds of restaurant business activities could still be heard. During this interview Mr. Wu described the importance of the local cuisine he prepares to the fieldwork team. He explained the types of dishes available in the farmhouse restaurants in Jian Gou village are notable because they are available nowhere else in China. However, he also noted that over time he has made innovations to the dishes he cooks. As long as the customers accept the innovations he continues to use the change in his cooking. Although tourists come to this area to see certain sites, and also to partake in this type of food which they can only find here, there is some allowance for innovation in the cook’s style of preparation. He also tells us the increase in tourism in the late 1990s is due to the road, which previously had been made of sand and was unpaved, becoming a paved road. In his opinion, this accessibility lead to increased tourism and drew local residents to become involved in the farmhouse restaurant businesses in town instead of working in the fields.

Both the tourists and the restaurant employees were interested in viewing the materials collected by the fieldworkers. The group of tourists, from a company in Beijing, who were enjoying themselves in the courtyard during our interview with Mr. Wu took photographs of members of our team with members of their group. We also documented them eating lunch in the courtyard and waving to our cameras. Mr. Wu documented the fieldworkers videotaping his kitchen and interviewing Mr. Wang, a prominent folklorist, to be included on the website of his restaurant. During the interview with Mr. Wang members of our fieldwork team focused on Mr. Wang, while Mr. Wu was taking panning shots of the entire team and surrounding as well as Mr. Wang during the interview. While we were videotaping Sam, our videographer, was able to put his camera in the hands of the employees and also share his footage with them. The fieldwork team was interested in documenting Mr. Wu’s restaurant to present to visitors to the ChinaVine site and Mr. Wu seemed interested in portraying this interest in his place of business to visitors to his website. While we documented the kitchen and the adjacent room where food was prepared to be served, Mr. Wu videotaped our group moving through the space.

When the fieldwork team visited Jian Gou it took approximately one and half to two hours to get to the village by bus. About half this time was spent climbing the winding mountain road to the village. Accessibility has influenced the popularity of this region for tourists. Mr. Wu stated the paving of the road was instrumental in increasing the number of tourists visiting the village and increasing the need for farmhouse restaurants for them to eat at. This location’s proximity to Beijing allows it to be easily accessed for day or weekend trips. We noticed a much higher number of visitors on the weekend who were taking day trips to the area or riding their bikes up the mountain road for exercise when they have the whole day on the weekend. The amount of vehicle traffic on the road up the mountain to Jian Gou was noticeably higher on the Saturday the fieldwork team went to the village. There were also fifteen to twenty bicyclists on Saturday and only one or two on the Thursday the team visited the village. This increase in popularity has benefits for the residents of the village who seem to have been able to find employment for some of the younger residents of the village since their businesses are viable. Accessibility figures in to this popularity since tourists can easily reach this site by vehicle from Beijing and other surrounding areas. Accessibility can have benefits for an area since it allows for increased tourism. Can you think of areas for which accessibility has been problematic for an area in terms of increased tourism and numbers of visitors? Furthermore, Mr. Wu demonstrated to us that he has a certain amount of control over the food he is producing since he can introduce innovations to his cooking. However, can tourist’s expectations of receiving a certain unified type of experience or product be detrimental to cultural practices because this type of innovation is no longer possible? Think of a recent experience you had as a tourist and examine how you accessed the experience or site. If it had been more or less difficult to get there would this have changed your experience? Were your expectations met and if they were not how did this make you feel as a visitor?

Field Work Team
Rosalynn Rothstein – Coordinating Field Worker
Samuel R Gehrke – Videographer
Jo Guan – Interviewer and translator
Yuting Han – Interviewer and translator

Wei Ligang

Finished piece with materials nearby

The fieldwork field school met several artists living in Song Zhuang, an area outside of Beijing where contemporary artists have congregated. This area has been developing as a popular artist community over the past twenty five years. The local government now estimates the area attracts approximately 500,000 tourists a year who visit galleries and artist’s studios. Wei Ligang is a painter and calligrapher who lives and has his studio in Song Zhuang. The area where his studio is located is surrounded by other completed studios and finished houses. Other areas of Song Zhuang are being developed and artists live in studios and living quarters that are under construction. Many galleries and buildings are being built to accommodate Song Zhuang’s popularity and continued attraction to artists and visitors. The local government has ambitious plans to develop Song Zhuang further as an arts area. Representatives of the local government presented these plans to the fieldwork team. We met them in a building constructed to house the government in the last year. This new building incorporates a large sculpture of a life-sized carousel in a central courtyard and 2-D work in the hallways and conference rooms. Government representatives presented a highly produced video narrated in English spelling out the government’s plans for development of commercial arts areas and public transportation. The video suggests development of the area will help artists “pursue artistic ideals” and develop a “well known cultural brand.” However, the government also plans to preserve the buildings in the village where artists first congregated when the area was farmland and artist’s studios were located on farmer’s property. The government will add amenities such as improved water and gas services to existing structures. The representatives we met with also stated they would be setting aside land for individual artists to build on. Wei Ligang told us he was attracted to Song Zhuang and moved to Song Zhuang in 1995 from the 798 Art Zone located in Beijing.  The 798 Art Zone houses a concentrated number of galleries and studios including Iberia Art Center, Beijing Tokyo Art Projects, Pace Beijing and numerous others. Wei Ligang states he moved to Song Zhuang in the earlier stages of its development because Song Zhuang was contributing more to Chinese art than the 798 Art Zone.

A tour of his studio before the fieldwork team interviewed Wei Ligang gave us insight into his personal artistic practice through the materials he surrounded himself with. Materials, finished works, works in progress, pieces from other artists and bookshelves of art books about other Chinese artists were in the studio. There were collected items and photographs from the artist’s travels, his assistant’s studio and a tea set with electric kettle in the living areas. The studio and living areas consisted of open modern architecture and the studio on the first floor was visible from the open balconies of the living area. Images of Wei Ligang’s finished pieces illustrate the influence of both Chinese calligraphy traditions and Western practices of abstraction on his work. Bai Qianshen writes about Wei Ligang’s work in an introduction to one of the artist’s monograph: “…adding cursive techniques to such already complicated structures made Wei’s work increasingly illegible. Yet, even as he departed from the standard form of written scripts and legibility, the concept of calligraphy as an art based on square characters was not diminished but enhanced and intensified.”1 The illegibility moves the forms of the characters used to impart meaning in written language towards abstract images. How might a viewer who is mostly familiar with Western traditions of abstraction interpret these pieces differently than a viewer mostly familiar with Chinese calligraphic traditions?

An introduction to another monograph of Wei Ligang’s by Robert Morgan a critic and artist illustrates the lifelong commitment an artist must have to in order to progress in the study of brush painting. First they must learn the stroke order. Then the amount of pressure applied to each stroke. Then the artist must learn the appropriate timing to illustrate rhythm and finally how to mix water and ink in the proper amounts.[2] The process of lifelong learning is connected to the historically practiced methods of learning calligraphy. In this same introduction Robert Morgan also compares Wei Ligang to Jackson Pollack. When comparing Wei Ligang to Pollack, Morgan comments, “Wei holds the capability to respond to the moment without forgetting or ignoring the lessons of history that empower his incredible dexterity and conceptual manner of intuition.”[3]  Although Morgan notes that Pollack’s method of painting, which is highly physical, is different than Wei Ligang’s more reserved style, there are similarities in their artistic products context. Yet the process of creating and historical practice of calligraphy is not the only influence on the artist’s style.

In the excerpt from the videotaped recording with Wei Ligang we have included with this post he discusses his personal artistic style. The interview took place in the artist’s studio on a balcony with chairs, couches, a table and materials for making tea. During the interview Wei Ligang’s assistant and student Mr. He provided tea for all present. Pots in the tea set were decorated with gold markings similar to marks made in Wei Ligang’s work on paper. The work he discussed with us includes both purely abstract pieces and pieces with strokes that are more referential to written characters, although they might not all be legible. Wei Ligang tells us that he incorporates his background in mathematics with his study of contemporary calligraphy and calligraphy traditions to achieve a new style. A member of our fieldwork team Yuting Han, who is from Beijing and practices calligraphy says “I think the biggest reason why Mr. Wei’s product is so special is because he cannot get rid of the influence from his background in mathematics.” Mr. Wei notices that different types of backgrounds and upbringing will cause an artist to create a different product but the product which resonates most with the audience is successful. Wei Ligang’s position on the influence of Western culture as well as the differences between Western and Eastern culture develops his personal position further. This leads him to advise his calligraphy students to absorb the positive aspects of American culture. Wei Ligang, illustrates the importance of Western influence on his personal practice along with the historical context of calligraphy practice in Chinese culture. The materials and tools the artist uses demonstrate the confluence of these traditions. Wei Ligang discussed the importance of the use of ink in art and painting in China. Furthermore, with the development of China and the globalization of the art world Chinese artists merged ink painting with oil painting and this lead to a fresh style which Wei Ligang thinks can raise the artist’s position in a global art market. Wei Ligang’s materials include both inks used in calligraphy practice and acrylic paints and brushes used for calligraphy and Western styles of paintings. Click on the pictures below to enlarge it and examine the materials used by Wei Ligang. Pictured are materials that are unique to China, but others which are very familiar to artists in the US. What materials do you recognize and which materials do you not recognize from an art store or materials you have used yourself to create artworks?  Given the influence of western art on Wei Ligang it is interesting to consider that influence in relationship to how it is expressed with Chines materials – for example brushes. Our interview with Wei Ligang also raises comparisons between the development going on in Song Zhuang with the problems of gentrification associated with artists moving into certain areas which are more affordable and the trajectory of artist’s moves from cities, like what is occurring in urban areas in the US. The ambitious plans to develop Song Zhuang into a globally recognized location for creative production also has parallels to certain types of development in the US but also differs because of the high level of involvement the local government has in facilitating this and preserving the certain parts of the area which existed before development began.

[1] Qianshen, Bai. Wei Ligang: Wei Zhou Armoury. pp. 3
[2] Morgan, Robert. Gold Collect: Works Collection of Wei Ligang pp. 3
[3] Morgan, Robert. Gold Collect: Works Collection of Wei Ligang pp. 3


Field Work Team
Rosalynn Rothstein – Coordinating Field Worker
Samuel R Gehrke – Videographer
Jo Guan – Interviewer and translator
Yuting Han – Interviewer and translator

Works Cited

Morgan, Robert. Introduction. Gold – Collect. Works Collection of Wei Ligang Print Catalog.

Qianshen, Bai. Introduction. Wei Ligang: Wei Zhou Armoury. Ed. Zhang Zikang. Chengdu: Sichuan Fine Arts Publishing House, 2006.

Welcome to the Post-Residency

"Preface to the Poems Composed at the Orc...

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On August 1 we begin the post-residency and final portion of our field school. This portion will end August 15. Based on the presentations you gave in Beijing, a draft of the final assignment is due to be posted on the course blog on August 7. Unless we are notified we will assume that it will be posted on or before that date. We will have comments back to you on August 10. This post should be finalized on or before August 15.

For this portion of the field school, participants, working in teams, will be responsible for (at minimum):

* 2 postings for the course blog – one associated with each of the two fieldwork sites; categorize these as “field report” so that they are also posted to Vine Online!

To review, each post will include:

* interpretive text (formatted according to VineOnline standards; 750-1000wds)

* image gallery (7-10) AND/OR edited video (>5min) depicting one of the following and or a combination of the two:

- work/context of an artist interviewed (INDIVIDUAL FOCUS)
- work/context for an discrete aspect of cultural/artistic production (HERITAGE FOCUS)
- work/context for a geographic area/setting (PLACE FOCUS)

Full guidelines can be found here.

In support of your posts to the course blog, each team will create postings on the social media sites connected to ChinaVine (English & Chinese language) that points to their course blog content. This can include a tweet using the field school hashtag (#CVFS), a Facebook post on ChinaVine wall, etc.

Each team should create drafts of their planned posts on the field school website for comments by Doug, John, and other field school participants by August 7. These comments can be transmitted via email, or embedded in the draft itself (using brackets or some other easily identifiable format). It will be important to have some idea of where the video/photo editing process and text creation stands at that time so that teams can move ahead with finalizing their posts.

All final posts should be completed by August 15. Doug and John should be notified of how the links to the posts occurred through social media.

During these last two weeks of the field school you should feel free to consult with us at any time regarding the final assignment and/or any aspect of the field school.

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Reflections

Now that I’m back in the states, spending time in a familiar environment, and falling back into the daily routine, I’ve been alloted some time to reflect upon the new friends that I made during the field program.

Upon arriving in Beijing I felt indescribably sad, with a strong sense of foreboding that didn’t seem to have a defined root or cause. All I knew was that I felt terrible and couldn’t wait to go home. The next morning I met some of the people in the group. At first I thought I may have gotten off on the wrong foot with Jeanette because I basically stole her room, but she turned out to be one of the most friendly and enthusiastic people on the trip. It blew my mind that the person renting out her room for the summer was my old roommate. Small world I guess. Jeanette will always be the bug magnet to me. I’m always going to remember her swollen legs and the constant smell of repellent that followed her wherever she went.

I was unsure what to think about Megan at first. Being older than me, I kind of expected her to be in some weird mother goose role. This wasn’t the case at all. Her cynicism and sense of humor matched up perfectly with mine, and helped me keep my sanity through some of the weirder portions of our stay. Her taste in TV was also so good. I’ve started to watch Dr. Who on her recommendation and it’s great!

Next I met Jo and Yu-Ting. Their combo was hilarious to me. They had all these weird notions of the type of person that I was right off the bat that while sometimes brutally honest, gave me something to think in terms of how I’m perceived by others, and more importantly how I am perceived by people in differing cultures. For instance, just based on the way that I spoke and moved around, Jo thought that I might be gay. I realize that I am more articulate than most guys when I explain things or interact with people, but I never really thought about it being classified as a “gay” way of acting. It also made me wonder what kind of people Jo has had the pleasure of meeting in Eugene. A lot of “bros” perhaps? Yu-Ting was great as well. Extremely blunt in her opinions and observations (not sure if this was because of the language barrier or her natural character, I think a bit of both). The thing I enjoyed most about Yu-Ting’s company was seeing her and her boyfriend with each other. Probably two of the happiest people I’ve ever seen together. He was so nice too! Always holding her bags and doing little things for her. Something I don’t really see back here in the states. Both Jo and Yu-Ting loved showing me around, and seemed to be delighted that I loved shopping so much. Also Jo’s strong interest in seeing me wear skinny-jeans was puzzling, but funny to me.

Naan (I dunno if I’m spelling this right but whenever I’d hear her name an image of Naan bread would flash through my mind) was so amazing! She balanced the social aspects of being in the group as a student perfectly with her duties as a guide and translator. I never felt like she was an authority figure or afraid of disapproval or judgment from her. She always had answers to my many questions and really made me feel welcome in Beijing. Plus she went above and beyond during those long translating sessions at Beijing Normal and elsewhere.

Rosalyn was another great person to have around. She along with Megan provided the cynicism and black humor that kept me grounded throughout the trip. Rosalyn noticed things that other people didn’t notice, commented on them, and was never afraid to voice her opinion. She was a great leader for our group and extremely engaged throughout our meetings and work sessions. I fully realize that she could have spent the majority of her time with her husband, but she made an effort to be part of the group, and I’m very thankful that she did because she was an awesome person to have around. I feel so bad about the revolving restaurant thing though!

As for John and Doug, I don’t think I could have asked for two better instructors. They were a lot more like friends than supervisors, which is really what I was hoping for. Doug was possibly the kindest person I’ve ever met. He always asked me if I was feeling good and if there was anything he should be worried about. The one thing that really stuck out in my mind was his concern for my feelings about sending pictures of our trip to my mom. It wasn’t even on my radar in terms of things that I’d be worried about, but he was actively thinking about it. I really appreciated this thoughtfulness, even if it was unneeded, and will never forget it. John was  a fantastic instructor as well. Possessing a strong interest in almost everything, his willingness to try new things and genuine attitude towards our individual likes and tastes was awesome. I always go overboard and nerd out about movies, and he knew about pretty much every on that I mentioned on the trip. John was like the go-to guy for technology, always up on the latest gadgets and electronics. Extremely helpful and eager to please whenever I was having trouble with the compiling of footage or data. It was great meeting his wife and kids (briefly) at the airport and see the family that he clearly loves so much.

So in short, this group of people, all ridiculously different, turned out to be some of the most pleasant individuals to spend what I consider the closest thing to a life changing experience with, and they’re part of what made it a life changing experience! I could go on talking about all of the great cultural things that I learned about China and the famous sites I visited, but one of the things that I valued most about the program are the people that I met and the relationships that I built with them during our stay.

I have returned to campus after several days in Shanghai and Hangzhou. The images above are representative of the time I spent there. The image on the left was taken in Shanghai’s French Concession. The middle image is from the Shanghai Museum Calligraphy exhibit. There I encountered this man who was using a brush and water to trace on glass the calligraphy exhibited under the glass. The third image is from the historic Westlake area of Hangzhou.

Following are a couple of articles that you may find interesting. The first, “On Art in an Authoritarian Environment” is from The New Republic. I think this article will be of particular interest to the group who is profiling Zhang. The second article “Han Dynasty” is from the New Yorker. This article is about “novelist, essayist, blogger, and race-car driver Han Han.” Both address contemporary social and cultural issues in China.

Bizarro Disney

So I’m finally back home and have been sorting through all of my photos, ready to upload some of the best now that I finally have a fast internet connection. I decided to post some pictures concerning something very near and dear to my heart…..Mickey Mouse. During our visit to the Bird’s Nest at the site of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, our group had the pleasure of seeing a number of rogue Disney mascots loitering around the former Olympic proving grounds.  What would Walt think?