Monday, May 12, 2008

Back to Art, Back to Myself

Since being back in Beijing this past week, my schedule has slowed down from non-stop tourist travel to a more lazy wandering mode. When I first arrived, I was nostalgic for the older Beijing I had experienced 10 years ago. I didn't want to see or feel any Western influences. But after two weeks in China, I admit I've come to miss some basic conveniences, like language. I would like to take a taxi, order food, and find my way without a major struggle. Barely knowing any Chinese besides "hi" and "thank you" leaves you quite limited in the smooth flow of life. So without a guide to help me out, I've been reduced to silly hand motions and being at the mercy of taxi drivers who could take me anywhere. I did in fact eat at KFC. I even bought a hot tea at Starbucks. I'd also like to at this point always use a Western toilet. What can I say, I've broken out of my need for historic Beijing and have welcomed getting to know the more modern Beijing.

In this friendship with the newer Beijing, my most enjoyable discovery was the contemporary art scene. In the north-east part of the city there lies the entrance to the 798 Art District. You would think passing it that is was just another compound in the outskirts of Beijing, but inside you'll find the biggest collection of galleries and studios in China. Contemporary art in Beijing has really been blossoming and it was exciting to see what has been brewing with local artists.

As with so many roads in Beijing, workers are constantly ripping up and re-bricking or re-paving. It sort of marks the entire character of China these days of doing away with the old (for better or for worse) and paving a new way. So in this space, built in the 1950's by the East Germans originally as a top-secret weapons factory, there are piles of dirt, rocks, and gravel creating an obstacle course maze leading no longer to military factories but to thriving art galleries.

But the dirt in your shoes is well worth it to see the exciting exhibitions of paintings, sculpture and photography. The gallery spaces themselves were also interesting to see as you discover large scale galleries similar to New York's Chelsea scene, but also little pockets of tiny galleries. Here's some highlights from my gallery crawling:

The streets proved just as interesting with sculpture and graffiti scattered throughout:

So it's been really nice to get back to art and to get back into feeling I want to be creative. Ever since my ectopic and all that ensued, I've been pretty stunted in terms of my infertility art. When I started this blog I had felt such a need to express things visually, but I think the sadness of IVF#3 just stagnated any need for creativity. As I close out my trip to China and I now face returning home, I hope seeing this artistic energy in China rejuvenates that part of me. I've been feeling like one of these Beijing roads that's been chipped away to its dirt origins to be filled in layer by layer to pave a new road. I've been stripped down to the bare minimum of who I am after so much loss, disappointment, and sadness. I know when I return that I will have no choice but to begin re-piecing myself back together.

P.S. Though the earthquake in China today was in Chengdu, tremors were felt here in Beijing. Luckily no damage here, but at lunch when it hit, my husband and his friend said they suddenly felt dizzy and then we all saw the chandeliers swing. They thought it was the beer they were drinking and I was so clued out I didn't even realize what was happening. 


Melanie said...

I'm hoping that you've nowhere near the earthquake and someplace safe...

Duck said...

Sometimes I feel like that is needed, every few years in my life, I have to strip off all the baggage that I have picked up over the years, all of the pain, all of the things that I feel are truely not "me" and find myself again.

alicia said...

I have had the same feeling towards my art too. I had lost that part of me, the creative part, my favortie part when I started to experience in full this infertility crap. I am now, getting it back. And it feels great! I feel like me again. I hope for you the same. That China will help you get beck to being the creative you!

PS I am glad you are ok! earthquakes! scary.

luna said...

glad to hear you are safe.

my aunt just returned from 3 wks in china and said how grateful she was to find a western toilet!

I hope immersing yourself in art triggers something within that helps you re-discover your inner artiste.

the Babychaser: said...

Those photos are incredible! What wonderful art.

Shinejil said...

I'm excited to see what images come out once you return.

Thanks for letting us have a peek at what you're seeing on your trip.

Ms Heathen said...

Thank you so much for posting all these wonderful photos - you highlight some amazing art, being shown in what looks like some really fantastic spaces!

I'm so glad to hear firstly that you were not caught up in the earthquake, and secondly that you are beginning to feel able to think about your own art practice once again.