老外 – Laowai 老外 – Foreigner

Tonight is the opening of 老外 – Laowai 老外 – Foreigner at the Kraine Gallery in New York. It is a group exhibition bringing together seven artists, four from the New York Academy of Arts (NYAA), New York (USA), and three from China, who engaged in an eleven week ‘Micro Residency of Art’ programme in association with the Fine Art College of Shanghai University, Shanghai (China), and the Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA), Beijing (China). I met these artists during their time in Shanghai, followed their development and practice and have previously written about our creative encounters here. They very kindly asked me to write the exhibition catalogue text for the show – entitled ‘Transcultural Practice – The Questioning “Self”(?)’ – available to read online and published in the physical exhibition catalogue. It would be fantastic to hear your perspectives on the text as I attempt to rationalise the experience of being a “foreigner” in Chinese and global parameters through transcultural experiences. An excerpt is shown below:

“Many assumptions are made as to what your role is in China, you role as a man or woman, as an artist or creative, placing implications on your actual being and experience that is, for each person, a very different journey. Does it manifest personal insecurity? Or does it fuel a new sense of confidence? Here, within China, you have the single opportunity of being anything you want to be, or completely yourself. Who am I in China? But then, who am I back in my home country? Does being a “laowai (老外)” mean you will always be considered as foreign? You begin to self-reference against those around you, building a supportive community of like-minded souls who share the same sense of uncertainty and the same desire of enrichment and to question the world that now surrounds you, all with an intrigue for knowledge of the meaning of the unknown, the mistranslation and misunderstandings between East and West – the transcultural context.”

As part of the opening event, the gallery are also showing Andy Warhol’s film ‘Made in China’ (1992). I had never even heard of this film until now…so I want to see it as it looks stunning right? Here is a great clip from the film. Only 29 minutes long, it follows Warhol as he travels through China from Hong Kong’s glitter to the mystique of Peking’s Forbidden City. ‘The story begins with the opening of what was once the most elegant jet-set watering hole in Asia, Hong Kong’s “I Club,” whose owner, a young Chinese millionaire, decided to try an experiment: to transplant the most advanced, far-out Western culture to the Far East in a multimillion-dollar club that offered everything from restaurants and bars, to a health club and even an art gallery. Warhol was invited to attend the opening as a guest of honor showing his “Celebrity Portraits.” The result of this cultural experiment was varied. Reactions to the “I Club” and Warhol’s work ranged from outrage to indifference to wonder.’

I wish I could be in New York tonight to celebrate and share this part of the residency programme with them…to hear the discussions, the questioning of their experiences in China…the perceptions and translations, the understandings and misunderstandings. I’m sure the artists will tell me how it went. The dialogues between us are continuing to develop, which in my view, is a fundamental part of artistic and curatorial practice today…they shouldn’t stop when the show closes. That is merely the starting point…

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3 responses to “老外 – Laowai 老外 – Foreigner

  1. Pingback: Laowai-Foreigner | Kraine Gallery·

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