Weekend Reads #3

Weekend Reads continues (read parts one and two here)…a round-up of articles and words that I’ve come across in relation to societal, governmental, commercial/economic and cultural aspects of China and Chinese contemporary visual culture.

Society

Taiwan and China: Say cheese – The Economist, 5 July 2014
Since the People’s Republic of China was founded in 1949, no ministerial-level Communist official has set foot in Taiwan. That changed on June 25th when Zhang Zhijun, head of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, accepted an invitation from his counterpart, Wang Yu-chi, and visited in hopes that the democratic island nation might one day be wooed into the Chinese fold.

Mobile chat app Line and web services disrupted in China – BBC News, 4 July 2014
Several popular messaging applications and file-sharing services appear to have been blocked in mainland China this week. These include mobile messaging apps Line, which is widely used in Asia, and Kakaotalk. Yahoo’s photo-sharing service Flickr and Microsoft’s file storage service OneDrive have also been affected. The move appears to have taken place ahead of a major pro-democracy protest in Hong Kong on Tuesday. China already blocks popular social media services Facebook, Twitter and Youtube. Yahoo told agencies that it was investigating the situation, while Line said on its Weibo account that it was working to fix the problem.

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In China, 1,600 People Die Every Day From Working Too Hard – Bloomberg Business Group, 3 July 2014
Chinese banking regulator Li Jianhua literally worked himself to death. After 26 years of “always putting the cause of the party and the people” first, his employer said in June, the 48-year-old official died of a heart attack rushing to finish a report before the sun came up. China is facing an epidemic of overwork, to hear the state-controlled press and Chinese social media tell it. About 600,000 people a year die from toiling too hard, according to the China Youth Daily. State-controlled China Radio International puts the toll at 1,600 a day.

Everyone Should Live In China At Least Once – Thought Catalog, 25 June 2014
Preferably, when you’re young and resilient, so you can handle the pollution. Living in the pollution will make you question how so many people can live like this, to have days where you can’t see the sun because of the smog. Living in the pollution will make you have a greater appreciation for the environment, and perhaps, to be more active in conserving it. Live in China, and be surrounded by the 1.4 billion people that inhabit the country. Surprisingly enough, there will be moments where you feel completely and utterly alone. You will learn the power of human interaction, and you will learn to appreciate your friends and family more. You might become more shameless, and be more prone to striking up conversations with strangers. You’ll build relationships that you never would have had otherwise.

Meet the man behind Pleco, the revolutionary Chinese language learning app that’s older than the iPhone – Tech in Asia, 25 June 2014
Learning Chinese is not for the faint of heart. Not only does the non-native Mandarin speaker have to master the language’s infamous tones, he or she will must memorize hundreds of thousands of (practically speaking) non-phonetic characters, get acquainted with a wide range of accents, and grapple with a deceptively simple grammar system.

House committee votes to give Chinese Embassy new address: No. 1 Liu Xiaobo Plaza – The Washington Post, 24 June 2014
The House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday voted to rename the stretch of road in front of the Chinese Embassy “Liu Xiaobo Plaza,” a symbolic nod to the Nobel Prize-winning dissident and a slap at the human rights record of officials in Beijing. The white-stone compound currently sits at 3505 International Place NW, not far from the Panda House at the National Zoo.

Meet the Chinese women standing up to inequality – The Guardian, 25 June 2014
When half a dozen topless women took to the roadside in Guangzhou this spring bearing signs calling for female equality, it looked like the latest in a series of imaginative stunts by young feminists. In the past couple of years, performance-art style actions – often cheeky or humorous, always eye-catching – have raised awareness of the challenges facing women in China. Twenty-somethings staged Occupy the Men’s Toilets to challenge the lack of female facilities, shaved their heads to highlight higher college admission requirements for female applicants, and donned wedding dresses daubed with red to focus attention on domestic violence.

Chinese philanthropist helps needy New Yorkers – China Daily, 25 June 2014
Chinese millionaire Chen Guangbiao hands out a 100 dollar bill to a homeless man on Lafayette Street in New York, June 24. The man refused to take the money. Chen, who made his fortune in the recycling business before becoming a well-known philanthropist in China, took out advertisements in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal last Monday inviting “poor and destitute Americans” to a lunch in New York’s Central Park this week, where he also plans to sing for his guests.

Chinese Millionaire handing out $100 bills in downtown Manhattan

 

Commercial/Economic

How Bad Would a Housing Market Crash Be for China? – Bloomberg, 2 July 2014
What would a China housing market crash look like? That question is increasingly on people’s minds as the country’s property slowdown deepens. Prices of new homes fell for the second consecutive month in June, down by 0.5 percent, month-on-month, compared to a 0.32 percent drop in May, according to the China Real Estate Index System Survey released on Tuesday. Before the May drop, real estate prices in China’s 100 largest cities had been on an almost two-year-long rise. “Judging from the current change in prices, the market has entered into a correction phase after continued price increases over the past two years,” warned CREIS in a statement, reported the China Daily today.

Facebook Said to Rent Beijing Space in First China Office – Bloomberg, 4 July 2014
Facebook Inc. (FB) leased space in downtown Beijing as the social network prepares to open a China office even though its website remains blocked in the country, said people familiar with the matter. The company signed a three-year contract in May to lease more than 800 square meters (8,600 square feet) of office space in the Fortune Financial Center in Beijing’s central business district, said the people, who asked not be identified because the transaction isn’t public. Facebook hasn’t started outfitting the space, which has views of the Forbidden City, they said.

In Britain-China Summit, a New Paradigm of Power – NY Times, 1 July 2014
Before the Chinese prime minister came to Britain to sign billions of pounds’ worth of business contracts last month, a brief diplomatic spat erupted. The planned length of the red carpet rolled out for Li Keqiang at Heathrow Airport fell short of the plane by about 10 feet, his aides complained. Could this be fixed?

‘Made in China’ high-speed trains going global – Deutsche Welle, 3 July 2014
Chinese high-speed train makers are increasingly selling their products to Western countries. Experts say the established European firms in the sector urgently need to develop strategies to counter the competition.

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China Building World’s Tallest Skyscraper – artnet News, 25 June 2014
While the mile high club may still be a jet-bound venture, residents of and visitors to Wuhan, a city in central China, will be able to join the kilometer high club while still connected to land. When completed, the taller of the two so-called Phoenix Towers will measure a full 1000 meters (3280 ft) tall. That will make it the world’s tallest skyscraper, nearly 20 percent taller than the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

The Fussy Eye: Setting the Price – Seattle Weekly, 24 June 2014
Because there’s a new documentary screening this week about the Chinese dissident and artistAi Weiwei, now’s a good time to consider SAAM’s new permanent installation Colored Vases, his first addition to the museum’s collection. Ai has a contentious relationship with traditional ceramics, having famously—or infamously, depending on your perspective—dropped and shattered a 2,000-year-old Han Dynasty urn for a 1995 photo series. It was a shocking and still controversial act, a rupture and repudiation of officially sanctioned history and taste, a slap at the canon and an insistence on the value of the new. (Look what we’re doing now, Ai is saying; new and important Chinese art is being made today.) That gesture had its echo two months before our Colored Vases went on view in April: A disgruntled Miami artist shattered one of Ai’s similarly overpainted Han Dynasty vases to protest the Pérez Art Museum Miami’s privileging an international art-world superstar like Ai rather than supporting local talent. There was a lot of confusion then about the monetary value of the urn, the meaning of both gestures, and the nature of the traveling show Ai Weiwei: According to What?, which sadly won’t visit Seattle.

 

Cultural

The Chinese Foot That Launched a Thousand Leg-Guns – ChinaGaze, 21 June 2014
Prepare your leg-gun—the web is still abuzz. Controversial artist Ai Weiwei posted this Instagram photo of himself on June 11, holding his sock-clad leg as a gun. Next to the picture were the words: “Beijing Anti-Terrorism Series.”

‘Some Artists’ Artists’ – The New York Times, 3 July 2014
The show turns up a fascinating bit of history in six small pictures by Lang Jingshan (1892-1995), one of China’s pioneering photographers. He was notorious early on for his nudes, but what look remarkable now are his landscapes, which, through a layering of images, have the look of ink-and-and brush paintings. They make perfect sense in the context of new Chinese work that similarly manipulates traditional models, as in the films of Yang Fudong, who nominated him for this show.

Ai Weiwei’s Unexpected Navajo Art Collaboration – artnet news, 1 July 2014
Over the weekend, one of the world’s most famous artists debuted a brand new, large-scale collaborative work in the US, and almost no one noticed. The artist is Ai Weiwei, the political firebrand who is still restricted from travelling after running afoul of the Chinese government several years ago. The work, dubbedPull of the Moon, is a collaboration with the Navajo artist Bert Benally, for Navajo TIME (Temporary Installations Made for the Environment), a nine-year-old art event focused on bringing temporary, site-specific art to the Navajo nation. If you want to see it, get ready for a hike: It is sited deep, deep in the desert of the Southwest, amidst the dramatic scenery of Coyote Canyon.

The Clark opens renovated museum with ancient Chinese bronzes – The Berkshire Eagle, 3 July 2014
When the Clark Art Institute reopens this weekend, after an extensive 10-year renovation, it will stretch from from 1800 BCE to 1965. In one of the most visible of the new galleries, beside a new stretch of water, natural light falls on 40 bronzes from the Shanghai Museum. A visitor can stand at the windows and look through the trees toward the Stone Hill Center, where a David Smith abstract sculpture will stand on the terrace. From here, the reflecting pool stretches away toward the new entrance to the original museum building, where a Rodin bronze woman stands in silhouette.

East Meets West: Mural Project, art exhibition creates cultural connections between US and China – Bozeman Daily Chronicle, 4 July 2014
For Livingston artist Parks Reece, the idea of “East Meets West” is a “grizzly bear kind of loving up to the panda.” Reece, who is known for surreal images of wildlife and the natural world, recently designed a mural for the wall of Livingston’s Civic Center featuring exactly that. Other local and national symbols include a crane flying toward a bald eagle and the Absaroka Mountains, including the Sleeping Giant, giving way to the Great Wall of China.

Artists investigate their Chinese-Indigenous Australian mixed heritage – The Guardian blog, 1 July 2014
Redtory Art & Design Factory, E9 Gallery, Guangzhou. An exhibition in Guangzhou called Yiban Yiban – Yellah Fellah has featured three artists of mixed heritage.

I look at artists like a commodity balance sheet: art dealer Olyvia Kwok on picking paintings and being sued by Sotheby’s – Evening Standard, 3 July 2014
This February Olyvia Kwok was in the sales room at Sotheby’s for its Contemporary Art Auction. Two other Basquiats had sold well above their estimates already but, when it came to the Water-Worshipper canvas, the bidding was pedestrian. The auctioneer’s hammer was falling when Kwok, dubbed the Chinese It-girl of the art market, put in one last bid for £2.49 million. She got her Basquiat, and below the expected price. “I think it was a bargain,” she told a journalist as she left the salesroom, and reckoned it would double in value over the next 18 months.

Ai Weiwei: The Fake Case – The Chinese Dissident Gets Out of Jail – Seattle News, 24 June 2014
To make a good documentary, you need to have a good subject. But more important, you have to be lucky. When Alison Klayman filmed her Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, seen here in 2012, it was still fairly shocking that the Chinese activist and artist would be kidnapped and detained by his government for 81 days. She got to cover the period of his peak outspokenness (at home) and acclaim (abroad). Then came the cataclysm of his arrest—not something she wished, but a dramatic ending to her film.

Nerding Out Over Contemporary Chinese Art – Part I and II (A+B) – Sinophile, 24 June 2014
I’m in the midst of my final exams, and I can’t believe that my graduate program in Chinese Studies is coming to an end already. (I do have to submit a dissertation that’s due in September, but that’s another story!) My parents have generously agreed to give me a piece of art as a congratulatory gift, and I’ve already selected the piece that I want. Of course, it’s by a Chinese artist! I don’t want to give too much away, since I haven’t even purchased the piece yet, but it definitely got me thinking about other works of contemporary Chinese art with similar themes that I could showcase on the blog in the meantime. I’ll definitely do a post about the piece I am buying once I’ve seen it in person!

At Home With The World’s Biggest Ai Weiwei Collector: ‘He Is Still Vastly Undervalued’ – Forbes, 19 June 2014
When Christopher Tsai commissioned Ai Weiwei to design a weekend house for him in upstate New York, he had only two requests. “I said I’d like to have fireplaces, and I’d like a nice bathroom with a bathtub and a fireplace in it,” recalls Tsai, the 39-year-old president and chief investment officer of Tsai Capital Corporation, a global equity management firm in New York. It would have been a rather obvious request had it been meant for a traditional architect, but considering his new home was in the hands of China’s most prolific, provocative and unpredictable contemporary artist, Tsai wasn’t taking any chances. After all, he is renowned for his careful investing philosophy and astute money management, but Tsai has also gained prominence as the world’s foremost collector of Ai Weiwei art.

Exhibition of works by Su Xiaobai on view at Almine Rech Gallery, Paris – Artdaily, 25 June 2014
Su Xiaobai’s mention of “the artist and his entire life” makes the specific implication that his work and life are still a work in progress. Forensic observation of Su’s work cheats the viewer since it is at once intangible, reverberating and eclipsing. In his interviews and statements he is very insistent on the fact that there is no true “intent” in his work… It comes to him not as inspiration but in a state of mind that cannot be truly described. However, the works stand in and of themselves, and it is this presence which commands, which conjures our gaze. The works are evidence of themselves and demand to be considered as such.

An Exclusive Essay By Ai Weiwei: ‘On Self-Censorship’ – The Huffington Post, 19 June 2014
It’s been a bad month for critics of the Chinese government, starting with theflood of arrests ahead of the Tiananmen Square anniversary. Now officials are battling a single man: their longtime opponent, the world-famous artist Ai Weiwei. This month, Ai withdrew his work from a show at Beijing’s influential Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, a tribute to the late scholar Hans Van Dijk, with whom he worked closely. It was a move made in protest: In a series of correspondences that surfaced online, UCCA chief Xue Mei admitted to removing Ai’s name from a press release, bowing to pressure from the Propaganda Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China. The incident follows a similar one this spring, when Ai’s name and work were “wiped” from a retrospective in Shanghai to placate the government.

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