September 30—December 16, 2014 From Lausanne to Beijing 8th International Fiber Art Biennale 1895 creative cultural industry park Nantong (Jiangsu Province) China
The works are already hanging, the organisers are making the last arrangements for the official opening today, 30 September at 3:00 p.m. East China time (about 9:00 a.m. CET). I won’t be there this time; will have to wait patiently for news from co-exhibitors and the catalogue after the end of the exhibition together with the return my works. The exhibition is of course certain to be big again, but not exhausting I must say. The former factory where it is held is something like the Westergasfabriek in Amsterdam or the Technopolis-Gazi in Athens.
But here is a part of the forward from the organisers*:
“…Since 2000, “From Lausanne to Beijing” international fiber art exhibition has been held for 7 sessions which has come through 14 years. It has gradually become an international well-known brand with a development pattern of popularization, socialization and internationalization…
…There are 655 pieces of artwork applying for the 8th Biennale （including 363 works from China and 292 works from other countries). 186 pieces of artwork were admitted into the ‘From Lausanne to Beijing’ 8th International Fiber Art Biennale Exhibition（including 75 works form China and 111 works from other countries. In 2014, with the invitation of the Nantong government, the 8th biennale will still be held in 1895 creative cultural industry park in Nantong City…”
I volunteer for tele-transportation! (…have been volunteering since the 80’s in vain…)
* organization: Academy of Arts & Design, Tsinghua University People’s government of Nantong Fiber Art Committee, China Arts & Crafts Association Fiber art institute of China National Academy of Painting
The photos are from the previous edition of the Biennale; once I have new photos or news I will publish them as well.
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What a day! A total contradiction to what textile art promotes, which is peace. It was raining all night and the morning was dark and misty, so much that I had to wear my glasses to see clearly in the distance. I walked, having a few hours free of any programmed plans, towards the centre of the city, passing through the “Moat Haohe Scenic Area”; first little stop at the Jugue Pavilion where people do their morning exercises looking a the river water.
I felt a bit of their energy and walked further on the riverside; second stop at the Bonsai garden, another place of peace. Then my walk became more adventurous, battling against cars, motorbikes, mud of the constructions spreading all over and of course the rain. All this was happening before 8am; I walked and walked and as much as I wanted to look around I felt that something was missing. I will not be embarrassed to say that I stopped at a KFC to have a coffee; then life could be reasonable again.
On my way back to the hotel to get ready for the day’s activities, I stopped at the Nantong book-store where they also have books with English titles but that was all that was in English. Of course the people felt embarrassed for my sake so I did not stay long; the only book that could make sense to buy was the dictionary but I found this a bit premature. This embarrassment or surprise to see me, is something I myself face with equal surprise; so, we are all a bit surprised but with good or indifferent intentions. I must say that the young people that have been around us, coming mostly from Universities and working for the show as volunteers, have the most innocent eyes and did their utmost best to accommodate us. Their English is fantastic especially if I think that they don’t really use it! They look more used to “the others”.
But it is already late; after a seminar, which was basically a panel discussion between consultants/ jury board members, an award ceremony and then a deadly diner a the Four Seasons hotel, it is time to pack my bags and get some rest. Tomorrow morning at 6:30 am a bus will take us to Shanghai; other stories there. Still, I have more to say about the deeds in Nantong, but that will come later. I got the catalogue and can be more precise with the photographs of works but now, in a little haste, I will only publish some generic photos (apart from one, check the captions). Goodnight or good day; word of the day “Grassroots”
After a good night sleep I stood up ready to attend the day’s main event. The opening of the exhibition took place at 10 am with girls in costumes, drums, speeches, pyros and balloons. Nantong, being a city of textile industry of long tradition, has passed to its people and apparently to China’s conscience a certain respect for fiber works and fiber art as extension. The idea that fiber art is a form that comes from the people and therefore people can understand and associate themselves with it was not only sensed but also proclaimed aloud and with conviction. Yet, I did not expect it to be such a highly appreciated event. The ceremony of course was bathed with importance but the exhibition itself is the actual festivity; it is filled with inspiration reflecting it back at every step. If you are around do not miss it. The area of the venue is also interesting, making the after taste of the day somehow edgy; at one side the pyros and at the other side people standing outside the gate getting a glimpse of the festivities of others.
This is the address: “1895” Cultural and Creative Industrial Park, 18#, West Street, Gangzha District, Nantong City, Jiangsu Province.
I am publishing here a few photographs of the exhibition without names of the artists nor titles and materials used (added on 18 Nov.), as I do not have the catalogue in my hands yet to be able to be precise. Tomorrow, since we are supposed to be there for the seminar and other activities I hope to get the catalogue and finish my tour in the actual show which today proved to be squeezed in a very tight programme. The last visit today was at the new Museum of the City of Nantong a fabulous building of human dimensions made of white marble and black stone. The word of the day (continuing reading the book China in Ten Words by Yu Hua): “Disparity”
6 November; the central European airports are celebrating Christmas already. Amsterdam hits the top as always, with the Finnish one being more modest and aligned to its grey environment with only little blue lights on the Christmas trees; far at the back and over the white snowy field, the same trees in real are forming a dark horizontal line on the grey landscape.
The actual flying time is something that I try to forget; my discomfort on airplanes is known, I think. Luckily I found the perfect book to read on the airplane so my wasted time found some meaning: “China in Ten Words” by Yu Hua, a book with a straight forward voice on the bitter and on the sweet of China. Till they switched off the lights on the second flight I had devoured 120 pages of careful reading. I intend to finish it tonight.
My flight arrived exactly at the foreseen time. The Pudong airport is a brand new one, huge in size giving a feeling of being empty. All went fast with luggage and migration clearance; somewhere at the far I could see groups of uniformed people walking after someone with a flag; other uniformed people with obvious authority were doing their routine walk up and down, which I did not know where to place but it did give a weary feeling. In between total newness and communist symbols, I entered China. A most helpful young man was waiting for me, as promised, to take me to Nantong. We walked through the vast not busy corridors and came to the car which already had collected the first two passengers. Off to the other airport of Shangahi for the last passenger, I was introduced to the light and air of the big-cities China. The sunshine was dampened by a thick cloud of smog, dust and humidity. Rolling on the enumerable highway air bridges designing the landscape, I could grasp snap shots of normal street life behind this new design of prosperity. Lots of people, motorbikes, steaming pans, street merchandise, small tracks and all types of carriages, work, movement, business and at the back somewhere the port of Shanghai almost transparent. The first contact with Chinese billboards fell in the same area as the new Chinese painting that we see at big art events; it is as sticking the tongue out to aesthetics having at the same time something fresh and something totally conservative; the clog in the throat is almost inevitable despite the up-mood images; about the text I have no comments. From the first meters of the drive it was clear that the driving ethics are completely different to what we know in central Europe, stopping at the side of the highway, blowing the horn a lot, behaving more nervously than expected. In city streets the chaos is bigger, with motorbikes (lots of them) even driving against the official stream. There is a lot officiality here but the road is not part of it. This evening, to get with the assigned busses from the hotel to the river for a sight-seeing cruise, a police car was engaged to open the road for us.
Anyway, while waiting at the ‘ banana’ level of the airport for the last passenger of our car, I decided to close my eyes for a few minutes. From that point, tiredness took the upper hand and I spent basically half asleep the last bit of our trip from Shanghai to Nantong. Once at the hotel though I picked up my energy and walked to a building 50 meters further that seemed to attract thousands of people of obviously low income. Walking into the building, I realised that it was a kind of shopping mall for fabrics and garments, set up in a way unknown to our experience; practically hundreds of stores packed in this building seeming to do some kind of business to earn the day’s bread. Speaking of bread, I was hungry. The lousy food of the airplane had left me with a disturbed feeling; I found again some meters further away a noodle fast food and had something that helped me go back to the hotel and get some sleep. I woke up two hours later and stood up reluctantly; needed to get ready for the cruise on Haohe river. On little boats and with a young girl as our guide, we drifted on the water admiring somehow the effort that this city made to decorate with all kinds of colored lights (many of them moving) the buildings that stand out as architecture or as historical points. This I want to mention: it does impress me the sense of admiration that Chinese people seem to have. Our guide was explaining that for Nantong we are talking about one city, one man and one river. One city because Nantong though old as establishment, is the pioneer modern city of China, one man because all this modernity is owed to a man called Zhang Jian who believed that progress comes through industry and education and one river because all important buildings are around the river bank. I can do nothing else than nod, yes.
On the way back and in the bus, I noticed that actually there are also many statues that entail light moving parts. Without any comment; I do try to see their view. Tomorrow, the opening of the exhibition but also seeing other things, like maybe Shen-style embroidery (?); the new fibers that they produce here in the area would also give a shot of inspiration, but now back to the book, finishing the word “Revolution”.