Jeanne Kelly

China 2010

This page is being continually updated. I will probably take the whole year to get everything post and up here. Just in time to go back for more in 2011.

” The Parsons China Summer 2010 Course will mark the fourth year Parsons The New School for Design has collaborated with The Academy of Art and Design at Tsinghua University to run a one-month collaboration in Beijing, China. The course began as a summer class primarily for students in Communication, Design and Technology and has expanded to include undergraduate and graduate students from every academic discipline at Parsons.
Each year the course has focused on different creative and design practices, including the following: exhibition/installation, artistic programming, design seminars, new media/technology, fine arts and hands-on workshops. In the summer of 2006, 1 faculty along with 3 MFA Design + Technology students from Parsons along with faculty and graduate students from Tsinghua University collaborated to create the “Traveler” installation for The 3rd Millennium Dialogue, Code:Blue. The summer of 2007 saw the first full scale Parsons Tsinghua collaboration course with 1 faculty and 25 students from Parsons and 20 from Tsinghua participating in a one-month course interaction design and artistic programming with Processing and Physical Computing.
The Parsons and Tsinghua collaboration continued in 2008 with the unique opportunity to build the “1000 Cell Phones” installation for the Synthetic Times Exhibition at the National Art Museum of China. In 2009 the summer course “Input-Process-Output” collaboration included 60 students and 5 faculty from Parsons, 30 students and faculty from Tsinghua University, Nokia Research (Palo Alto/Beijing) and BBH International (NYC/Shanghai). The summer course also changed it’s format by splitting the course into 2 weeks in Beijing at Tsinghua and 2 weeks in Shanghai at eARTS with day trips to Shanghai Institute of Visual Arts and China Academy of Fine Arts in Hangzhou to introduce collaboration between the schools.” via Parsons in China, Summer 2010

In thinking about how to present my trip to China I decided to break the experence first into two parts, work and play. These are represented under Projects as China 2010 (play) and 10 in 10 (work). I thought it might get too confusing to mix the two different aspects of my trip and felt both would be better served in “linked” separation. They do enrich each other, so please take a look at the 10 in 10 projects after you check out the fun I had during my first of hopefully many trips to this stunning country.

On this Projects page, China 2010, I will only show my trip as the tourist I was. I organized this page by location. Part of this decision was influenced by my participation in the Site = Sight program while in China, I think this is an appropriate method to categorize. I will include links to the “work” projects I completed if they are somehow connected to the “play” location, but I will not discuss the projects themselves here. The “work” projects are discussed and documented in full on the 10 in 1o Project page as part of my summer thesis preparation.

Just have fun and enjoy this page.

Located in Dashanzi Art District (original 798 Factory), is the heart of a growing art and culture community in Beijing. 798 is the largest space to concentrate on  provideing cultural, artistic and commercial activities in Beijing and the surrounding areas. The main exhibition hall was designed by the East German’s architects in the Bauhaus style in the early 1950’s.   It is now the home of Pace Gallery Beijing. Through the reconstruction and redesigning with the contemporary aesthetics by artists, the space combines the past, present, and future of the “New China” and the unique meaning of the socialistic culture.  I went with some friends and explored the area one Wednesday afternoon.  After a long and confusing bus ride, Briana, Michelle, Cynthia and myself all wandered into 798.  It didn’t take long before the “shoppers” and the “looker” split up.  In other words, Briana and I lost Michelle and Cynthia in a jewelry store about 3 seconds after we entered the complex.  We all had phones though and decided to just meet p later at the end of the day.  Briana and I went on the hunt for interesting art, and we found plenty, but a little more on the history of the area …

In 1995, Beijing’s Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA), looking for cheap, ample workshop space away from downtown, set up in the now defunct Factory 706. The temporary move became permanent and in 2000 Sui Jianguo(隋建国), Dean of the Department of Sculpture, located his own studio in the area. The cluttered sculpture workshops have always remained open for visitors to peek at the dozens of workers milling about.

Through word-of-mouth, artists and designers started trickling in, attracted to the vast cathedral-like spaces. Despite the lack of any conscious aesthetic in the Bauhaus-inspired style, which grounded architectural beauty in practical, industrial function, the swooping arcs and soaring chimneys had an uplifting effect on modern eyes, a sort of post-industrial chic. At the artists’ requests, workers renovating the spaces preserved the prominent Maoist slogans on the arches, adding a touch of ironic “Mao kitsch” to the place.

In the days of Joint Factory 718, Dashanzi was chosen for its peripheral position well outside the city center. The artists who later moved there were attracted from the fringes of the city as well. However, the area today sits right on the strategic corridor between the Capital Airport and downtown Beijing along the Airport Expressway. In the context of China’s current real estate bubble, the district is highly likely to be demolished in the near future. Hints of development are already appearing with the western entrances of the complex flanked by the Jiuxian and Hongyuan luxury apartment towers.

Meanwhile, attempts have been made to appeal to the developers’ sense of economics by pointing out similarities with New York’s Greenwich Village and SoHo, where the high profitability of real estate is due partly to the presence of former post-industrial artists’ dwellings. Those arguments have so far been ignored.

Influential members of the artist community and architects are lobbying various government instances to persuade them to allow the old buildings to remain, as part of a cultural center which Beijing otherwise lacks and that can only grow organically. In 2003, International Architects Salon roped in architects from various international architectural associations and renowned architects like Bernard Tschumi and Coop Himmelblau’s Wolfe Prix to hammer in the point how attractive spaces like Factory 798 can be to international design community. They point out that such communities are important if Beijing, and China, is to become a major source of creative design instead of mere low cost low value-added manufacturing. (This issue has far-reaching implications in the domain of intellectual property protection in China – some experts believe that the local IP laws will start to be enforced only when China becomes a source of its own intellectual property.)

In 2004, Seven-Star Group froze the rental of new spaces and prohibited all renewals. Tenants resorted to subdividing and subleasing their spaces, to which the Group responded by attempting to forbid subleasing to cultural organizations or to foreigners, hoping to drive out the artists. Tenants, despite some of them having leases still valid for several years, were given the ultimatum of December 31, 2005 to vacate the premises. (China Daily)
798 Art District graffiti – We love Peace in Beijing,  Thanks Jook Leung for posting this.

But by the end of 2007 it was decided that the area would continue in its current format of a special art zone. In 2009, the area has been refurbished and is thriving. The roads have been repaved, new galleries have opened, and a cafe culture is emerging. As my delicious strawberry smoothie would prove.

As you can see from the slideshow above, Birana and I spent a lot of time capturing the graffiti in the area.  I did see a lot of great art in the galleries, but you know galleries … NO PHOTOS.  I also found something refreshing in the fact that this was allowed in any area of China.  I understand that it would seem unsurprising and make complete sense to most westerners (and easterner for that matter) to find graffiti in an area known as an artist district.  But this is China.  God love her, China does not alway make complete sense.
It was obvious to Briana and myself that a lot of the  graffiti was actually done western artist.  This may be part of the reason this area has not been “cleaned”


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