Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Breakthrough to Evolution

After a brief tour of Beijing in the short period of time since my arrival, I can proudly say that I have formulated my personal conception of Beijing as a city and a cultural focus that attracts individuals with a current of rich heritage, deep history, and fervent tradition.

As a city, Beijing emits an intensely Chinese urban aura—a mixture of modernity and orthodoxy to orchestrate a uniquely Chinese environment—that impacts every residing individual. Composed in a rectangular structure with the city infrastructure expanding in accordance with the original imperial urban design, the city establishes itself upon the foundations of tradition, history, and culture. From the grand macrocosmic perspective, the symbol and representation of centrality and power of the current regime is reflected in the geographical placement of the government buildings and also the utilization and alteration of the lasting history of the imperial remnants—the Forbidden Palace. From the detailed microcosmic perspective, the Siheyuan architectural establishment of the ancient Beijing Hutongs present a structured and hierarchical placement and existence that emphasizes orthodoxy and stability.

Touring around Beijing, most of the city—and people—reflect the historic and conventional characteristics familiar to individuals; however, in the Art Beijing exhibition, the audacity and confrontational art works represent the flourishing of a new culture, a modern culture focused on individuality and conflict to convey awareness.

Bird Flu, this piece instantly choked in my attention the moment I entered into its personal vicinity. Bold and challenging, this piece exemplifies strength and summons conflict to force anxiety into the audience, to defy convention and express awareness. Standing in the center of the work, in front of a red Chinese wall illustrating archaic Chinese fengshui, a young Caucasian female—perhaps in her late 20’s—dressed in a silky black qipao adorned with dazzling gold flowers holds a fluffy and yellow duck while having her nose and mouth covered with a cloth mask. Any harmony from the combination of an attractive young female dressed in an attractive dress complimented by a serene background is violently disrupted by the conflicting imagery of the duck and mask. By incorporating everything—the duck, the mask, the dress, the background; but most of all, the fear and despise in the girl’s eyes—this image is permanently impressed within my mind.

The impression that this art work makes is one that challenges convention. From this picture and the title, I believe that the artist wants to rebel against tradition and the characteristic stereotyping. To me, the girl embodies the weakness of humans. Although in her hand she holds a bird, it is not the bird that brings death, destruction and fear; from the girl’s eyes, her covered mouth and her black satin dress, she personifies Death as she instills apprehension and animosity into humans. I feel that the artist yearns for the audience to understand that human convention is a slave to the weaknesses of innate human characteristics, and ultimately the superficial physical attributes of humans are only facades to mask and hide the same deeper core of inherent human faults. It is this misconception and miscommunication of culture that causes death, panic, and abhorrence between cultures and blinds them from the truth of individual equality.

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