Had a lovely dinner last night with Ling Min, Han Feng and Vicky. We went to a local place they recommended, drank warm yellow wine and talked and talked and eventually ended up back at Han Feng and Vicky’s place drinking more wine and eating popcorn.
Today, as if from nowhere, a zillion people descended on the Museum. Everything seemed to get done all in one go; it was a madhouse. There is no sense of slow and steady here when it comes to work, the ethic seems to be: throw loads of people at it for as short a time as possible. An interesting model, but chaotic.
Thick smog covered the town for most of yesterday morning (not the best conditions to see public art!) but it lifted in the afternoon and the sun actually came out. Unfortunately the lifting of the fog did not stop a boat crashing into the floating lawn and wrecking it. I feel so bad for the students who made it – they worked so hard on it and were so enthusiastic.
Ling Min and I had a long discussion about my piece this afternoon. I sensed that she was not happy with what I’ve done, so I asked her about it. Bit by bit, the reasons came out. The main issue has to do with function. I am of the view that art is not about function. What I like about the boat I have been given to work with is that it has lost its function. It is a dirty, old, dead boat. People going past it would not give it a second glance, which is why I’ve given it a massive burst of colour and movement– people will be forced to look at it afresh. The rest of the boat I have left as it is. Ling Min cannot understand this. “Chinese people will say ‘Why has this boat been left dirty’?!” Her idea is to cover the boat in plastic bags – but this confuses me. Why would she cover the boat up? Why would she expect me to follow her idea? She also said that she wanted people to see that the boat could have another use, another function, to which I replied that maybe that function could be as an artwork, but she said that was not a practical function, “Birds could make a nest on it” she said, “Chinese people could see that there is another use for these boats”… Eventually we gave up and agreed that we disagreed. I’ve never been interested in function with my work: I think that’s a job for designers. It was an amicable discussion, but frustrating for both of us as we are clearly coming at the project from different sensibilities.
The students who made the floating lawn have fixed it! They worked well into the night. They moved the lawn nearer to my boat piece so there is less chance of it getting drowned by passing traffic again. The two pieces look a bit mad next to each other… but then they look a bit mad individually.
Water and Reflections
9 December 2013 – 9 January 2014
“Initiated by Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, this cross boundary art project is… intending to inspire a dialogue within the space that embodies some of the very essence of Chineseness… Dominic Redfern, Simon Perry, Philip Samartzis, Haco, Nicola Dale, Hu Jieming, Wang Zheng, Ding Yi and his 25 students from the Public Art Department of Shanghai Institute of Visual Art… will probe into the meaning of an urban environment and culture through a variety of media, including video, sound, installation, photography and public art.”
Curators: Ling Min, Wong Shun-Kit