My first full day in Shanghai and what a day it was…

I will be staying in a few different places during my month here, but for now I am based at the University campus, which is huge and currently covered in spectacular flowers. Luckily it has its own Metro stop, so my first day of wanderings got off to an easy start.

After a morning visit to the Jade Buddha Temple (I can still smell the incense and hear the beat of the drum), I spent most of the day wandering around M50 – an art enclave in the north of the city. It is chock full of art spaces, which seem to cater to every taste.

The curatorial preface to a show by two painters (Wei Yi and Lin Zhenghlu) instantly got my attention:

“Perhaps no other country deals with modern education – and with the next generation – as China does: from age 6 every child undergoes the pressure of 14 hour school days… Instead of valuing education, such a high pressure approach shows ignorance about education; rather than supporting culture, one should say that this approach wreaks ruin upon culture”

The paintings presented were photo realistic portraits of marginalized cultural figures (mostly poets) in varying of depression, mental breakdown and poverty.

The works in Island6 and HSpace lightened the mood. The entrance to the former has a happy little neon sign bursting with the kind of optimism that the painters Wei and Lin have in short supply.

Island6 is run by a collective (Liu Dao) who “explore the convergence of art and technology in an irreverent and humourous way”. The works were fun and super slick, often managing to merge painting, film and animation seamlessly within a picture frame, or in one case, an old bureau. However, HSpace contained my favourite work of the day – a collection of three short films by Fudong Yang, which I can only describe as a Chinese version of Gilbert and George… cheeky and provocative all in one go.

Tomorrow I will be in the Fine Arts department with Ling Min (Associate Professor in Art History, long time collaborator with Metal and my super lovely host) feeding back on student proposals for their “Spatial Dialogues” project… can’t wait to learn more and see what they have come up with.