From the chaotic streets to the SH Contemporary art fair

Travel | by Susan Cheng
Posted: September 17th, 2012 | Updated: November 29th, 2012 | Comments
Shanghai travel stories

Every now and then, we at China Travel and Intern Diaries, a series of China escapades as seen through the eyes of the newest kids in town.

The moment I first stepped foot onto Shanghai grounds was not a particularly suspenseful one. Call me jaded, but after sitting and struggling to get comfortable on a muggy, un-air-conditioned airplane for 16 sleepless hours, my sole concern was to find Gate 7, where the people from NYU would be waiting for me… and to get myself to a bed for some much needed shut-eye. My fellow classmates, on the other hand, buzzing loudly amongst one another, seemed eager to begin exploring what would soon be our home for the next four months.... On the shuttle ride from Pudong International Airport to the NYU housing facilities, my classmates marveled over the metropolis surrounding them. They stared with their eyes wide and mouths agape at the stretch of skyscrapers and neon lights that hurtled past us, not failing to spot the legendary Shanghai Maglev. Needless to say, I eventually got a decent night’s sleep, settled in and joined my friends in the excitement.

Culture Shock

It’s funny to me, though, how badly some of my friends were hit with the culture shock. I guess it’s understandable, what with all the casual spitting and the men who walk around with their shirts held up and guts hanging out. I mean, even just walking a few feet from our apartment complex will take you to the front line of war zone. The streets here are just bustling with angry cab drivers, bicyclists and even little babies crouched on the front of moms’ mopeds, charging furiously at you from every direction. But while these things might seem barbaric and off-putting to most newcomers of Shanghai, there isn’t much that fazes me in this big old city. Growing up in a Chinese household where I watched my dad hawk and spit fish bones right onto the dinner table, I guess you could say I’ve grown pretty thick-skinned over the years. But then again, a little spit here and there has never killed anyone. Unlike some of my classmates, I was much more interested in the people of Shanghai and their lifestyle rather than the city itself. Once you get over the initial shock and see past the surface differences, you’ll realize that these are fascinating people who live in an ever-changing country, all with untold stories. Simply watching the afternoon hustle bustle of the workers in the ECNU (East China Normal University) cafeteria, the attendants shouting orders back at the cook, who then tosses a concoction of food into the wok, igniting the roar of a flame—it gives me such a thrill because for the first time in a long time, it feels like I am a part of something truly alive.

SH Contemporary 2012

Shanghai travel stories

There should be a word in the English language for the feeling one gets upon entering an art exhibit, because God knows the Chinese have got one for it.

Last Saturday, I attended VPN or proxy to see it from within Mainland China), an annual art fair which brings together flocks of artists, buyers, curators and art junkies to the Shanghai Exhibition Center (Shànghǎi Zhǎnlǎn Zhōngxīn, 上海展览中心) for a weekend of events, discussion and some fine-arts-appreciation. Not enough time, if you ask me. Simply stepping through the doors of the "Sino-Soviet Friendship Building" is like a visual-overload, with video art flashing and paintings closing in on you from every direction. The showcase I spent most of my time at was NOW INK, a theme-based exhibition that started in 2011. Consisting of multimedia and performance-based works of 17 big name artists, this year’s NOW INK exhibition features pieces that incorporate ink painting and calligraphy into international art. Check out below for some of my favorites from this year!            

Shanghai travel stories

Chen Chun-Hao's Imitating Red Cliff by Wu Yuan Zhi in Jin Dynasty 

 

Shanghai travel stories

Made with thousands of little mosquito nails on canvas! Pointillism at its finest

 

Shanghai travel stories

Shen Fan's Landscape 9210, which is actually an oil on canvas depiction of Shanghai's stock exchange throughout history

 

Shanghai travel stories

Charwei Tsai's Bonsai Series III, done in black ink on lithograph

 

Shanghai travel stories

Xiong Lijun's piece, entitled Life is an imaginary enemy, People are all paranoid, which was a part of the SHiNE Art Space 2012

 

Shanghai travel stories

By Liang Binbin

 

Shanghai travel stories

Gao Yu's From the Wave-rider to the Drowner

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