I would call this a score based operation/ exploration of a subject. It is similar to the score which I created for myself: Go to every Pizza Hut which exists in Beijing, within a reasonable (please note the subjectivity of the word reasonable) traveling distance of the center of the city and photograph the outside of the building. The Pizza Huts are a resting place, a place to meet, a place to hold dates. I didn't use them as a resting place, but rather frantically approached them in order to move on to the next. There was a lot of stress and anxiety inherent in the project... would I, could I, get to each one, could I do it safely? Would I get hopelessly lost, wreck my bike> In fact, concerns for safety and bodily harm weren't as high as they could of been. I lost 10 pounds in the process of going to all of these places in the high summer heat and humidity of Beijing. I often had to walk very very far from a subway station, or from going in the wrong direction, or having the wrong idea of exactly where one was on the map. Even a slight misjudgement of map-placement could send me blocks and blocks in the wrong direction of where the exact location was of the Pizza Hut I was looking for.
Today, Andrew played some sound work by Philip LeGoff of The Group for Research and Music in France. I closed my eyes and listened to the dense, clear sounds of object falling, banging, and twittering. The sound was, as Colleen commented, very sculptural. I couldn't help but pick up my pen as new ideas about the Pizza Hut project emerged which had never come forward before. Once concern I have is that, in the one-month interim since I was in Beijing, I have only had one image in my head of what these Pizza Hut prints could end up being---and that was a large map of Beijing with the locations placed where I found them. While listening to Goffs work, sculptural thoughts emerged about the prints being three-dimensional on the ground---39 of them on little 2-D stands throughout the space. They each have a proximity sensor, and when you approach one, you hear a sound. There are speakers placed throughout the space which say different things---perhaps they should be in some non-language, they are telling you where to go--- how to get from place to place, but they mean nothing. I want to give the viewer the sense of disorientation and stress which I felt when moving through the city trying to find the different Pizza Huts. Its a simple score, and seems trivial at first glance, but the problem solving which emerged from the confusion and solitariness was great. I guess I love this sort of challenge--something too hard which most people wouldn't take on, something kind of too stupid for most people to take on, but taking it on and chuckling/moaning to myself the whole way. Its slightly masochistic. Pushing myself to the limit. I won't make it on the Discover Channel because I didn't climb the highest mountain in the world, it was quieter than that. I like the quietness of it... the secretness, like I am doing something slightly mischievous and I recognize the luxury of time and artist-status which allows me to do it. I think, as I'm walking along how lucky I am to have this time to explore in this way, and that there is no other way I would rather experience a new place. Sometimes I felt worried that I wouldn't make it to all of the tourist destinations which I wanted to get to... Gugong, The Summer Palace, The Bell Tower, etc... but I knew that the others who had the time to get to these places didn't have the parameters which I had for myself, the challenge which I had set to accomplish. It has to be about the journey, and the politics/business/economics emerges on its own. It was about the journey.
Andrew also encourages us to use descriptive analyses as a jumping off point to write about our work and to talk about work in general. So, begin by just describing what you see or hear. Anyone can do this and there are no wrong answers. I think that sometimes things seem so obvious to me, so I don't say them, but sometimes what someone wants to hear and know is simply what you see and this validates what they see or calls it in to question.
>>>Jason recommends the Edirol Digital Audio Recorder<<<
Creative Capital Grant
Sunday, August 24, 2008
Following are my first attempts at Chinese baozi. I had to improvise a steamer with western camp kitchen equipment. I think they turned out great. I ate four for breakfast the next day. They were damn close to the ones I ate in China... very time consuming though, so I don't know when I'll get another chance to make them.
Below is the master craftsmanship and resourcefulness of Donna Scott. Unbelievable car-side, lakeside, in-the-rain sewing job.
Below is the master craftsmanship and resourcefulness of Donna Scott. Unbelievable car-side, lakeside, in-the-rain sewing job.
Saturday, August 2, 2008
I am using the Pizza Hut project as a sieve for a thoughts and questions about the benefits and downsides of our post-colonial cultural mixing. My friend Jennifer asked if my interest in the fast food chains has to with that "that terrible-to-see-your-own-ugly-culture-abroad- american thing". While traveling, I feel uncomfortable about being American in many ways, while at the same time being proud of my culture and being able to see some of the positive things about our attitudes and approach to life. Here is the situation with the Pizza Huts which makes me see it as an important jumping-off point for conversation: The Pizza Huts in China are very fancy, and very expensive for Chinese standards. People wait in long lines on weekend nights to get in the door, they take dates, dress up, and have classy meetings at the Pizza Huts. Inside, they are well-decorated, upscale restaurants. When I first got to China and saw what was going on with the Pizza Hut restaurants, I was disgusted and embarrassed, about American culture and food, and also for the young Chinese who were the customers at these restaurants. I guess my first take was --oh god, they are holding up American culture, sacrificing their own, ancient, developed, beautiful culture of food, to pay waay too much money for American food, when America is such a young country with no real grounded history in food preparation, and an obvious problem with food and eating---why are they paying for this shit??? I often found myself at a loss, trying to explain what we eat here in America. I really couldn't answer the question? The Chinese often seem to think that we eat a lot of bread. But I don't know if this is true. I think that they form the question "do you eat a lot of bread" from a perspective of the way in which rice is important in their diet. And I don't think that bread serves the same function in our culture which rice serves in theirs. I tried to explain that we eat foods from many cultures in America, and that there are many factors which influence our diets. What you eat in America depends on where you are from, what cultures influence your region or relatives, and certainly your economic class. I was basically at a loss... I don't know what we eat, and I think that we approach eating so vastly differently from the way the Chinese approach eating, it is difficult to explain.
The food in China is just unbelievable. I mean, 3000 years of culture, and people really know how to take care of themselves. It was constantly baffling, sometimes frustrating, and almost always delicious to be sitting around a dinner table with Chinese people. Eating is a whole different action, process, and way of thinking there than it is here. The table is always communal--with dishes in the middle and everyone around the dishes. There is always way more food than the number of people there can eat. This was overwhelming at first, because we are so trained not to waste food. One person orders for the table, and many dishes are ordered from the waiter--the process of ordering is extremely complex and involves a lot of conversation with the waiter---I'm not sure what all of the conversation is about, but I think it has to do with what dishes are what, what would go well together, and making sure you have the right number of cold dishes and hot dishes, because this is specific and important---the cold dishes come out first. So, there is this aspect-- so much more colorful than going around one by one and saying what you want, then being handed an individual plate, maybe wishing you got what your friend got, but not wanting to ask if you can try it, etc... The other question which fascinates, confuses, and often frustrated me was "do you want rice"? or "do you want noodles?" This question would sometimes be asked of me, in English, proceeded and followed by lots of Chinese conversation. So I would have no context with which to answer this question. I wanted to ask "well, I dont know, what else are we having?" or "Are you having rice?" "Should I have rice?" "Do you normally eat rice with this dish?" I think that the question basically means... are you full and satisfied, or do you want rice to fill you up the rest of the way? From what I understand, the Chinese used to always eat rice at meals, but now, it is more common to eat many dishes--meats, vegetables, dumplings, soups, etc... and not eat rice so that you can enjoy more of the dishes. Its such a different style than we are used to, that a question like "do you want rice?" becomes WAYYY more complex than a simple yes or no answer.
One interesting person who I encountered was the daughter of a friend of a friend who is about 24 years old, 3 years younger than me. First of all, when I first met her, I thought she was about 19. She still lives with her mom and is still in college and will be still studying for a while. She broke her leg in high school and apparently got quite chubby. Now she doesn't eat rice for dinner, but eats a big lunch. She was open to talking all about her strategy for weight control, how she eats a lot of fruit and a big lunch, but never eats rice for dinner. This is the connotation of the phrase "eating rice". I learned from a pair of male Chinese friends, that there is a saying in Chinese... its sort of like calling someone a pig (which they also do), but its something like "he just eats rice without thinking about what he is doing"... very interesting. Eating is generally a very social and public affair, most of the conversation around the food seems to be about the food, talking about who is eating what, and encouraging people to eat more of this or that. They often say "How Cher" throughout the meal, which means "good food" and point to a dish with the chopsticks which is particularly good. This encouragement to eat, no matter how hard I tried, was one thing which bothered my western sensibilities. I think that eating is just more private for us, we get our plate, and that is that. It is only parents talking to a child who would ask you to clean your plate or have more food.
Anyway, so Pizza Hut went to China and took on a new identity... almost like a person going to a new town and pretending they are something they are not. As China emerges into a more consumerist economy, people want things and status, and going to this restaurant and spending this kind of money for western food is a status symbol. In the end, I think that it comes down to, certainly not a "holding-up" of American culture as above their own, but just an interest in, what is a sort of "exotic" food experience, different than what they are used to for a special-occasion type of meal.
Bryan McFarlane, in the forward to his exhibition catalogue, "Bicycles, Pyramids, and Egg Axis--A Circular Journey" writes:
"...as I looked around China, I was struck by the speed with which the country is rebuilding itself. It is impossible to not be amazed by how a civilization thousands of years old is reinventing itself before your eyes. This rebuilding simultaneously leaps backward and forward, reaffirming fundamentals as ancient as the pyramids of Egypt while daring to build new towers that pierce the sky.."
On a visit to my open studio at Imagine Gallery, he said "The curiosity (about western culture) is strong enough that there becomes a market for it..."
We also talked at length about the re-inventing of a corporate image abroad. Many companies which look like they are barely keeping their heads above water in the US are actually doing very very well with business in China. They keep up appearances by still having products and branches in the US, but the real business is focused on the 1.3 billion customers in China.