Week Number One of The School of Visual Arts’ Digital Photography Residency in Shanghai, China.
Ni hao (hello) again from Abby Robinson. Here’s a communiqué about week number one of The School of Visual Arts’ Digital Photography Residency in Shanghai, China.
Photo © Abby Robinson, Yuan Gong’s Installation at the Zendai Museum
The “Work” in Workshop:
Monday: a session where everyone comes to my suite (which doubles as our classroom) and gives a presentation of his or her past work so we have an idea where everyone is coming from—visually, conceptually, geographically and psychologically. This gets followed up on Thursday with in-depth individual crits. More critiques—group and individual—are scheduled during the course of the workshop.
Celebrations and Investigations:
June 6 was the Dragon Boat Festival, commemorating the date in 277 B.C. when renowned Chinese dissident poet, Qu Yuan, drowned himself in the Milou River as a form of political protest. One aspect of the celebration is by the consumption of glutinous sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaves (zong zi), which we were lucky enough to eat because we were invited to the house of our Chinese student/translator (Phil’s) grandmother for dinner. Not only did we devour zong zi, Phil’s relatives gave us a tutorial on how to wrap uncooked rice with the long leaves and then tie them up with string. Plus we learned how to prepare dumplings and wantons. Some of us showed talent; others (I sadly include myself in this group) were pretty klutzy. The whole meal, with its many, many delicious dishes was incredible and we left feeling like stuffed dumplings ourselves.
Also this week: a trip on the Bund Tourist Tunnel, a bizarre, hilarious attraction that is mystifying and logic-defying in concept followed by a fun jaunt to the rooftop restaurant of the Captain’s Hostel to watch the sun go down and the buildings of Pudong light up.
Art and Commerce
Of course, art and photography punctuated the week. We spent hours at the Shanghai Museum with its amazing collections of furniture, seals, paintings, calligraphy, coins and jade. We also had an excellent visit to the Zendai Museum, where the director and video artist Li Xiaofei gave us a terrific tour, sharing background about the various installations and showing us examples of his own work. Last, but hardly least, Stefen Chow, a very talented Malaysian photographer now based in Beijing and Singapore, (and featured as PDNedu’s One To Watch photographer in Spring 2011) came to speak to us about both his commercial and personal projects. He spent a terrific and instructive two-and-a-half hours telling us about his interesting and diverse projects and providing valuable information and advice.
The “Shop” in Workshop
Sure there’s shopping. Which is why we made a pilgrimage to Shanghai’s six-floor camera superstore at the intersection of Luban and Xietu Roads, which is like New York’s B&H on a mega-dose of steroids. Going there is similar to visiting an Apple store: you experience unbridled lust, wanting everything in sight even if you don’t really need it. Although at the Apple store I want all the packaging too, but here I don’t care.
Photo © Abby Robinson, Wang Jingsong Installation at the Zendai Museum
Wow! Looking back, it’s amazing to think that this is just the first week.
Week two is coming up…