April 7, 2008

Best Friends?

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You think these two were friends in a past life? Or -- in an alternate universe?

Friday day we had off, so I went to Roy & Eve's place and made spring rolls with a bunch of other friends. If I can toot my own horn a bit, I was not so bad at the rolling part. I ended up rolling at least 50 of the 100 or so we ate. There were three kinds: curry, banana, and teriyaki chicken. Mmmm.

Saturday I was really lazy and didn't do much. Then my friend Cameron called and invited me to a socc-- I mean, football game at Hongkou Stadium. He's Scottish, so football (patience, guys - that's what they call it over here! When in Rome ...) runs in his DNA. I however cannot recall the last time I was at a football game. It was the Tianjin Teda coming to town to play the Shanghai Shenhua.

The weather was pretty rainy and crappy, so the capacity of 35,000 was not even close to being full. I'd say maybe a couple thousand were there. But we sat right next to the loud Shenhua fan section, so that provided some atmosphere. They were chanting and yelling and beating drums and waving flags the whole game.

At some point they started singing a tune that I recognized, but I couldn't place it. Then it hit me -- these Chinese football fans were humming the Battle Hymn of the Republic. Now, I mean -- okay. That just blew my mind :-)

Tianjin scored once, early in the second half. But Shanghai came back with two goals in the last 15 minutes to win it. So that was fun. (Yeah yeah -- I sound really excited don't I?) The highlight of the game for me was a drunk fan who stumbled onto the field and began accosting one of the players:

It was all well and hilarious until the security guards dragged the dude away, and I realized he probably won't be heard from again for a good long while. (Nah, just kidding -- I think.)

Sorry no pictures. I'll do better next time and bring my camera.

Sunday I was supposed to go to Taikang Lu again to relax, and by "supposed to" I mean "wanted to." But instead I ended up at Moganshan Lu, this sort of cousin to Taikang Lu in the art world I suppose. But whereas Taikang Lu is a bunch of narrow alleyways, Moganshan Lu is a broader, more open maze of warehouses and small plazas.

That's where the pictures at the start of this post come from. I stayed there for nearly five hours, taking pictures and looking at stuff and browsing in bookstores and reading and eating and chatting with shop owners. (Yes -- I can kind of do that now. But only in small doses.) I knocked on doors and climbed stairs and looked out windows and debating crawling across some scaffolding to reach alternate rooftops. It was pretty great and very relaxing.

With my now-superior insider peek at the Shanghai art scene, I've made two observations. Observation the first: lots of photographers are into the whole my-pictures-are-black-and-white-except-for-one-or-two-brightly-colored-objects thing. I saw this trend in many galleries on Taikang Lu and I certainly noticed it at Moganshan Lu. (Listen to me, I'm becoming Robert Hughes over here.)

The second observation I had was that lots of artists create, well, variations on a theme. But that theme is really, really obvious. Example: a single gallery might be full of 20 - 30 paintings. Each painting is of, let's say, a person or two or three or a hundred people, but they're all done in the same style. They might just have different clothes on, or be in a different setting, or have different color skin. But they all share very distinct features that group them together. You'd have to be blind not to see it -- because all the people look the same.


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Those same grinning faces adorn every single painting in that gallery, just in different costumes and environments and shit. I dunno if it's supposed to be this way or what, but it gets a little monotonous, especially when you're in a gallery and all these faces are leering at you from the walls and they all look exactly the same. It's especially noticeable because the facial expressions never change. Each one is exactly the same.

It's like, ooh, cool-looking face in a military uniform, cool-looking face in a cocktail dress, cool-looking face standing on a cliff by the sea. I dunno. Yeah they're cool-looking and distinctive but, again, it gets old.

Damn brain, I'm too logical for the art world I suppose.

After that I came home, ate dinner, and watched No Country for Old Men (finally!) I so love the Coen brothers and this film didn't disappoint.

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