With a brief, chilled layover/recharge in Zhejiang (we’re talking hostel spas here, nothing fancy), we then moseyed on down to Shanghai. Instead of seeing the city first, we were taken to Zhuijajiao - the Venice of China.
At this point in my trip I had severe solo-travelling blues. Extended amounts of time in China are often difficult and as much fun as I was having, sometimes the constant smells, miscommunication, along with other idiotic (mostly just racist) unmentionable travelling companions, it left me a little worse for wear. That was until I came across two absolute beauties.
This is Megs.
This is Saz.
Megs is super pasty and super blonde. This goes down a fucking treat in China. Everyone (literally everyone) was either filming, staring, or taking photos. I was now the one being asked to take the photo, not be in it. Megs at this point was only 4 days in to her China experience, so she’s still super chilled.
(Casj side note that we are still in the Golden Week here, so there are more tourists, more cameras, and more pushing/gaping/shoving than normal)
These two were the fresh minds and bodies that I needed to keep me going. That and Antony Gormley, but AG wasn’t there when I was debating what an appropriate time was to have a cheeky Tsing Tao after a horrendous night train. Cue these two lads strolling in with an 8 pack, already ahead in the game having bought enough for me and Ed (The Edventurer) too.
Lets start with fake Venice. It was sort of built like a theme park, like Legoland. You pay an extortionate amount for entry, and the closest thing you get to authentic is a Starbucks.
Like I said, I was getting a little weary of the cultural mass, so we started wandering around the backstreets finding nooks and crannies and crouching to take photographs of odd things which made us stand out all the more.
There were even little street stalls (and by that I mean a rug on the ground with some unidentifiable wares) which we managed to find.
Again, conversing in Mandarin was not our strong suit, so we smiled and failed to purchase any edibles for lack of want.
After the Venice-venture, we made our way back to the capital, and whilst the gals decided to finally catch their post-night-out-nap, I went to find the Gormley exhibition. Originally, I wanted to see the ‘A History of the World in 100 Objects’ that was in the Shanghai Museum, but after seeing the queue of 250+ people I made my way to the Long Museum, located in the West Bund to see Gormley’s new exhibition ‘Still Moving’.
The West Bund was beautiful. It was westernised, but only to the point where it felt like a little bit of Europe rather than America. People were running/jogging/flying kites/enjoying the sun. It was also a lot emptier than the usual spots.
I found an odd market on my way there too.
This exhibition space at the Long Museum was a neutral zone. It was as if I had stepped back into London, if I was back inside the Tate Britain, analysing British art. My brain had missed seeing familiar works which I could digest on my own time, at my own pace, with my own interest. Although it sounds trivial to make these connections, I would argue that nothing is trivial to the individual.
This exhibition focused on Gormley’s relationship with drawing, including extensive prints and sculptures that are installed to interact wonderfully with the architecture of the museum to include issues surrounding body as space: and space as object. Breathing Room was a particular favourite; and environment made of nesting photo-luminescent space frames all containing the same volume, but stretched in different directions.
10 minutes of darkness are interrupted by 40 seconds of blinding lights. It evokes a mesmerising spacial questioning, forcing an engagement with the lines as a subject in a confronting experience.
I loved China for what it was, but it had been fucking exhausting. This spacial familiarity of the gallery comforted me, and reiterated that there was an overarching necessity for me to always be surrounded, or to make, or to be inherently involved with Art.
I spent at least 2 hours reading extracts from textbooks on display. Forgive the nail polish, it was one of the other gems that were received from M+S.
In one of the books, I felt like this extract expressed the situation:
“The best way to touch the mind and the soul, or the heart and the emotions of somebody, is to touch their bodies first. So these objects [the sculptures] – you could call them displacements – are not simply objects. The displacement that these made things effect within the space is also a displacement of the body of the observer. Your freedom of movement or choice of direction as you pass through the gallery spaces in qualified by the way the works are disposed. The work is a kind of tool to test made spaces and evoke feelings of being open or compressed. I’m interested in how a condition created a state, or how a state can manifest itself in the condition of a built philosophy: architecture.
The viewer’s body becomes the essential, active participant in this field."
The comforting gallery mentally, physically and imaginatively transmitted a fresh space. So much so, I had to log-on to the free Wi-Fi and tell Mum all about the excitement.
Both this A.G. exhibition and Megs/Saz were evoking a state of being within me, rather than illustrating an action between us. It’s not that they physically did something specific, it’s just that the time they were there, was a time when I needed them most. They revealed a new lease of a sort-of-weightlessness, of home and the power of good, real company. A home I was missing so much, and never knew how much I longed for.