Ink Art: Past as Present in Contemporary China

Weeeekend! Finally!

It's been about 8 days since my senior year officially started, but it already feels like I have been here for at least 8 weeks! The pressure was ON from the very first week!

During the last two days, I was actually out of classes and attending the Senior Retreat. The Senior Retreat is basically a two-day event organized for the seniors about the whole college application process. It allows us to have the time inside the school to go talk to the councilors, work on the personal statement, research on colleges or just simply learn more about the common application. 

It was a very useful opportunity for me to learn more about the whole process- but I must admit that it got me very nervous about my whole application. There are just so many requirements... And oh my gosh the Common App and the Supplement essays...

Well, apart from the Senior Retreat, nothing much has been going on at school. The new art project, along with many other assignments for different subjects, is due next week, so I will have to spend all my time indoors this weekend, which I guess is okay because it's hot outside during the day anyways.

For the art project, I'm actually currently glazing and painting the clay head that I made last semester. I have so far glazed my clay head pastel purple, and am planning to write some Chinese numbers over the cheeks. I was actually inspired by a work that I saw when I was skimming through the article from Art in America magazine that my Art teacher gave me for reference. The article was about the current exhibition in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the New York City, called the "Ink Art: Past as Present in Contemporary China." 

This exhibition, apparently the first major exhibition of Chinese contemporary art at MET, displays a wide range of Chinese works in various medium, including calligraphy and woodblock prints. Through the works of renowned Chinese contemporary artists like Ai Wei Wei, Xu Bing, Zhang Huan and many more, the exhibition illustrates how Chinese artists are unleashing their creativity through the reinterpretation of ancient art. 

Zhang Huan also has another work where he writes Chinese characters on his face over and over until his entire face is covered in ink. It's like he's trying to say having too much knowledge or information will keep you from seeing clearly. (I feel like this goes for the college app process as well... Too much information about college keeps me concerned 24/7) 

The second picture of the artist with raw rib bones actually reminded me of this performance artist our art class visited last school year. His name is He Yunchang. He did a film- I believe- that recorded the artist having his ribs taken out with having any kind of anesthesia. I know, it's bloody and just.. gruesome. I actually did not see the film, nor did I wish to, but just hearing the artist talk about this artwork and his experience engraved a lasting impression of him on me. And this piece by Zhang Huan really reminds me of it... 

I will for sure further research about the contemporary artists whose works were displayed at this exhibition. I'm so curious because their works are similar to my IB Art works in the sense they are reflective and related to the Chinese culture. Hopefully I can finish the piece and the research on my sketchbook by next week.. 




家 project

Hello! I'm finally back to Beijing from a short but awesome trip to the East Coast and the Naoshima island. In Naoshima, I attended this camp called GAKKO,which I think I briefly mentioned in my previous post, for about a week. I remember at the end of the camp, I was asked to summarize my experience in GAKKO in one word, but I just couldn't choose a word out of all the words I had in mind. (I ended up saying "funky" but I really don't think that was the right word) To me, GAKKO was thought-provoking, inspiring, artistic and creative but at the same time playful, humble, eccentric, exciting, (slightly) strange...... There are so many different kinds of words to describe GAKKO that I don't even think you can describe it in one word. When I was reading the description of the camp on its official website back in April or May, it said that GAKKO is "the best summer camp in the world." At the time, I didn't quite believe that, but after I have actually experienced GAKKO, I can see how it's the best summer camp in the world. GO GAKKO! 

We spent most of our time inside the hotel, in the main hall, participating in the workshops, but we also spent a lot of time outside, appreciating the art of Naoshima. The whole island of Naoshima is like one big art space; There are sculptures scattered around the island and some abandoned houses in the town were transformed by artists into some cool installation works. This project is called the House Project, which in Japanese is pronounced like the Ie-project. On the third day of the camp, we actually got to see and visit every one of the houses that are part of this project. 

The first house we went to is called the Kadoya. It is apparently the first house project created. Kadoya looks like a traditional Japanese housing from the outside, but when you step into the housing, you notice that the inside has been completely transformed into a something antithesis to what it looks like from the outside. Inside of the house is quite dark- dark enough that when you first step into the housing, you don't realize that there is kind of a shallow artificial lake inside the house. You sit around the rectangular lake and see neon colored spots on the floor flashing... and then you realize that there are small panels, underneath a thin layer of water, that counts down numbers. Some numbers are yellow, some are red, some count down faster than others and some slower than others. Everyone was sitting around the water silently and watching the numbers glow in the dark; The whole experience was very mysterious and extraordinary. 

In the room next door to the "living room" with all the numbers and the water, there is a window covered with an opaque, white material. The non-opaque part of the window illustrates a set of three numbers. Just like the neon numbers in the water, the three numbers count down at different speeds. What was so enigmatic was how the numbers change themselves so smoothly. The window functioned almost like a television screen, but it wasn't digital at all; it was just a pane of glass with a coat of an opaque paint. Or at least that's what it looked like. How the numbers change still remains a mystery. 

After visiting Kadoya, we visited the Haisha, which probably is the most decorative house project on the island. In contrast to the other modest, minimalistic artworks and house projects on the island, Haisha is vibrant and lively. 

The house consists of two floors and multiple rooms and it seems like each of the room have different themes. As a whole, the house is like a huge scrapbook in the form of architecture. (There is even a replica of a white statue of liberty inside the house!)

Minamidera is my personal favorite out of all the house projects and possibly all the sites that we visited during the camp because it gave me such an eye-opening experience (in both the figurative and literal sense). 

Before going into the actual house, I was so curious about what was inside the house and what I was about to experience because the staff was extra careful and strict about what we could and should do inside the house. We were asked to turn off all the electronic devices and remain silent once we walk into the space and were also told that we will not be able to see anything once we go into the house. The staff also told us to listen to the guide inside the house as we won't be able to see where we will be heading to. 

After waiting for about 10 to 15 minutes in a line, we finally got to enter Minamidera. As the staff warned me, after turning just several corners into the house, the path got darker and darker until I could not see anything in front of me. The path was pitch black, and I wouldn't have been able to walk if I wasn't holding on to the wall on the side or listening carefully to the guide's instructions. 

After walking for about 1 or 2 minutes, I sat down on a wooden bench. We were told to wait about 5 minutes until our eyes get used to the darkness and begin to see something in front of us. After a minute, I began to see a small source of light in distance, which turned into a blurry, rectangular screen as my eyes got more and more used to the dark. Because the guide remained silent for what felt like forever and I wasn't able to see anything but what seemed like a movie screen, I was so nervous and confused during the 5 minutes. Although I couldn't see, I could guess that others in the room were also nervous, which helped me feel a bit safer. 

And then the guide told us to slowly stand up and walk towards the movie screen. Because I had guessed the whole installation work was just about feeling insecure and unsafe in an environment full of unknowns, I was surprised that there was more to the work. Then, I reached the movie screen and discovered that what I was looking at during the 5 minutes was actually not a movie screen; I was actually facing a big rectangular window. I was so surprised when I tried to touch the "screen" and realized that there was actually nothing to touch. When I put my head through the window, my head was surrounded by cold, smoky space and it felt as if I was sticking my head through the window on top of a skyscraper because it just felt like the space was limitless. I didn't feel or see any walls around me, behind the window, and was actually scared that I would fall out of the window to several feet below. 

The guide explained that the what appeared to be a limitless space is just an indent on the wall that is not longer than 1m in depth. Apparently, the artist used some kind of special paint on the wall that reflects light well enough to make us believe that there is no wall. 

During this experience, I made many assumptions that turned out to be wrong later. There are so many things that I want to say about Minamidera that I can't articulate quite well in English, but in short, Minamidera made me think about presumptions that I make everyday and how I may be limiting myself because of these assumptions. But yeah- I loved Minamidera. 

There are many other museums and art spaces that I visited during the camp. I will try to write about them all during this week as I probably will forget about many details later.

Oh- and all the photos were taken from the official page of GAKKO on Facebook. The photographer, Flo, takes such beautiful pictures!


I'm currently packing my luggage for my quick trip to America for college tour. Actually, I will be in America for 10 days, but most of the time will be spent moving from place to place. In a week and half, I will be visiting Boston, New York and Ann Arbor. I'm so, so excited to finally visit the schools that I have been researching (stalking,) furiously online and, recently, offline. Many of the people that I met during my internship at UCCA attended universities in America. Some of the interns and workers that I met are from Tufts University and Brown University, which are "my top choices" right now. I have heard so many exciting stories from them that I actually cannot wait to visit these schools and see what they're like!

After my 10 day stay in America, I will actually fly back, not to Beijing, but to Japan. This time, though, I will not be staying in Tokyo. I will actually be attending GAKKO summer camp in an island called Naoshima. I'm looking forward to meeting all kinds of interesting people from different backgrounds and making new friends at this camp. At this point, I honestly don't know what the camp is going to be like, but I am sure it is going to be a memorable one. I know that every year, the GAKKO summer camp brings guest speakers to the camp- I really hope that camp invites a prominent art-related person this year like how they invited Fumio Nanjo, the director of Mori Museum, in the previous year. I wish I could meet him and talk to him! 

Anyways- as a way to procrastinate packing, (I procrastinate everything,) I pulled out of my bookshelf a book called Collecting Contemporary by Adam Lindemann. I haven't had the chance to read this book, but it's a collection of 40 interviews "with the biggest players in the global art market." Those include art critics, art dealers, art consultants, collectors, auction house experts, curators and more. And hey! Art dealers AND art consultants. If you read my previous post about meeting a Japanese "art consultant" in the UCCA museum, you know that I was confused about the difference between art dealers and art consultants. Hopefully, by reading this book, I can learn the distinction between art consultants, art dealers and all the other art related jobs in the world. 

Once I finish reading this book, I will make sure to update on how it is!

Also, If I have time in New York, I'm planning to visit MOMA, Guggenheim and/or Metropolitan museum. Most likely, I won't have the time to visit all of these museums, but hopefully I will have the time to visit at least one!  

Martin Parr

On the last day at the UCCA, I was asked to research and complete a short summary on the British photographer, Martin Parr. 

He is a renowned photographer who is part of the Magnum photos, an international cooperative agency. 

His pictures are very unique in that they are very colour-saturated and are taken from a close angle. I love the playful humour in his photography. I think it helps him enhance what he wants to communicate through his works. 

Most of his pictures are taken in Britain and other European countries, but it seems like he has been taking photos in Asia recently as well. 

I hope his works will come to UCCA or any other museums/galleries in Beijing, so I can go and have a look.

Photos: from

(My personal favorite is the one of tourists and the leaning tower of pisa!)