Monday, May 31, 2010

Arts Focus: Abramović on the Great Wall

With the closing today of performance artist Marina Abramović's (born 1946 in Belgrade, Yugoslavia) important retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, it seems only fitting to point out one of her performance works which took place on the Great Wall of China. From 1976-1988, Abramović collaborated on many thought-provoking performance works with her then-partner, Ulay (Uwe Laysiepen, born 1943 in Solingen, Germany). Their final collaboration simultaneously marked the end of their relationship. "The Lovers: Great Wall Walk" was staged only after extensive negotiation with Chinese authorities. Abramović began walking at the eastern end of the Great Wall, from the Yellow Sea not far from Beijing, and Ulay began his walk from the western end, at Jiayuguan in Gansu Province. After walking for 90 days, the two met in the middle to embrace and say farewell. Their performance was recorded by Murray Grigor for the BBC and turned into a documentary titled "The Great Wall: Lovers at the Brink."

Marina Abramović's statement about their final performance follows:

The earth is small and blue. I am a small crevice in it.
Huang Xiang, 2nd century

Confessions of the Great Wall
From up here, the earth looks small and blue.
Yuri Gagarin, first cosmonaut

Ulay and I end our relations with this project. The concept is to approach each other from the two ends of the Great Wall of China. He begins in the Gobi Desert and I begin at the Yellow Sea; we meet halfway in between. We each walked 2000 kilometers to say good-bye.
Duration: 90 days. Last meeting on June 3, 1988.

This performance was also the subject of a 1999 Ph.D. dissertation by Samantha Krukowski at the University of Texas-Austin titled Performing History: Walking Along Ulay and Abramovic's The Lovers:

Information about the Museum of Modern Art retrospective "Marina Abramović: The Artist Is Present" and a link to the exhibition site may be found here:

Along with live re-enactments by actors of some of her earlier performance pieces, Abramović performed a new work in the Marron Atrium of the Museum of Modern Art in which she sat wordlessly opposite museum-goers. This piece, which ended at 5pm EST today, is her longest performance, beginning each day before the museum opened and ending after it closed, lasting over 700 hours in all.

When the piece was ongoing, a live feed was available on the Museum of Modern Art website. A Flickr set of the museum-goers who sat opposite the artist may be viewed here:

And an article about it can be found here:

During the opening reception, Ulay sat across from Abramović, their first performance together since 1988:

These two works of Marina Abramović, from the Great Wall of China to the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, explore themes of human encounter and farewell - the profundity of the space that exists between two people.

Photograph of Marina and Ulay's meeting and farewell on the Great Wall:

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Arts Focus: Shanghai Expo

Following in the grand tradition of the Crystal Palace, World's Columbian Exposition, and St. Louis World's Fair, the Shanghai Expo opened on May 1 and will be open until Oct. 30. Shanghai won the bid to hold the expo on December 3, 2002, the first developing nation to do so. The theme of the Shanghai Expo is "Better City, Better Life." An anticipated 70 million visitors are expected to visit pavilions organized by 200 domestic, international, and corporate participants, welcomed by the mascot Haibao (pictured above).

A photo gallery of the pavilions, some of them truly extraordinary structures, may be found at the following link:

The official website of the expo is here:

The significance of the Shanghai Expo to international relations is analyzed in the following article, which also describes the expo as "China's new showcase to the world."

If your summer travel plans include a trip to the Shanghai Expo, leave a comment!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Local Interest: Lecture by Prof. Gao Minglu

Prof. Gao Minglu, a specialist in contemporary Chinese art, will speak at LSU on Wednesday, April 14 at 5pm in 103 Design. Prof. Gao is Head of Fine Arts at the Sichuan Academy of Fine Arts in China and Research Professor at the Department of History of Art and Architecture at the University of Pittsburgh. He was the curator of the first national exhibition of contemporary art in China, the China/Avant-Garde exhibition at the National Art Gallery in Beijing in 1989 as well as the editor of China's leading art journal, Meishu (Fine Arts) during the 1980s. Prof. Gao was educated at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, and received his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 2000. Since then, he has curated many exhibitions and written seminal publications on various aspects of contemporary Chinese art.

This event is free and open to the public. For more information about the lecture, please visit

Further information about Prof. Gao's work may be found at the following two sites:

Finally, a brief history of the development and exhibitions of Chinese contemporary art may be found at the following two links:

Monday, March 22, 2010

Local Interest: Buddhist Symbols in Tibetan Art

Louisiana ArtWorks in New Orleans will host a presentation by the Tibetan Buddhist monk Venerable Tsering Phunstok on symbols in Tibetan Buddhist art next Monday, March 29 at 7pm. The event is free and open to the public; the suggested donation is $3.

For the announcement regarding the event, see the following link:

The website for Louisiana ArtWorks, a non-profit organization described as "a nexus for creative work, education, exhibitions and marketing" is located here:

The event does not yet appear on the calendar on their website, so it's probably a good idea to call ahead first. In addition to public events of this type, Louisiana ArtWorks also features exhibitions and a shop selling work by local artists.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Pop Culture: New Year's Lion Dance

Today, February 14, 2010 is the Lunar New Year (also called the Chinese New Year), celebrated broadly across Asia in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, Malaysia, as well as Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Laos, and Vietnam, Korea, Tibet, Mongolia, and Bhutan. It is also celebrated elsewhere in Chinese overseas communities. One of the most characteristic festivities of the day (besides lots of feasting and merry-making) is the lion dance.

The lion dance is typically performed by a pair of brightly-attired dancers, one of whom wears the lion's head and the other who brings up the rear. (There is also a dragon dance in which multiple dancers make up the winding body of the dragon.) Accompanied by percussion instruments and firecrackers, the movements of the dancers are rooted in the martial arts and the dancers themselves often represent different martial arts schools. The lion dance has different meanings: to bring good luck or to frighten away evil spirits.

Here are some links to YouTube videos of lion dance performances. The last link is an example of an updated hip-hop version of the lion dance.

Happy Year of the Tiger!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Resources: The Asian Art Museum on YouTube

The Asian Art Museum - Chong-Moon Lee Center for Asian Art and Culture in San Francisco's Civic Center houses one of the foremost collections of Asian art in the United States and is in fact the largest museum in the United States devoted entirely to the arts of Asia. The museum opened in 1966 with a donation of artworks from the private collection of Chicago industrialist Avery Brundage, who is also known for his tenure as president of the International Olympic Committee from 1952-1972. Over time, Brundage continued to donate works from his collection to the museum; his gifts total over 7,700 objects of the now 17,000 objects strong and growing collection.

Recently, the Asian Art Museum set up its own YouTube channel with videos covering a diverse selection of topics ranging from Chinese calligraphy and Korean ceramics to Buddhist sites in India. The videos are beautifully filmed, narrated by the museum's curators and other professionals and scholars in the field, and are a great way to learn more about Asian art and architecture, art-making techniques and conservation, and Asian religions and history. Some of the videos introduce special exhibits at the Asian Art Museum and are filmed on-site; others are shot on locations in Asia.

The Asian Art Museum's YouTube channel may be accessed here:

And the website of the Asian Art Museum is located here:

Happy viewing!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Local Interest: Biking and Blogging

Baton Rouge native and Georgetown University graduate Evan Villarrubia has embarked upon a year-long bicycling trip through China. After graduating from Georgetown with a degree in Chinese, he worked in Beijing for an American construction company in order to save money for his trip. There, he met his traveling partners: Andy Keller, a fellow American, and Alexis Lerognon, from France.

Villarrubia's blog chronicles his quest to observe the everyday lives of the "laobaixing" ("LBX"), or common people: children playing in parks, men flying kites, migrant workers, and villagers. Having departed from Beijing, the journey is taking the three along the southeastern coast of China to the southwest, then up through Tibet and Inner Mongolia and back to Beijing.

A recent hometown article about Villarrubia appears here:

And the link for his blog may be accessed here:

For anyone wondering exactly how far a degree in Chinese can take you, the answer is more than 7000 miles. True cycling afficionados will also appreciate the discussion of more technical matters!