Nov 25th, 2015

Arresting Development: Winnie Wong on China’s Museum Boom

By: Winnie Wong                Source: Artforum           Date: Nov 2015

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Jean Nouvel, National Art Museum of China, anticipated completion 2017, Beijing. Rendering.

HOW MANY MUSEUMS does the ideal society need? During the Great Leap Forward in the late 1950s, the Chinese Communist Party had a slogan: “Every county must have its museum, every commune its exhibition hall.” In 2002, the Chinese government rededicated itself to that ideal, when the State Administration of Cultural Heritage announced that the country would build one thousand museums by 2015. As improbably ambitious as that pronouncement might seem, it was in fact accomplished far ahead of schedule. By 2013, the country had already built almost fifteen hundred museums—in essence finishing a new museum every day during the periods of heaviest construction. And the building has continued apace. By way of comparison, a survey of new museums in the US found that only between twenty and forty were being built annually in the decade preceding the 2008 financial crash. This spate of construction is more than just a museum boom of the sort that has been celebrated in postindustrial cities of the West, wherein the public institution of the museum has taken on additional functions as a financial engine of the art world and crux of urban branding; in China, museums have a far broader range of forms and functions, and occupy a central symbolic role in the spectacular urban growth overseen by a government that still claims to put its people first. Continue reading

November 4th, 2015

Today in Chinese Soft-Power Surreality: The 十三五 !

By: James Fallows      Source: The Atlantic      Date: 27/10/2015

(For more on this story please see my earlier post on ‘The face of contemporary propaganda‘)

Last night the online China-watcher world was erupting in delight over the video you can watch below. It raises questions that are the Chinese state-run media version of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.

That is: could this hokey masterpiece possibly have been meant in earnest? Or is it an Onion-style winking joke, in which we’re the rubes for being lured into thinking that it was serious? Or — the Heisenberg angle! — through the very process of noticing and making fun of it, do we bring about its conversion from one category to the other, earnest to Onion?

We will never know. (Although, based on past evidence, I am betting: earnest.) Meanwhile, I give you The Shi San Wu, or 十三五 or 13-5, the meaning of which will become evident:

After I saw this last night, via a Tweet from the NYT’s Michael Forsythe, I asked online if anyone knew the background of the (apparently) foreign production talent behind this remarkable piece of work.

Ask and it shall be answered!

Forsythe himself has an item on the Times’s site now, and our own sister site Quartz has one by Zheping Huang as well. Here is another by Erik Crouch at Techinasia. They all give credit/responsibility to an organization calling itself the Fuxing Road Studio,  复兴路上工作室. This group has produced some other … remarkable videos. For instance, this one on how the dream of growing up to be president/prime minister plays out in the U.S., China, and other places:

No larger theme here. But hey, you native speakers of American English who are evidently working at Fuxing Road: get in touch some time! I’d love to hear the back story on these videos.

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Update Thanks to Ben Wang of the Eurasia Group for the embeddable link to another notable work from Fuxing Road. It’s called “The Communist Party of China Is With You.” See for yourself!

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Update-bonus No sane person has ever sought my advice on pronouncing words in Chinese, or for that matter in any other language (except sometimes English). But I’ve gotten a number of notes to this effect:

Did you catch the pronunciation of “五”?  It sounded much more like “oo” than “wu.”  It seemed like an odd mistake.

If you listen to the song, you’ll hear a zillion repetitions of shi-san-ooo, where I would have expected shi-san-wu. Yet another question to ask at Fuxing Road.

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