Sunday, February 22, 2009

Wang Ningde (王宁德)- Interview Part I

Wang Ningde is one of my favorite contemporary photographers in China - perhaps not surprisingly, he spends most of his time as a photojournalist.

These are from his "Somedays" series, which has gotten play abroad - see the Goedhuis Contemporary on him, and this SF Camerawork piece. Taking a stab at translating sources on him - below is a choppy first take at the first portion of an interview with Chinese blogger Li Nan.

It's quite a bit longer - will upload the rest soon.

Wang Ningde’s Influences: My understanding of photography, from my contempt of it.
Guest: Wang Ningde
Moderator: Li Nan
Piece: Photographic Reproductions of The Mona Lisa

When I asked Wang Ningde “What differences do you sense, visually and in meaning, between the original and the reproductions of the image?” the photographer replied slyly: “ You’re analysis is quite adept - the question you’ve asked is the question I’d like to ask. You’d surely answer this question better than I might.” Of course, I wasn’t about to fall for that answer – what I was interested in, really, was the fact that this particular memory of a budding interest in photography is shared by many. I, for example, immediately think of the many beautiful hanging wall calendars I saw as a child, all reproducing famous works of art from the West. Photography is its own form of expression, yet at the same time, can serve merely as the medium for other forms, and in the process of pervasive transmission, the medium of representation becomes a part of the artwork itself.

Within the lively contemporary art scene, re-performance of classic works is a standard. In choosing to revisit such a masterpiece, Wang Ningde’s sensibilities seem “modernized” as well.


To be honest, it’s been something like five years since I read up on/studied any image. So, I can only revisit my childhood. Of course, I have to think about how to make this all sound a bit more exciting – I’ll be speaking of a photographer whose name I don’t even know.

I was born in 1972, and it would have been around the early 80s – I wasn’t even old enough to be in school yet. One afternoon, at my grandmother’s house, I found a stack of magazines in the corner by the wall. It probably was the Liaoning Youth , and on the back cover was a print of the Mona Lisa. The Cultural Revolution hadn’t ended too long ago, and famous art from around the world, particularly Renaissance works, were being printed en masse. My feeling is that monumental changes happened earlier in this arena than any other realm of sentiments or attitudes.

It was this reproduction – this “photograph” – that sparked my deep interest in photography, planting the seeds of art in my young soul, moving me to where I am today. (Laughs).


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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Viral Videos from the Celestial Empire

1. Pulled from other blogs, but the video that has recently circulated is worth an extra link - highlights from the schoolchildren's patriotic chant 2009, Go China! 

Lead: Earthquakes, shifting back and forth like the positions of Sarkozy, with his dirty tricks, trying to shake the great China
Lead: Did China retreat?
All: No. The 
Shenzhou-7 launched. We are victorious!
Lead: Pathetic Europe will never stop the insurmountable force of the 
Celestial Empire
All: Just the aftershocks from the earthquake would destroy France!
(Translation from the China Digital Times)
2. On a similar path of self-destructive dedication, Youku buzz is purportedly doing a whole series on digital love letters.  "I love you so much I'll freeze my nipples off" is among the canon. Much of the video cycles back to a desperate entreaty for the wooed to merely turn her cell phone back on. Note the dolphin sculpture he has chosen to place himself in front of (nothing marks an iron-will like frolicking sea mammals). 

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

(Beijing) Restoration Project

The Studio of Exhausted Diligence, alternately known as the Lodge of Retirement, is due to open sometime this year, and has been the Palace Museum's first real leap into heavy-duty restoration projects. Digging out craftsmen under 40 with the chops to tackle the work has proved to be more trying than originally planned, but with the help of the World Monuments Fund, the finery has returned full force.

Much of the design is credited to Italian Jesuit painter Giuseppe Castiglione, who migrated to China on mission at the age of 27, and came to be affectionately known around the Qianlong gardens as Lang Shining (郎世宁). Rumor has it that some sections of the wisteria-trellised roof were done in the hand of the man himself.

Thus the WMF spouting their symbolic investment in the project, with the vice-president saying in 2002 that "his lodge represents the crystallization of a moment of encounter between East and West.''

While Castiglione's chop-stamped ink-brush paintings offer one permutation of cultural exchange, the warrior of god below, wielding the inscription of Christ on her shield and the sartorial sense of an oriental water nymph, is certainly another. [Castiglione's Höllensturz - RIGHT] (See renderings of Chang'e, moon goddess, for the comparison, eg.)
(Any hints as to the English title and location of this painting? "Hell Fall" has done little good in google searches so far.)

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