Today JK, PH, FM, and ER decided to hit up 798, a modern/contemporary art district in Beijing. The place came into our radar through the Lonely Planet guidebook and through raving reviews from our peers. The whole district is fenced in and consists of a grid-work of little streets with small art galleries and exhibitions all lined up and down the area. Each little art gallery and exhibition has their own theme and there were “famous” ones we had to go see (again, according to word-of-mouth and Lonely Planet), but it turns out that the smaller and more obscure places tended to be much more interesting than the over-popularized ones.
One thing to note about this whole experience is that no matter how crazy and incomprehensible the art pieces were, it was an implicit understanding that art is one of the only methods in which contemporary Chinese are able to use to express their innermost feelings. To make this less of a euphemism, artistic work is one of the only channels available for the Chinese to spout out any political protest or dissent since it is one of the least governed aspects of Chinese culture. I honestly believe that this reason contributes to the fact that the modern art pieces we saw were mostly incomprehensible since repressed feelings towards the government and life in general become deluged out to these external forms in whatever means necessary to portray meaning.
After going through the entire 798 Art District (yes, we went through the entire place, it took us HOURS and HOURS…) I still don’t understand modern art. What is this sculpture supposed to represent?!
Some of the art places were totally bizarre. One exhibition even centered around white space and a lone rose. Literally, the whole building (which was relatively large compared to the other smaller galleries) was painted white inside and there is a lone rose attached to one of the walls.
By the end of it, I was actually glad that we came to see what the Art District was all about, but really wished that I had done more research about the significance of more of the artwork and exhibitions in order to more fully comprehend the impact of the work. We ended the night with dinner at a pizza place that serves “the best” 炸鸡 (Fried Chicken) according to FM.
The night ended with an IUParty at CL’s place (hey wait, where’s your passport?! <– sorry, had to insert that inside joke there. Please refer to the post where we traveled to Tianjin in order to get the significance and hilarity of that statement) where we all finally got together and mellowed out with some adult beverages and good conversation 🙂