Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program wraps up in China

Article: Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program wraps up in China

The Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program | CNEX Workshop and Documentary Summit in Beijing end today, following four days (March 14-19) of programming designed to nurture documentary storytelling and encourage the diverse exchange of ideas. Ten Chinese documentary project teams from mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan participated in the program, having been invited by DFP and CNEX staff.

Forget Chinese Gossip Girl, here are some shows we want to see exported

Article: Forget Chinese Gossip Girl, here are some shows we want to see exported

If you still watch Gossip Girl, you’re either a 15-year-old slightly behind on the trends or a really loyal fan of the show. Update: Serena is still awful, Blair married a prince and this show is coming to China. I’m not sure how the show will translate for Chinese audiences, but I’m certainly excited for it. For example, how will they go shopping at Prada for ridiculously high-end couture without Prada? Oh, wait. They have Prada in China? This might work. Will Chuck Bass’ famous line, “you’re like the Arabians [horses] my father used to own: rode hard and put away wet” have the same unbelievable creepiness when spoken in Mandarin? I’m willing to bet yes, and I’m willing to find out. In fact, I’d love to see even more television shows remade overseas. Here are some of my ideas:

Design Dish: Pantone for Visa & the biggest dining table ever

Article: Design Dish: Pantone for Visa & the biggest dining table ever

The Liyuan Library: I’m a sucker for unusual library spaces, and this new construction in Huairou, China hits all the sweet spots. Tucked away in a small mountain village, the long, narrow structure blends into its surroundings with a reed-like outer layer that still allows for sunlight to trickle inside.

Tens of thousands donate to Ai Weiwei's tax bill

Article: Tens of thousands donate to Ai Weiwei's tax bill

It’s been a tumultuous year for one of our favorite artists, Ai Weiwei who, after his 81 day long detention, was slammed with a punitive $2.4 million tax bill from the Chinese government. In a testament to his wide appeal and support, The New York Times reported that “thousands of people have responded by contributing money in a gesture that is at once benevolent and subversive” and “more than 20,000 people have together contributed at least $840,000.” This is unsurprising to any student of history or political movements…

Ai Weiwei's Google+ Profile

Article: Ai Weiwei's Google+ Profile

Earlier this summer I blogged about Ai Weiwei’s exhibition at the Asia Society. He’s one of my favorite contemporary artists and the collection of photographs he snapped during his time in New York City in the 1980s is incredible. More incredible still: you can now browse many of his pictures from that era on his Google+ page. I was excited, but not surprised, to discover that this world renowned artist had an account on a social networking site. He’s long been active in social media in China, where his political (and critical) voice has earned the ire of the government, as well as two month imprisonment earlier this year…

Zhang Huan's "49 Days"

Article: Zhang Huan's "49 Days"

While out in LA last week I dropped by the fantastic gallery Blum & Poe, which is currently exhibiting Zhang Huan’s “49 Days”, including the breathtaking installation pictured above. The twenty-two foot tall bell shaped pagoda is comprised of salvaged brick collected from demolition sites surrounding Shanghai (centuries old buildings that have been bulldozed in…

Shark diving more valuable than shark finning

Article: Shark diving more valuable than shark finning

Shark fin soup has a long history in Chinese culture as a culinary symbol of prosperity and success, so it’s not surprising the the country’s economic growth has led to an increase in the dish’s consumption… and the killing of up to 73 million sharks a year largely to serve this demand.

Fortunately, public awareness campaigns on the threats to worldwide shark populations seem to have helped: in Hong Kong, for instance, this delicacy is losing its status as a “must have” for celebratory meals. A new study by Australian Institute of Marine Science, though, may completely redefine the equation between shark meat and success, as they’ve found that living sharks may have much greater economic value than dead ones.

Shaolin soccer

Article: Shaolin soccer

A neat photo gallery of Shaolin students in a monastery in Henan Province, China playing and practicing soccer just like the way I imagine them.

Hundreds of tourist snapshots layered as one

Article: Hundreds of tourist snapshots layered as one

For her intriguing series “Photo Opportunities,” artist Corinne Vionnet culled hundreds of photos from the Internet of tourist snapshots of famous landmarks from around the world and layered them to produce composite pictures of each popular sightseeing location. Although the artist’s curatorial hand influenced the final result of each image, there is still a remarkable…

Mao impersonators

Article: Mao impersonators

Wired features the photography of Tommaso Bonaventura who traveled to China to capture portraitures of Mao Zedong impersonators, many of whom freelance in “patriotic stage productions” and “work a lively circuit of banquets, holiday celebrations and weddings, at which they deliver famous Mao speeches in his dialect.” What’s interesting (to my western sensibility) is Wired’s…

Vimeo of the Week: Too Fast, Too Much

Article: Vimeo of the Week: Too Fast, Too Much

“Too Fast, Too Much” from Nathan Mauger on Vimeo. Nathan Mauger’s Too Fast, Too Much is a delightful little film. Mauger filmed the movie in Beijing using time lapse at night. The results of his filmmaking capture the chaos, and conformity, of the streets of China. Nathan writes about the project: A video I made…

Chinese urban professionals going back to the land

Article: Chinese urban professionals going back to the land

A young couple decides that the urban corporate rat race is no longer their scene, and chooses to buy a piece of land in the country to start their own organic farm.

Heard this story before? Probably… with the young couple in question coming from LA, Chicago, or New York. Turns out this lifestyle choice is no longer uniquely American, though: Chongming Island, China is turning into a destination for disaffected Chinese yuppies looking to get back to the land.

Ai Weiwei's 'Sunflower Seeds'

Article: Ai Weiwei's 'Sunflower Seeds'

Artist Ai WeiWei amongst his “Sunflower Seeds” (More photos below)
Lately, Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has made more headlines for his outspoken socio-political activism in his homeland than he has for his art, but that changed last week when his latest installation was unveiled at the Tate Modern in London. Upon first glance, Sunflower Seeds is nothing more than a vast grey expanse in the Modern’s large Turbine Hall, but get closer and you’ll see that the grey floor is actually comprised of millions of individual sunflower seeds – hand-painted porcelain sunflower seeds, made in China.

Porcelain chairs

Article: Porcelain chairs

I’m endlessly fascinated by sculptures that utilize trompe l’oeil, which is why I love this line of 9 chairs by Sam Durant and handmade by talented people at the Jiao Zhi studio in Xiamen, China. Durant adopts those widely used and familiar “mono-block resin chairs” and remakes them out of porcelain. The artist explains that no single company holds patents or copyrights on the the methods, techniques, or design of these chairs which are easily mass produced. These factors explain the chairs ubiquity as “probably the cheapest and most universal piece of furniture, found in nearly every country in the world.” With his chairs, the artist is conveying a multitude of criticisms and comments, which I think is worth reading in full:

Chinese Lunar New Year's big picture

Article: Chinese Lunar New Year's big picture

A visitor looks at a crystal tiger which was made up of 955 steel wires and 12,888 small crystal balls at a department store in Shanghai February 4, 2010. The artwork, which is the size of an actual tiger, was designed as a gift for the Chinese Lunar New Year of the Tiger, which began…

LAST TRAIN HOME (World Documentary Competition)

Article: LAST TRAIN HOME (World Documentary Competition)

LAST TRAIN HOME (World Documentary Competition)

Anyone who has been paying attention to the remarkably fertile Chinese independent film scene this past decade knows that present-day China, given the sheer speed and scope of its transformations, is a wellspring of abundant contradictions, an endless source of stories and images for the observant filmmaker.

The title of Lixin Fan’s directorial debut refers to the annual exodus of China’s 130 million migrant workers from the cities to their mostly rural hometowns — this happens only once a year, for the Chinese New Year holidays. Fan evokes the mind-warping scale of this event — we see the anxious rush to secure tickets, thronged railways stations and trains — even as he zeroes in on the experiences of one family. The Zhangs left their young children and their farming village so they could work at a faraway garment factory. Now strangers to one another, parents and children (who were raised by their grandparents) struggle to communicate, and the gulf only widens when the teenage daughter decides to leave school and takes a job in the city.

Harbin Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival

Article: Harbin Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival

The Boston Globe’s Big Picture posted some amazing photos of even more fantastic and unbelievable behemoth ice sculptures from the 26th annual International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival held in Harbin, a city in northeaster China. Massive buildings built of ice from the frozen surface of the nearby Songhua River, large scale snow sculptures, ice…

Poop to power comes to China

Article: Poop to power comes to China

You may have already heard of various projects that turn farm animal wastes into energy: from Connecticut to South Africa, farmers and energy experts are finding innovative ways of turning this waste material (and often pollutant) into power for cooking, heating, and even electricity generation.

The Big Boob Fairy finds out how big is too big.

Article: The Big Boob Fairy finds out how big is too big.

There are women with small breasts, women with big breasts, women with really big breasts…and then there’s the big boob fairy. Shu Yong’s “Bubble Woman” installation (installed in a public park in Foshan, Guangdong province, China) explores the question of how big we want our breasts to be…and seems to discover that, yes, there is…

A year without haircuts

Article: A year without haircuts

While checking out Kid Robot’s blog this morning I came across the below stop-motion video of one man’s travels and hair growth. Christoph Rehage was going to walk from Beijing to Germany. While he did not make it to Germany, he did document his hair growth for one year. Not a single haircut. It’s a fascinating video.…

Asia Extreme – Grifters on a Train: A WORLD WITHOUT THIEVES

Article: Asia Extreme – Grifters on a Train: A WORLD WITHOUT THIEVES

The grifter has been a cinematic staple since the early days of the medium, and there probably isn’t a national cinema that doesn’t have at least a handful of con man/woman films in their celluloid archives. Much like gangsters, the con man is often a romanticized figure – we wouldn’t want to cross paths with one in real life, but we love seeing them succeed on the silver screen. And whether dashing (Redford and Newman in THE STING) or downright devilish (Angelica Huston in THE GRIFTERS) the allure of the scam artist will never fade.

$1.5 million wedding dress

Article: $1.5 million wedding dress

A wedding dress recently debuted in China that is decorated with 2009 peacock tail feathers which took over 2 months to create. It’s available for a cool $1.5 million. What recession? The dress is without doubt an impressive artistic exercise. However, brides beware, because seeing this, I can’t help but think of Oscar Wilde’s wicked…

Tibet In Song

Article: Tibet In Song

He was at Middlebury College, on a Fulbright scholarship, studying music and video production. In class he’d seen films about the musical traditions of many countries but never one about his own home, Tibet.