Outside of the city center is a collection of old factories. Some are still being used for production, but many have been converted into art galleries. Not only do the buildings remain, but pipes and chimney stacks linger as a reminder of what used to happen inside the structures.
It’s an interesting juxtaposition to have the modern art in a factory—places which once housed assembly lines creating identical items now host one of kind pieces of modern art. The idea of assembly lines and the creation of art is also interesting when I look back to the works of some artists in countries such as Cambodia and Vietnam where many potentially talented artists are caught in a trap of reproducing famous works or uninspiring landscapes of Angkor Wat or ladies in ao dai riding on bicycles.
My favorite gallery was a photo gallery, 768 Photo Gallery. The main exhibit of photos by Yao Lu consisted of large images of what looked like traditional landscape paintings, but upon closer inspection were composed of digitally arranged photos of construction sites. Instead of village fisherman, the figures in the works were construction workers in hard hats. The collection provoked thought on examining our modern environment in a traditional light, and treating it as we would other old traditions and treasures (i.e. preservation). Yet the collection also provokes one to examine if what we think and see is really the true image.
The part of the gallery that I especially liked was a back room where photos from older exhibitions could be bought. Some photos that I really enjoyed for their simplicity and thoughtfulness were a series taken of families in front of their homes joined by all of their possessions. It was interesting to see what the families, each from a different region, owned. Some photos had many items, some just beds, some included all the families animals. The photos were posed in a manner similar to the usual family portrait. Have our possessions become a “part of the family”?
On our way back to the bus stop we passed by some artists working on a graffiti mural. The way the work was being done was a contradiction to the style itself—they had mapped out plans for the entire (pro-government) mural that took up a very large stretch of wall. The mural was making out to look pretty cool, but I found the methodical and institutionalized nature of what I view as a more spontaneous and independent art form to be pretty lame, though definitely an interesting representation of modern China.