A final visit to the current exhibition of contemporary Chinese art at White Rabbit Gallery, 'The Big Bang' today, and a viewing of the 2000 Hong Kong film 'In the Mood for Love' - so nostalgic and elegaic in tone, and with a painter's eye for cinematography in which every frame is beautiful, especially the framing of images through doorways, windows, alleyways and in mirror reflections. Maggie Cheung in this film is like a film noir Shanghai goddess from the 1930s, but the art direction also faultlessly nails the imagery of the early 60s, right down to the pyrex coffeecups. Hong Kong is part of a totally different world now, but there are still parts of Kowloon and Wan Chai where it is possible to imagine these two characters in their ill fated attempts to connect with each other.
I am still reading Michael Meyer on the transformation of Beijing's hutongs. http://www.lastdaysofoldbeijing.com
and also a book by John DeFrancis 'The Chinese Language: fact and fantasy' - difficult to get my head around linguistic theories but very interesting. As I am still struggling with the most basic spoken Mandarin, I can certainly relate to the discovery that the English phrase 'It's all Greek to me', indicating a complete lack of comprehension, translates into French as 'C'est du Chinois'. Apparently in the 19th century linguists believed that Chinese represents a higher stage of linguistic development than European languages as it dispenses with unnecessary features such as conjugations and declensions. DeFrancis believes however that all languages have the capacity for expressing whatever thoughts its speakers want to express and they simply possess different strategies for doing so. What is fascinating to someone like me struggling to learn a new language is observing the differences as well as the commonalities in those thought patterns and the ways that language often expresses social norms.
I love the fact that you can greet people by asking 'Have you eaten?'
In the next couple of weeks I hope to finalise the details of the schools I will visit in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong, and confirm with all the artists and art educators that I will be meeting and interviewing; read some more novels and memoirs set in China; and see some more recent Chinese movies. I want to immerse myself in all things 'Zhong guo' in preparation for my adventure. There are not enough hours in the day at the moment!