The ongoing thoughts of an art teacher in China - and home in Sydney

A continuing diary about my travels in China, and thoughts about China and Chinese art from home and abroad

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Half the Beijing Sky

Bu Hua, Beijing Babe Loves Freedom, Giclee Print, 60cm diameter, courtesy White Rabbit Collection
Back in Beijing after six months, I am listening to a cacophany of shouting and car horns on Chunxiu Lu outside my window. The horn, otherwise known as the Chinese brake pedal, is a form of catharsis for drivers going nowhere on the choked Beijing roads. It's been a tough few days, but finally I've got my Beijing mojo back and I'm loving it again. Spring makes grey Beijing beautiful, and softens its harsh contours.

After disastrously losing my cell phone in a mad race to the gate to board my Beijing-bound flight in Hong Kong last Wednesday, thrown into a state of panic at being cut off from the world, I was then further horrified to discover that my previously reliable means of clambering over the Great Firewall of Chinese internet censorship was no longer working. No Facebook! No Gmail! No Twitter! And with no phone, there could be no Wechat or text messages to and from friends and family. Horrible! It's been an enforced "digital detox" and I don't recommend it, despite my growing anxiety about my own dependence on social media and the pressure we now feel to be a constant online presence.

So imagine my surprise tonight to find this blog working just fine - it's never been accessible in China before without a VPN. The censorship here is nothing if not unpredictable - it keeps us on our toes and is a source of constant frustration, a game of cat and mouse between the censors and the providers of VPN services. A game you can't win, a bit like Bu Hua's Beijing Babe taking shots at fighter jets with her slingshot. Or this, my favourite Beijing translated signage:

In China there is always, always suddenness. I should be used to it by now.

Red Gate Gallery, Beijing
Here in Beijing to launch my book, "Half the Sky: Conversations with Women Artists in China" with an exhibition of works by 16 of the 32 artists at Red Gate Gallery, I have been so frustrated by not being able to upload and share photographs of the installation process and the opening itself. Today, with blue skies and sunshine - never to be taken for granted in Beijing - a big crowd arrived and climbed the stairs to the city wall and the old watchtower that houses Red Gate Gallery. The newly arrived Australian ambassador, Jan Adams, launched the book, and it was wonderful to see  the artists again.

Miraculously now the car horns have died down and drivers have stopped leaning out of their windows to shout at each other. No - I spoke too soon! But nevertheless, exhaustion has overtaken me.

Photographs and more Beijing stories soon.