Land­marks Across Europe Hon­our the Eu-china Tourism Year

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More than 50 land­marks, iconic sites and venues across Europe turned a shade of red over the past week­end to build a sym­bolic bridge of light to China hon­our­ing the 2018 EU- China Tourism Year (ECTY). From renowned UNESCO World Her­itage Sites like the Pont du Gard in France to lesser-known mon­u­men­tal build­ing such as the Na­tional Athenaeum in Bucharest (Ro­ma­nia), a host of sites in 18 coun­tries took part in the ini­tia­tive. Cul­tural events in­volv­ing both lo­cal and Chi­nese com­mu­ni­ties ac­com­pa­nied the il­lu­mi­na­tion of the land­marks in sev­eral lo­ca­tions, such as on the mem­o­rable Grand Place in Brus­sels (Bel­gium). The lat­ter hosted an ex­hi­bi­tion of gi­ant Chi­nese lanterns and a con­cert of tra­di­tional Chi­nese mu­sic or­gan­ised by the

façade Chi­nese Mis­sion to the EU, along with the spe­cial il­lu­mi­na­tion of the of the Ho­tel de Ville (City Hall) in red.

The pan-euro­pean cel­e­bra­tion en­ti­tled “The Eu-china Light Bridge” is an ini­tia­tive of the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion in co­op­er­a­tion with the Euro­pean Travel Com­mis­sion (ETC), nu­mer­ous mu­nic­i­pal coun­cils, cul­tural in­sti­tu­tions and tourism boards in Europe. The Light Bridge aimed at in­creas­ing aware­ness of lesser known Euro­pean des­ti­na­tions in China as well as to pro­vide an op­por­tu­nity for Euro­pean and Chi­nese com­mu­ni­ties to bet­ter fa­mil­iarise and ap­pre­ci­ate each other’s cul­tures. The ini­tia­tive co­in­cided with the cel­e­bra­tion of the Lantern Fes­ti­val in China which marks the end of the New Year’s fes­tiv­i­ties. The Chi­nese pil­lar of the Light Bridge will be built on 9th May 2018 at the in­vi­ta­tion of China Na­tional Tourism Ad­min­is­tra­tion and on the oc­ca­sion of “Europe Day”, with a num­ber of Chi­nese sites in­clud­ing the fa­mous Ma­cao Tower il­lu­mi­nated in the blue of the EU flag.

This Light Bridge is part of the am­bi­tious pro­gramme of ac­tiv­i­ties pre­pared for the Eu-china Tourism Year. The ECTY aims to pro­mote the Euro­pean Union as a travel des­ti­na­tion in China, pro­vide op­por­tu­ni­ties to in­crease bi­lat­eral co­op­er­a­tion as well as mu­tual un­der­stand­ing and cre­ate an in­cen­tive to make progress on mar­ket open­ing and visa fa­cil­i­ta­tion.

Europe saw a re­mark­able 16% in­crease in tourist ar­rivals from China in 2017, reach­ing a record 13.4 mil­lion ar­rivals. The ETC fore­casts an aver­age 9.3% an­nual growth in tourist ar­rivals in Europe over the next three years.

Widely acclaimed as one of the most dis­tinc­tive pa in­ter s of her gen­er­a­tion, Cai Jin first at­tracted crit­i­cal at­ten­tion in the early 1990s with her paint­ings of meiren­jiao (trans­lated as “Ba­nana Plant”). In­spired by a dy­ing plant that she saw in her na­tive An­hui prov­ince in 1990, she has painted close to 400 vari­a­tions on this theme be­tween 1991 and the present day, not only in oil on can­vas but also on other ma­te­ri­als and ob­jects, in­clud­ing mat­tresses, bath­tubs, shoes, and bi­cy­cle sad­dles.

For her first ex­hi­bi­tion at the gallery, Re­turn to the Source, in 2013 Cai Jin moved away from her sig­na­ture theme and the pre­dom­i­nant red tonal­ity of her paint­ings to a lighter, more joy­ful evo­ca­tion of what she loosely re­ferred to as “land­scapes” even al­though her visual lan­guage was en­tirely ab­stract. Her paint­ings of this pe- riod were light­hearted in feel­ing, equiv­a­lent to the emer­gence of Ro­coco from the Baroque in Euro­pean art.

Ar­ca­dia dif­fers in all re­spects from this festive in­ter­lude in which Cai Jin cel­e­brated the ex­pan­sive­ness of her vi­sion in a series of can­vases both large and small. It is no longer merely the growth and de­cay of the meiren­jiao that pro­vides the sub­ject mat­ter of her paint­ing; she has now be­gun to in­cor­po­rate im­agery rep­re­sent­ing the mi­cro­scopic bac­te­ria that are in­volved in both pro­cesses of the Ba­nana plant’s bi­o­log­i­cal trans­for­ma­tion trans­for­ma­tion. It is not easy to say whether the bac­te­ria are harm­ful or ben­e­fi­cial, and it is this am­bi­gu­ity that is just as likely to cause a fris­son of plea­sure as it is of fear. Turn­ing away from rec­tan­gu­lar can­vases, she ord or­dered 120 bi­cy­cle sad­dles and 300 high-h high-heel shoes on which to paint, not the first firs time she has used them but cer­tainly nev never in such

quan­tity. Re­spond­ing t to the lay- out of the gallery, she has or­ches­trated a dia­log be­tween shoes and sad­dles in the East Gallery, sad­dles climb­ing the wall in a ran­dom pat­tern and shoes scat­tered across the floor as if all their wear­ers have evap­o­rated into thin air.

Con­trast­ing with the East Gallery the dark­ened West Gallery houses three bath­tubs on to which are pro­jected im­ages of meiren­jiao and bac­te­ria. In the small gallery a lava-like flow of pink mat­ter ap­pears to be in­un­dat­ing the space, half­fill­ing a dam­aged basin while a mat­tress, a pair of Mary Janes, and a knit­ted hood float for­lornly on the sur­face.

Now more than ever it is not pos­si­ble to give a ra­tio­nal ex­pla­na­tion of Cai Jin’s idiosyncratic artis­tic prac­tice. The fact that she has al­ways re­sisted of­fer­ing ex­pla­na­tions adds to the mys­te­ri­ous al­lure of her work that af­fects view­ers at a vis­ceral level. The im­mer­sive en­vi­ron­ments that Cai Jin has cre­ated in Ar­ca­dia may be seen as a way of elic­it­ing an even more di­rect re­sponse from her au­di­ence, no longer view­ers but par­tic­i­pants.

Ex­hi­bi­tion Date: Venue:

Bri­tish artist Michael Dean’s first solo ex­hi­bi­tion in China on 24 March stamped with the char­ac­ter and con­crete syn­tax of public spa­ces, takes as its start­ing point the re­cent pro­lif­er­a­tion and promi­nence of pic­to­rial lan­guage and the text-based com­mu­ni­ca­tion of emo­tion via our dig­i­tal de­vices, and ex­plores how the am­bi­gu­ity of th­ese has en­abled them to take on a range of cul­tur­ally spe­cific mean­ings and spa­ces beyond their in­tended use.

The ex­hi­bi­tion ‘Ana­logue LOL’, de­vel­oped through a year long dis­cus­sion be­tween cu­ra­tor Vic­tor Wang and artist Michael Dean, is cen­tred on the con­struc­tion of com­mon spa­ces and the evo­lu­tion of the acro­nym LOL (laugh­ing out loud), and its re­cent devel­op­ment into the emoji of­fi­cially known as ‘Face with Tears of Joy’. Some­where be­tween pic­ture and word, in 2015 this emoti­con be­came the first pic­to­graph to be named ‘word of the year’ by Oxford Dic­tionar­ies, sig­nalling a shift in the ap­pli­ca­tion, use and re­cep­tion of lan­guage. This ex­hi­bi­tion con­tin­ues to 13 May. The lay­out of the ex­hi­bi­tion be­gins with a sin­gle page: blank, with slightly curved edges, its flat white face be­com­ing the un­marked vinyl floor of the Shang­hart gallery, and Dean’s re-ap­pro­pri­ated se­cu­rity tape reg­u­lat­ing the assem­bly of LOLS oc­cu­py­ing the gallery. Dean’s work is of­ten de­scribed as sculp­ture, but it is not sculp­ture in a tra­di­tional sense. Dean traces the rest­less­ness of in­ner-city liv­ing and the hu­man emo­tions that spring from its cracked con­crete sur­faces. Each of Dean’s art­works and ex­hi­bi­tions, in­clud­ing this one, be­gins with words and let­ters that he has writ­ten. How­ever, th­ese words and emo­tions have shed their skin, dis­torted by mis­use and re­arrange­ment, much like the pos­ture of a min­i­mum-wage em­ployee moulded by the un­re­strained hands of the city. Trans­formed from ink and lead, th­ese charged art­works are cast and moulded from the same con­struc­tion ma­te­ri­als that were used to re­de­velop Shang­hai’s West Bund, and that con­nect the joints of the city, and its public spa­ces to its hosts. With its torn pages and hand mixed hand placed coloured con­crete, the ex­hi­bi­tion opens up a space be­tween lan­guage, so­cial space and the pic­to­rial trans­for­ma­tion of both, us­ing the ar­chi­tec­ture of LOL and the visual field of con­struc­tion to amass an un­reg­u­lated gath­er­ing of speech and laugh­ter which both in­trudes on and slows down the rapid gov­er­nance of lan­guage and space. Im­age-based emo­tions in the twenty-first cen­tury pro­vide the foun­da­tion for an in­ter­na­tional writ­ten and visual mode of ex­pres­sion that has in­evitably com­pli­cated the di­vide be­tween visual im­ages and ver­bal lan­guage.

Ex­hi­bi­tion Date: Venue:

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