Talk about impressive craftsmanship. In a stunning feat of virtuosity, the Chinese artist Ch’en Tsu-chang carved an astoundingly complex scene into a single olive pit in the year 1737. The tiny sculpture is complete with eight exquisite human figures enjoying a serene ride in the furnished interior of a boat with movable windows. To construct the piece, the artist, hailing from Kwangtung and having entered into the Imperial Bureau of Manufacture during the reign of emperor Yung-cheng, allowed his eye and hand to be guided by the natural shape of the olive pit.
Measuring 1.34 inches in length and .63 inches in height, the work was inspired by a poem titled “Latter Ode on the Red Cliff,” written by Su Tung-p’o some six hundred and fifty years before; it depicts the poet and his seven companions on one of his two journeys to Red Nose Cliff, the site of an epic battle that proceeded the poet-official by eight hundred years. On the helm of the boat, the artist meticulously engraved 300 characters from the beloved poem, whose moving lines served as an artistic theme well into the Qing Dynasty. Somehow, the delicate and intricate composition elevates the epic subject matter, making it all the more precious and highlighting its worth as a narrative worth careful representation. What better way to honor a poem about a natural landscape than by rendering its speaker in an organic substance?
Her toes were broken when she was a kid, then constantly bound to make them smaller until she couldn’t walk straight anymore. At the age of 88, Zhang Yun Ying is among the last witnesses of China’s infamous tradition of foot binding.
It has been recently brought to attention by a British photographer Jo Farrell who is already known for documenting endangered traditions and cultures. Her ongoing project “Living History” captures the lives of some of the last remaining women in China with bound feet. According to Farrell, in the past year alone, three women she’s been documenting have passed away so she feels it is “imperative to focus on recording their lives before it is too late”.
Tiny feet (with the ideal being no bigger than 3 to 4 inches) were once considered to be the symbol of beauty and social status. Young women would crush and bind their feet hoping to marry into money. Concealing the bound foot from men’s eyes also instigated an erotic approach towards it. Even though the inhumane custom was banned in 1912 by Chinese government, it was still practiced behind closed doors.
Apart from showcasing the shocking photos to the public, Farrell wants to make a point that modern women are not so different from the elders she works with:
“In every culture there are forms of body modification that adhere to that cultures’ perception of beauty. From Botox, FGM, breast augmentation, scarring and tattooing, to rib removals, toe tucks and labrets.”
Chinese artists Ren Hang creates provocative staged photography that focuses on exposing highly fetishistic, mind bending scenes. Hang’s attention to detail and great sense of composition deem the photographs as visually stunning even if it subjects are a bit raunchy and bizarre at times.
Ren Hang’s work is not all about just about naked men and women in weird poses, however. It powerfulness as a political tool is probably the most redeeming quality of his work. Hang’s homeland of (China) is highly conservative and its conventional codes in art and communication will not, and will probably never accept Hang’s work. You are probably thinking that his story is very similar to that of dissident Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei. Consequently, Hang’s rejected work was found to be a reinvigorating addition to the newly flourishing group of young Chinese artists, and because of that, Hang was invited by artist Ai Weiwei to collaborate with him. Hang was part of one of Shanghai’s most pivotal group show to date, ‘Fuck Off’ (2000), which showcased the new wave of 21st century Chinese artists. Ren Hang was also included in ‘Fuck Off: 2′, which took place in the Netherlands back in 2008; the show has been traveling around the world since its debut.
Although Ren Hang’s work has been banned in many parts of China, he is still part of some Chinese galleries. He has also been exhibited widely in Russia, Italy, France, Sweden, United Kingdom, and Austria. (via Juxtapoz)
The group 1,600 of exquisitely crafted papier-mâché panda bears have already travelled to and occupied cities like Paris, Berlin, Rome, and TaiPei; next month, they will overtake ten Hong Kong historical landmarks and tourist sites. As part of the Pandas on Tour project, these cuddly creatures are crafted from recycled materials by the French artist Paulo Grangeon in collaboration with the World Wildlife Fund, PMQ, and All Rights Reserved. Each sculpture has an important statement to make: there are less than 1,600 pandas living in the wild. Grangeon’s small creatures, with their wide eyes and round bodies, are easily be displayed side-by-side, providing a halting vision of the endangered species.
Human forces have forced the panda bears in a state of emergency; mining, tourism, and global warming have all contributed to the distraction of animal habitat in Chinese forests. Wild panda conservation is crucial, as the animals can rarely be convinced to mate in captivity.
Believe it or not, humans have a biological impetus for wanting to protect the species. Pandas have proven to be the most beloved animal for their resemblance to human babies; they too have wide eyes and their paws contain a “pseudo thumb.” Grangeon’s touching creatures are imbued with the tender hearts we recognize in the animals they represent. With poignantly cartoonish eyes, round ears, and emotive facial expressions, the papier-mâché figures inspire a whole lot of empathy. To learn how you can help the panda bears, visit WWF or the Smithsonian’s Giant Panda Conservation Fund. (via HuffPost, Time, and Design Boom) Read More >
Yang Maoyuan is a Beijing, China-based multidisciplinary artist noted for his shaping and misshaping of the human form. Born in Dalian, China in 1966, the artist has been witness to one of the most massive cultural shifts ever to occur in human history, so it is not surprising that historical relics and remnants, loaded with archaeological connotations, become source material for Yang.
In a series of work created in 2009, replicas of classical sculptural busts are created in bronze, and systematically sanded, smoothed and rounded out, giving the once easily recognizable faces a new and updated quality. The mirrored effect of these bronzes contemporarizes the pieces, but also forces viewers to see their own reflection in history. Some of the series became Look Inside, while other replicas took their titles from their original source inspirations.
When photographed in their installation environments, the resulting images look similar to 2-Dimensional collages, with smooth cut lines and rounded edges. It is this new verbal language that not only consumes classical sculptural, but also affects the way contemporary audiences will continue to consume culture. (via notshakingthegrass)
Overloading, as you can clearly see, is a serious problem in China; about 80 percent of trucks (or any means of transportation used to transport goods) are overloaded. These vehicles have been damaging the country’s already-crumbling highways and they have been the cause of collapsed bridges in the past. This bizarre collection of photographs,published by China Foto Press, reveal the heartbreaking reality of the statistics, as we see here the incredible amounts of junk that these tiny transportation vehicles carry on a daily basis. Although amusing and puzzling at first, these colorful and peculiarly beautiful compositions beg for awareness and possibly a chance for change.
“Highway and bridge tolls in China are too high for transportation companies. Sometimes, they can account for as much as 20 percent of the total expense. Therefore, many companies carry too much freight to try to make trips more profitable and compete with rivals.” - Cui Zhongfu, secretary-general of the China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing.
The rivalry over transportation companies has cost China about a dozen collapsed bridges each year. For instance, Qiantang River in Hangzhou, a bridge that was designed for vehicles weighing only 30 tons and trailers weighing 55 tons, was abused by truckers carrying loads in excess of 100 tons. The bridge finally gave in and collapsed in July 2011, when a 129-ton truck tried to cross it. In the same month, a bridge in Yancheng and another 301-meter steel-arch bridge in Wuyishan, Fujian province, collapsed. Both bridges had been built about 10 years ago. (Via Amusing Planet)
Artist Wen Fang has a way turning an eye toward the often overlooked. In a way, some of her work memorializes the unfortunately common. This first installation – a room filled with hanging knives printed with images of garbage – is titled Rain and illustrates this well. She explains the personal story and Chinese idiom behind the installation:
“One day I was on a public bus, heading to a suburban enclave not far from my home on the outskirts of Beijing. The road was lined on both sides by filthy, stagnant drainage ditches. The disgusting smell of the water wafted into the bus, immediately wiping out the hunger I was feeling a moment before. The water was blue-grey, and looked quite thick. The surface was covered in floating instant noodle packages, popsicle sticks, rotting vegetables and other garbage that couldn’t be sold as scrap. Suddenly I saw a stray dog at the edge of the ditch, trying to drink the water. Several times he would approach the water with his snout, only to be repulsed by the powerful stench. In the end, I guess he was just too thirsty, and he hesitantly stuck his snout in the water, taking a few gulps. It sent pangs through my heart. Lots of migrants live by the drainage ditches. Their kids run around like wild dogs, and are just about as dirty. About half of their toys were picked up along the side of this road. None of the adults control their actions, as these migrant workers are too busy trying to eke out a living, and the old people just sit there by the side of the road. The Chinese refer to these situations as knives raining down from the heavens…that is to say; this is the worst it can get…I don’t know if this is the worst possible situation, but these knives often cut right into my heart. That’s why I make them, so that everyone can see these knives. Economic development is a sound idea, but how much money does it take to be truly wealthy? I spent my childhood playing in the wilderness around here, while these kids are spending their childhoods playing on the trash heaps. I really wish these kids could grow up in gardens, just as we promised. But what I really don’t know is, when we finally have enough money, whether or not the garden will be anything more than a bunch of sharp knives.…”
The Metamorphosis Series by artist Shi Shaoping is a poetic look at life. Shi created 3,000 ceramic eggs over the course of a year. Each egg weighs about 22 pounds and as a group come in at about 48 tons. The eggs were then taken to some of China’s loneliest locales. From grassland to beach, deserts, and mountains, the ceramic eggs were spread out on the ground. The entire project was documented with photographs and videos.
In a way The Metamorphosis Series is as much a site specific installation as it is a performance. Shi set before himself an intentionally difficult project, one that would entail hard work, a journey, and perhaps transformation. Like the egg, these too are a symbol of life. However, they clearly also point toward potentiality – the field of eggs seems poised to hatch. The exhibition statement goes on to relate about the project:
“Shaoping is like a fortuneteller who uses the 3,000 giant eggs to remind people of the weight of life. The beauty of the work is the unpredictability, and the unlimited imagination it brings. The fragile yet vigorous eggs of life emphasizes that we eventually have to respect every single living thing in the universe. The sands may cover the frost-glazed castle; the soaring fallen leaves may blanket the ground. The persistence and power of life, however, will fight against the mediocrity and itself. The contradiction is the language Shaoping’s looking for to express his world of Metamorphosis. This triggers the speculation and discussion on contemporary art and life value.”