Student self-portrait in one of our classrooms: “Will be more handsome with a longer hair.”
The leaders’ approach to building a world-class culture is not all that different from the one that powered China’s economic miracle: set a long-term goal, adopt rigid specifications, pour in copious amounts of public money, monitor closely to ensure the desired result.
In this case, as the report repeatedly stated, the specifications are to adhere to “core socialist values” in cultural activities. The desired result is “to build our country into a socialist culture superpower.”
This is my favorite local coffee shop, Noah Cafe. Some of the art is prosaic; some, less so.
The New Statue of the Three Hairs
HK isn’t the shopping mecca it once was, but if you’re into trinkets, knockoff brand-label belts, and creepy pop art, it’s still tough to beat.
The exhibit in Zhaolin Park, known around town as the “other” show. I suspect that the sculptors and structure-constructors whose work is on display here need to “graduate” before they can have their work featured at the main event on Sun Island.
Still, I found this one charming in parts, largely because it was much less crowded than the other one, but also because of discoveries like that bizarre dragon emerging from the ground (not a sculpture, by the way) and that halfly-anatomically correct equine creature of some sort.
Some highlights (+ a few lowlights) of the Sun Island International Snow Sculpture Art Fair, or SIISSAF, as no one called it. The theme of this year’s whole Ice & Snow Festival is the "Tourism Year of Russia" in China, so naturally the SIISSAF featured sculptures of famous Russian writers, evocative village tableaus, quaint dachas, and alleged anti-Stalinists performing backbreaking manual labor in a Siberian gulag.
There’s also some impressive three-dimensional art in Harbin not made of snow or ice.
The main event: the 13th annual Ice & Snow World. We were there for opening night, which included a fireworks display and a performance with blaring background music and uniformly outfitted downhill skiers, the narrative of which I couldn’t begin to interpret.
The ice-lantern structures were impressive in a Chinese way — that is to say, in their sheer scale, ambition, and luminosity. What a task it must be to construct them; my mind went to the Egyptian pyramids. But for my yuan, I’ll take the hand-carved sculptures anyday.
You can see a few of those at the bottom, the result of the First International Ice Assemblage Sculpture Contest, a competition made up of 12 teams from countries around the world. (The winter wonderlands of Singapore and Malaysia were represented; the U.S., apparently, was not.) The rules: “Each team has 3 or 4 artists. There are 12 pieces of ice in total (100x50x40cm) and consumption of the ice should cover at least 60% of the total amount. Mechanical transportation and electric tools are applicable. Sculptures were carved by hand then assessed by the jury.” It was unclear who won, but the Russians’ depiction of Romeo and Juliet at the altar, accompanied by creepy hooded druids (was that in the play?), was the clear standout among the tourists.
The biggest disappointment for me was not being able to witness the competition or any other construction efforts. I would have enjoyed watching the process as much as the final result.