Connected Communities

This conference is definitely worthy the trip from Shanghai. Really good papers so far and the key note speakers have given me the opportunity to look at Chinese and Japanese artistic production from an interesting personal angle.

Feng Mengbo has opened my eyes on the possibilities of re-inventing the concept of video games through his aesthetic sensibility.

I have enjoyed the paper, the slides of his art works and his reflections on the possibility of employing digital technology to re-discover traditional Chinese art forms such as calligraphy. During a tea break I suggest that maybe his personal creative interest could be interconnected to the wider process China might be going through at the moment, in terms of a rethinking of its cultural values and position within the global landscape. Having now conquered the position of the strongest mass market producer in the world (and actually by walking around on a Saturday night it was clear to me that not only China now produces nearly everything we wear, drive and use in our everyday life in the West, but it also consumes a lot of these products distributed by those big brands now located here) China might now be at a point in which it needs to re-think at what is leaving behind and start counting its losses in terms of cultural roots, traditional buildings, lakes and rivers, clean air and family ties. So maybe artists like Feng Mengo are part of this process, increasing their own and others’ awareness around the now and the possible futures.


Another interesting paper is the one on networked music improvisations by Roger Mills. His exploration of the timber of musical instruments from different parts of the world in some ways echoes my own creative process as I progress in my travels for Streets of… and listen/record the timber and rhythm of my seven cities. It is with curiosity that I decide to join the others for his evening performance, which unfortunately for technical reasons will not take place as planned, but still gives us a taste of the work he carries out with musicians across the world.

In the picture:
Tao Han – Guzheng
Mao Dan Heng – Guzheng
Roger Mills – Trumpet

To listend to the sound click here:
Extract of Roger Mills concert

Paul Semon and Charlotte Gould “Urban Picnic on the Screen” is also an interesting installation piece, which links people in the UK and Ningbo in real time making them lie down on a virtual mat set up in one of the teaching rooms.

But the highlight of the conference for me is Masaki Fujihata. Such an inspiring artist and wonderful soul! I am so intrigued by his attempts to connect the cyber space and the real world of people and geographies through digital art. “Data is moving around us” he says, and so the artist is here to capture and log experiences, simultaneous landscapes, internal and external sights. And again, his words seem to resound so beautifully with those I wrote back at the start of my project in 2004. Masaki goes deep telling us that “the medium is a tool to measure the impermanence of the world”. I feel this concept can open doors which could lead me to a further space I probably have not fully accessed yet. Impermanence. Simultaneous archetypical landscapes. Sense memories. These words bounce back on the walls of my internal ears, their esoteric meaning still obscure to me…

To listen to the sound click here:
Alda’s voice over

The academics at the conference talk about “glocal”, “connectivity and intimacy” as key elements in defining the digital space today. They also reflect on the intercultural inequalities, issues of gender and class system in relation to accessing digital resources in the world today. Indeed, the most interesting discovery for me is that internet communities in China do not have access to You Tube or Facebook, because of the government’s censorship. Therefore Chinese people have created their own channels: Tudou (to upload videos) and Renren to communicate with friends. Qiu Qiu is the same as MSN for real time chat and is now really big in China. Everybody is on Qiu Qiu and the Q-Zone is used for content sharing. According to Lian Zhu, a lecturer at Ningbo university, these exemples also reflect a Chinese “We” feeling which translates in the digital space the local cultural pillars: Intimacy, Frequent interaction, Maintenance, Face-to-face, Desire for proximity.

It’s so interesting… but then a sudden thought comes to my mind. This means that Chinese people cannot have access to the videos I have uploaded on my blog?! Oh dear, how can I circumvent the problem? I want to interact with local communities. This is so important for me! I start asking around and so somebody suggests I get in touch with some of the students who work at the campus TV station. I follow the suggestion and quietly leave the lecture room as I receive a text message on my new Chinese mobile with directions to the Students’ Union room.

The campus is a labyrinth and so I send some time to find the place. Finally, I get to the NUTS room and there I find Sherry, a very nice student whose Chinese name is Lu Li, who introduces me to a very active group of students engaged in TV , film and theatre production, editing of a newletter and many other cultural activities.

I start telling them about the project and my intention of getting young people in London involved during the final stages of the work and create connections with those in China. As we talk, we start looking at the possibility of uploading on Tudou the trailer I did last month and also at getting the students from the NUTS group creatively involved in the project. Maybe they could start exploring ways in which everyday life in Ningbo connects to memories of China before the more aggressive consumerist system of the last decade made its full entrance in local life and culture. Ye Gefan is interested and agrees to translate some pages of the blog in Chinese, so that people here can understand what the project is about and while we talk Lu Li uploads the trailer on Tudou

and creates the equivalent of a Streets of… Facebook fan page on Renren

Wow, that’s great, I’m really impressed! I love the way things just happen through meetings, human interaction and exchange of creative ideas. Let’s see what we can build with the students and young people in London. I leave the room with a mix of exhaustion and excitement. I am hungry (I forgot to eat as usual!) and also feel a bit guilty for having missed a few sessions at the conference. Still I learned so much today that surely I am forgiven. Yet I should better hurry up if I don’t want to miss the tour of old Ningbo before heading off to Shanghai again.

About aldaterra

Visual - Sound Artist Curator Academic Researcher
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