This week we took our annual IB Field trip to get out of the school to engage in some real live art. Over the last few years, we've developed a one day trip that involves seeing some contemporary art in the morning and buying materials in the afternoon. Because much of the contemporary art that we see involves non-traditional materials, our obvious next stop is the 'small items markets' of Shanghai - which we affectionately refer to as the "Junkaterias". These markets, which surround the famous tourist attraction Yu Yuan Gardens, are comprised of thousands of tiny stalls jam-packed into warehouse sized buildings. They can go up five floors or down into basements. You can find everything from christmas lights, to temporary tattoos, to costume masks, to Chinese knots, to fancy hats, to an assortment of toenail clippers. They even have live fish in keychains. I'm not sure how that works exactly, but I don't think the fish is very happy about it.
This is the start of the student's 100 Kuai Challenge. After a quick lunch, students are given an hour to run around the markets and purchase 100 RMB (USD $15) worth of supplies for a mixed media, non traditional material project. Click on the link above to get a sense of what the craziness of that day and the market is like.
The Biennial was a mixed bag of some stunning artwork, unique ideas, a little smidge of kitch, and a whole chunk of 'wha...?'. One of the most stunning pieces was a three story high bottle rack (a la Marcel Duchamp) with each tine ending in an arm, each arm holding a different object, and each hand positioned in the tradition of Buddhist iconography (it was very IB). There was a giant metal sphere that the artist came in once a day to roll around by remote control, a looping video of kittens, a glass ball of sand dropped from a great height, extensively elaborate poetry inscribed on grains of rice and corn, and a giant transformer - literally, a car that turns into a robot. Below you can see some of the images from the show and decide for yourself where concept was strong and where camp reigned supreme.