【英语中国】英国操办中国文化“盛宴” GREAT TRAWL OF CHINA

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2014-7-1 01:17

小艾摘要: The nascent economic giant that is China is nudging its way ever more insistently into western consciousness but does it have a distinctive voice? No one would argue against the spectacular growth pro ...
GREAT TRAWL OF CHINA
The nascent economic giant that is China is nudging its way ever more insistently into western consciousness but does it have a distinctive voice? No one would argue against the spectacular growth projections and the sheer weight of numbers that testify to China's growing importance in the world. That is a closed argument by now.But we seem to want something more. It is a truism that economic prosperity is accompanied by cultural prowess. We are conditioned to think that the world's new economic powerhouse should also be its artistic trailblazer – think of Renaissance Florence, or New York at the beginning of the last century.

Western art, fraying a little round the edges, flirting ever more dangerously with decadence, is glancing eastwards with a heady combination of excitement and anxiety. What will be our new cultural landmarks? And what, if anything, can they teach us about ourselves?

British observers are about to get a crash course in the subject with the launch next month of “China Now”. More than 800 events, encompassing art, design, cuisine, science, technology and sport, constitute Britain's largest ever festival of Chinese culture.

The festival is a business initiative, chaired by Stephen Green, group chairman of HSBC, the bank that was founded by a group of traders in China in the mid-19th century. It is little surprise that he sees a direct link between the burgeoning spirit of entrepreneurship in the country these days, and the flourishing of a new creative spirit.

We talk in his office at HSBC's headquarters in London, where he is freshly returned from breakfast with the Chinese ambassador. She has reaffirmed her belief to him, he says, that “China Now” will be an event of “profound importance” in transforming British attitudes towards China.

Green says he hopes the British public will be surprised by what they see. “Of course people admire things like the calligraphy or the terracotta warriors. But what they may not appreciate is the effervescence and liveliness of what is happening in China today.”

Much of that effervescence is associated with new Chinese wealth. The contemporary art market, as elsewhere in the world, is booming, with the scene's most famous names beginning to attract serious money: the record £2.9m paid for Yue Minjun's “Execution” in Sotheby's London last October was instantly trumped by the £4.6m raised by Cai Guo-Qiang's series of gunpowder paintings the following month at Christie's Hong Kong.

Beijing's 798 district, a giant Bauhaus former munitions factory turned into a collective of small art galleries, already has the feel of a shopping mall rather than a radical cultural experiment, with its own hip sense of self-conscious wit: one of the restaurants in the complex is adorned with large black and white pictures of east German communist dignitaries visiting the site in its former incarnation, a gentle ironic reminder of times past. But the predictable symbiosis between a new affluent class and young, fashionable artists is one thing – to wonder whether there is anything fresh, distinctive or radical in what Chinese culture has to offer is quite another.

One of the centrepieces of London's Chinese festival is ‘China Design Now', an exhibition at the Victoria and Albert museum opening in March that examines the cutting edge of a range of activities, from fashion and lifestyle to grand architectural projects. It will be as good an indicator as any of the extent and worth of Chinese cultural innovation.

Design, like its close cousin contemporary art, is a globalised phenomenon in which distinct national traditions increasingly struggle to be noticed. Can China buck the trend?

The show will be split into three locations and their associated themes: the “dream city” of Shanghai; the “future city” of Beijing and the “frontier city” of Shenzhen. It will bring together the work of young designers, some of them not yet born when the slow cultural and political thaw of the 1980s began to take effect.

One of them is China's architectural superstar Ma Yansong, the first Chinese architect to win an important foreign commission, with his twisted “Absolute Towers” project for Mississauga in Canada. Speaking in his Beijing studio on the day after his 32nd birthday, he is the epitome of Chinese cool, laconic and understated in his assessment of the city's cultural scene.

He says there are two distinctively Chinese features to his architectural designs: an emphasis on nature, and an instability of form. Both come to the fore in his playful reinterpretation of Mies van der Rohe's famous Farnsworth House, the undulating forms of which make it look like it is melting.

A project for the Venice Biennale saw him cover Tiananmen Square with a landscaped forest. “We know that people like trees,” he says simply. “The intention was to make something more free, more public.” There is only the merest hint of the acute symbolism with which such a notorious venue inevitably resounds. He says he has a slogan – “Be political or be polite” – and gives every impression that he is performing a highly skilled balancing act between the two.

He is relatively impolite about Beijing's most prestigious current project, Rem Koolhaas and Ole Scheeren's large and ostentatious headquarters for CCTV, China's national broadcaster. “It gives another feeling to the city. It is like when you have a nice family dinner, and a stranger suddenly comes in.”

In spite of his tender years, Ma does not lack confidence. He trained with Zaha Hadid and says the most important thing she taught him was the way in which “she focused on her personal interests. She doesn't care.”

If Beijing, with its inevitable emphasis on grand Olympic-scaled projects, is a relative newcomer to the western concept of modern cultural regeneration, Shanghai, with its worldly cosmopolitan background, is more organic in its cultural infrastructure. My search for a distinctively Chinese approach to design took me here to the studios of fashion designer Lu Kun, an up-and-coming figure, just 26 years old, who will also be featured in the V&A show.

The focus of his work is the city in which he works, rather than his country. The Shanghainese woman, he says, is not like any other Chinese woman, having absorbed British and French influences, and having learnt the delicate arts of assertion over their menfolk. “They don't subdue themselves. They are quite bitchy,” he says with relish.

He shows me a dress that he deconstructs for me: it is a traditional Chinese qipao, which has been made transparent to show off the corset (a European influence) inside it. The fabric is rough, he says (“women need to be rough”) and the length is adjustable, from short and practical to long and diva-like. “It is a dress with several layers of meaning. It is for the multi-dimensional woman.”

I ask him if the wife of a communist party official would wear a dress like that. “If she did, the police would be round the next morning,” he jokes quick as a flash.

Among the several designers I met in both Beijing and Shanghai, the issue of government liberalisation is scarcely referred to, although widely taken for granted. Ma Yansong says he has a good relationship with the authorities – “If they trust you, they believe anything can happen”.

Truth is, such is the powerful nexus between new money and the fleets of young, talented designers busy working for the emergent urban middle classes, that there is no need for any kind of government intervention. The idea that art might act as some kind of subversive or shadowy force in what is still, after all, a country with dubious democratic credentials, does not seem to arise. A new economy means new lifestyles, and new lifestyles demand new products, and new innovators. It is win-win.

It may be the cleverest feat yet of China's leaders, to allow economic and cultural liberalisation to flourish hand-in-hand while keeping a brake on the more challenging issue of political reform.

That flies in the face of the widely held western belief, that art can and should be an important instrument of social change. It is no accident that one of the most widely recognised Chinese artists is Wang Guangyi, whose prop art posters ironically mix cultural revolution iconography with western brand names such as Chanel, Rolex and Coca-Cola. Wang is a one-trick pony – but it is a trick that reveals a deeper truth about the evolution of Chinese culture.

In the meantime, perhaps we should have more modest ambitions for “China Now” than to expect a definitive state-of-the-art announcement on a country that is multifarious and complex. I ask Peter Wong, HSBC's executive director for Hong Kong and China, what message he thinks the festival could impart, and his reply is simple.

“What I hope people will understand is that China is changing, and changing for the better,” he says.

“And that China has a very welcoming attitude to culture. And that it is a basically polite and friendly society that treats people with respect and good manners.”

‘China Now' runs from February to July. ‘China Design Now', sponsored by HSBC, opens at the Victoria and Albert Museum on March 15

中国正在越来越多地进入西方人的意识之中,但这个不知疲倦的新兴经济巨人拥有自己独特的声音吗?当然,没有人可以争辨,中国对于这个世界的重要性正在日益增长,这点已是常识。

“中国知识速成课程”

但我们似乎还想得到更多的东西。从过去的历史看,经济繁荣总是与文化实力相伴相依。我们已经习惯于看到,新的全球经济发动机同时也是我们的艺术先锋,例如文艺复兴时期的佛罗伦萨或是20世纪初期的纽约。

西方艺术已经锋芒不再,越来越多地是在危险地卖弄着自己的颓废。现在,它正带着一种既兴奋而又紧张的强烈感觉放眼东方。我们的新文化里程碑将在何方?而我们又是否能够从中学到一些更好的审视自己的方法呢?

英国观察人士即将就这些问题参加一个速成课程。而这个“课程”就是下月开始的“时代中国”(China Now)文化节。800多项活动横跨艺术、设计、饮食、科学、技术及体育等多个领域,可谓是英国有史以来最大的中国文化盛宴。

此次活动由商业性质的企业发起,负责人是汇丰集团(HSBC)董事长葛霖(Stephen Green)。一些商人于19世纪中期在中国创建了这家银行。不出意料,葛霖看到,处于萌芽状态的中国企业家精神与创意精神之间存在着直接联系。

我在葛霖的伦敦汇丰总部办公室中采访了他。正巧他刚刚与中国大使共进过早餐。大使向他重申了自己的想法,即“时代中国”将在转变英国人的中国观念方面发挥“重大作用”。

葛霖表示,希望英国公众将为自己所看到的东西感到惊讶。“当然人们会对书法或是兵马俑赞誉有加。但是他们可能还没有意识到,当代中国事物中蕴含着何等的感染力与活力。”

中国的新生财富与艺术

这种活力大都与中国的新生财富有关。与世界其它各国一样,中国的当代艺术市场正在蓬勃兴起,而这个圈子里最负盛誉的一些艺术家已经开始赚到大钱:岳敏君的《处决》在去年10月的苏富比(Sotheby's)伦敦拍卖会上创下了290万英镑的拍卖纪录,而在11月的佳士得(Christie's)香港拍卖会上,蔡国强的《焰火草图》以460万英镑成交,迅速刷新了这一纪录。

北京的798社区曾是一个包豪斯风格的兵工厂,现在则变身成为了一个小型画廊的聚集地,这里已经感觉更像是一个购物中心而不是一个前卫的文化实验地带,有着自己的时尚感与自觉智慧:其间一家餐厅的墙上挂满了前东德共产党贵宾访问798兵工厂的黑白照片,略带讽刺意义地提醒着人们这里的过往。但是,新兴富裕阶层与时尚的年轻艺术家的结合并不出人意料,这完全不等于中国文化将肯定能为世界带来一些新鲜、独特或前卫的元素。

“时代中国设计展”

此次伦敦中国文化节的重头戏之一是“时代中国”设计展,该展览将于3月开始,地点是维多利亚与艾伯特博物馆(Victoria and Albert Museum)。它将展示中国在时尚、生活方式、巨型建筑项目等诸多领域中最为先进的成果。这将是测算中国文化创新价值及范围的一个上佳渠道。

如同它的近亲当代艺术一样,设计体现了全球化的特征,目前,各个国家的独特传统越来越难以得到重视。那么,中国能够逆转这一潮流吗?

该展览将按地理位置及其相关主题分为三部分:“前沿城市”深圳;“未来城市”北京;“梦幻城市”上海。展览对象将是一些来自年轻设计师的作品。在上世纪80年代初期,中国文化与政治开始缓慢解冻的时候,他们当中的一些人甚至还未出生。

马岩松是这些人里较为年长的一员,也是首位赢得重要海外设计权的中国设计师,作品是为加拿大密西沙加市(Mississauga)所设计的螺旋形“梦露大厦”。 可以说,他代表着中国时尚的巅峰。在自己32岁生日的第二天,他在北京的工作室接受了英国《金融时报》的采访,简明而朴素地评价了这座城市的文化现状。

表示,自己的设计中掺入了两个独特的中国元素:即对自然的彰显,及形状的变化性。这两点都在他的作品中体现得淋漓尽致,使得这个波浪形状的建筑看起来仿佛正在融化。马岩松的作品趣味十足地再次诠释了路德维希·密斯·凡·德罗(Mies van der Rohe)的传世之作范斯沃斯住宅(Farnsworth House)。

在为威尼斯双年展(Venice Biennale)所创作的一个项目中,他将整个天安门广场用风景林覆盖了起来。“我们知道,人们喜欢树木”他简单地表示,“我的用意是创造一个更为自由、公共的空间。”他的话中似乎潜藏着一丝非常轻微而又尖锐的象征意义——这里曾经有过闻名世界的创痛历史。他表示,自己有一个口号:“要么政治、要么礼貌”。在我看来,他非常娴熟地平衡了这两者的要求。

对于当前最有名气的北京建筑项目,雷恩?库哈斯(Rem Koolhaas)和奥勒?舍仁(Ole Scheeren)那巨大而豪华的央视大楼,他就不是那么客气了。“它会给这座城市带来一种完全不同的感觉。就像是你在和家人高兴地吃着饭的时候,突然闯进一个陌生人一样。”

尽管年龄不大,马岩松并不缺乏信心。曾在扎哈·哈迪德(Zaha Hadid)手下实习的他表示,自己从哈迪德那里学到的最重要的东西就是她如何将注意力集中在自己的个人兴趣上,而不去在意其它东西。

如果说北京不可避免地将重点放在了规模宏伟的建筑项目之上,而且这座城市还只是刚刚接触到现代文化再生这个西方概念。在文化基础设施方面,有着国际都市背景的上海则是更为有机的。为了搜寻一个独特的中国设计理念,我来到了陆坤的工作室。陆坤是一个很有前途的新锐时装设计师,今年只有26岁。他也将在维多利亚与艾伯特博物馆的展览中亮相。

他作品关注的是他工作的城市,而不是他的国家。他说,上海女人跟任何其它地方的中国女人都不一样,她们受到英法影响的浸淫,深谙对男人说一不二的微妙艺术。他津津有味儿地说:“她们并不压制自己。相当不好对付。”

他向我展示一条长裙,给我讲解道:这是一条传统的中国旗袍,做成透明的,是要突出里面的胸衣(这体现了一种欧洲影响)。他说,布料比较粗糙(“女人需要糙一点儿”),长度可以调节,从短而实用的款式到长得像歌剧演出服的效果,都可以达到。“这条长裙有好几层意义。它适合具有多面性的女人。”

我问他,一位国家干部的妻子会穿这样的裙子吗?他迅速回了句玩笑:“她要是那么穿了,警察第二天就来了。”

在我见到的几位北京和上海设计师里,很少有人提到政府放开限制的问题,不过他们普遍认为这是理所当然的。马岩松说,他跟官方关系很好——“如果他们信任你,他们就相信一切都可能会发生。”

其实,现在有一大批年轻有为的设计师在为骤然涌现的城市中产阶级工作,新资金与这些设计师之间的联系如此紧密,根本无需任何形式的政府干预。那种认为在一个民主声誉还不太好的国家,艺术可能会成为某种破坏力量或地下力量的想法,似乎并没有出现。新的经济体意味着新的生活方式,而新的生活方式需要新的产品和新的创新者。这是双赢。

一方面让经济自由化与文化自由化齐头并进、同时又在更具挑战性的政治改革问题上踩住刹车,这也许是中国领导人迄今为止最聪明的壮举。

这公然违抗了西方人普遍持有的一种信念,即:艺术可以、也应该成为社会变革的重要工具。如此说来,王广义成为广受认可的一位中国艺术家,绝非偶然。他的艺术海报把文化大革命时期的肖像画与香奈儿、劳力士和可口可乐这样的西方品牌颇为讽刺地杂糅在一起。王广义就会这么一招儿——但这一招儿却揭示了中国文化演进中更深层的东西。

不过,也许我们不应该对“时代中国”抱有太大野心,期望它能在艺术层级上明确阐释一个多样复杂的国家。我问汇丰银行香港与中国内地业务执行董事王冬胜(Peter Wong),在他看来,这次艺术节要传达什么样的信息呢?他的回答很简单。

他说:“我希望人们明白,中国在改变,而且是越变越好。”

“中国对文化持有一种非常欢迎的态度。基本上是一个礼貌友善的社会,能够尊重他人、善待他人。”

“时代中国”活动于2月至7月举行。《创意中国》当代设计展由汇丰银行赞助,将于3月15日在维多利亚阿尔伯特博物馆(Victoria and Albert Museum)开展。

译者/何黎

《生活时尚》

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