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Art of Varying Forms

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I forgot to mention that last Friday I actually went to go see a Beijing Opera (or Peking Opera, if you’re so inclined) performance. It was interesting. The emphasis of the performance seemed to be less on the spoken words of the performers and more on their physical movements. From what I’m told, most native Chinese speakers cannot understand what the performers are saying (we were aided in this mutual deficiency by the presence of LED boards that displayed the actors’ lines in both English and Chinese). Additionally, there were relatively few oral parts in the performance (one act lacked any spoken parts at all). But the actors’ movements could, at times, be quite phenomenal and frequently resembled something of an acrobatics performance. The actors’ costumes and the accompanying band were also interesting (though the nearly incessant drum banging in Farewell My Concubine got to be a little annoying).

This week, I went to the 798 Art District. It was originally an industrial zone (before the artists invaded) and many of the galleries are housed in old warehouse buildings and factory buildings (as you can see in the above pictures). I saw several exhibits. A lot of the exhibits seemed to have a fairly political bent to them, as in the hutong recreation exhibit (which praised the simple lifestyle of Beijing’s poorer residents) and the sex worker exhibit (which didn’t really seem to be able to make up its mind about whether prostitution was a good thing or a bad thing). There was also an exhibit that re-created the life of Jesus, though in a rather odd way: every scene was garishly colored and all of the characters (including Jesus) were laughing (even post-mortem). There were also a lot of statutes about. My personal favorite was the Transformer, but there were a variety of other displays as well. We also wandered into a more “traditional” gallery, where there were pieces depicting trees and whatnot. Though, the place had a distinctly Western aire, particularly with the French music playing in the background.

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