GREETINGS FROM... SHANGHAI
In October 2007, I was invited to Shanghai for a gallery opening of my work. It was my first visit to China and I had only a vague idea of what it would be like.
Every city I had visited, whether in Europe, the U.S., or Japan, I had always felt most comfortable and at home in their respective Chinatowns. It could be because the Chinese leave me alone and at peace. The Chinese treat everyone equally, whether stranger or native; all encounters are like a business transaction. While the Chinese have a long and complex history, their collective spirit is very down to earth. I liken their spirit to a "good noodle soup" - a deceptively simple meal that can take hours to prepare but minutes to consume.
I stayed in Shanghai for five days. From day to night the energy kept me awake. I walked everywhere. In dark, winding alleys I heard lone men prepare meals in a wok. I peeked in and watched as they ate, and saw how they lived. The streets were so dim that I often could not tell who was approaching me. Strangers would bump into me and then regard me with no emotion.
The sounds, smells, and mysterious alleys reminded me of clichés from a vintage Chinese film. Experiencing this world required all of my senses and felt, in many ways, more authentic and enriching than much of my time spent in modern cities and cultures.
Shanghai is a city that lives in the moment. Construction appears to be going on everywhere, every day. Landscapes seem to change by the second. The new is mixed with the old in Shanghai: its architecture, its fashion, its attitude...One day, I saw a father and son on a construction site. The father pointed to something far beyond the crumbling buildings, as if to show the son where they used to live. The father appeared confused…was he concerned that his roots were being erased, or that his world had changed too fast to even reflect upon?
Shanghai made me question my own world: why is it that I am always searching for something nostalgic to hold on to?