V&A, 20th Nov

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The DMC 2nd year had a fabulous trip to V&A, exploring the myths of Indian weaving, its techniques, beginning and development through thick and thin at the Fabric of India exhibition. We also participated in the Design Culture Salon, an open discussion with guest speakers, experts, tutors and researchers in various fields  held by Guy Julier, this time topic was: Design Culture Salon 18: Is designing for behaviour change ‘creepy’?

Here are some pictures:

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just me and Rebecca contemplating on art.

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Ai Wei Wei @RA

I had no prior knowledge of Ai Wei Wei before coming to this exhibition. People literally went crazy about it. I saw advertisements everywhere. Posts and reviews and articles flooded my newsfeed. Who is this Ai Wei Wei exactly? Where is he from? What does he do? Why is everyone talking about him?

And so I went to see his exhibition at the Royal Academy of Art – his first major exhibition in the UK, and in the world after a long while. Ai Wei Wei’s story is long. His arts, or what he claimed to be ‘political arts’, receive global attention, controversially or highly acclaimed by the contemporary art world.

Meanwhile, my first impression was, no matter what it is, and on so many levels, “It’s huge”.  Let me walk you through some of the objects on display that have left me with thoughts and questions.

#1. Tree. The literal meaning of “huge”.

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“Ai’s trees are made from parts of dead trees that are brought down from the mountains of southern China and sold in the markets of Jingdezhen, Jiangxi province. Ai transports these to his studio in Beijing where they are made into trees. As he says, “it’s just like trying to imagine what the tree looked like”. Held together by hidden mortise and tenon joins and large industrial bolts, the trees look natural from a distance and artificial from close up. Tree has been likened to the modern Chinese nation, where ethnically diverse peoples have been brought together to form ‘One China’, a state-sponsored policy aimed at protecting and promoting China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”  – Adrian Locke, Curator

Watch the timelapse video of Tree’s installation:

#2. Straight (2008 – 2012)

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In 2008, Ai Weiwei gathered a group called ‘Citizen’s Investigation’ for his quest in recovering the truth about the number of students that are victims of the 8.0-magnitude earthquake took place in Sichuan, which he believed had been covered up by the authorities, and at the same time uncovering the truth of Chinese officials corruption. He wrote on his blog:” To remember the departed, to show concern for life, to take responsibility, and for the potential happiness of the survivors…we will seek out the names of each departed child, and we will remember them.” The list, which had accumulated to 5385 names as of 14 March 2009, is now displayed on the wall of Royal Academy of Arts. 

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The work composed of 90 tonne of straightened steel rods, used to reinforce concrete building and collected, mangled from the site of the earthquake that devastated Sichuan in 2008. ‘Straight’ stands in for the victims of the natural disaster, which was exacerbated by the government’s cavalier attitude towards construction safety protocols.

Tim Marlow, artistic director of the RA and co-curator of the exhibition, said: ” When he was released, he came back to the studio and the first thing he heard was the team working on the rebars. He said it was incredibly powerful.”

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#3. Cao.

Hundred of interlocking marble sculptures of grass, with a marble troller. The word ‘cao’ means grass, but it is often used in Chinese literature to refer to the common people. And occasionally people can also find it in place of swearwords online.

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#4. River Crabs (2010- ).

“The word for crab, ‘he xie’, is a homonym for harmonious, we are told, and much bandied about in Chinese government circles. There is not much harmony here among the crustaceans. The word is also used a lot on the internet in China, as slang for censorship. Thinking Ai might shut up after his 81-day incarceration in 2011, and the bulldozing of his newly completed Shanghai studio by the authorities, the Chinese government got it wrong.” – Adrian Searle. 

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#5. Chandelier.

This piece left people in awe, and an aching neck.

Chandelier is a a five-meter tall chandelier of crystal and light. Another luxury, the chandelier is a symbol of extravagance for Ai, who grew up in exile without lights or candles during China’s Cultural Revolution.

Left alone all the political elements and background, I think this piece is by far the most efficient use of scale and quantity I have ever seen. Beautiful and oddly satisfying.

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#6. (Ah. Here is the portrait of the man) Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn, 1995.

While others accused him of devastating the history, in Ai’s perspective, ‘transforming’ the 2000-year-old antique urn to a new form is the true appreciation of its value. (In fact, two urns, not one, were sacrificed in the making of this work, due to the failure of Ai’s photographer to capture the first urn’s fall to the ground).

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Ai Weiwei, according to ArtReview 2011, is named the most powerful artist in the world. Though it was an unusual choice as ‘Ai’s varied, scattershot work doesn’t fetch the highest prices at auction’, and despite ‘critics, while they admire his achievement, don’t treat him as a master who has transformed the art of his period’, Ai has become a symbol of the struggle for human rights in China. Having spent his formative years as an artist in New York in the 1980s, Ai’s criticism of China portrayed through his daring and politically charged works makes him the perfect artist to hold up a mirror both to the failings and potential of this powerful nation. He would use medium or genre of all kinds – sculpture, ready-mades, photography, architecture, performance, tweets and blogs – to deliver his pungent message.

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More on Ai Wei Wei here.

UCL NeuroArt Exhibition

“What’s the one thing has Neuroscience taught you?”

“Well, I think it taught me that all our emotions, everything that we see and feel are all processes that happen in the brain, and how easily these can influenced and changed under so many different conditions. Effectively the world around us is really something that we create in our brains. Our reality is really an interaction between the brain and the external environment. That tells you how a lot of things are really much more subtle and subjective than you can see.”

“How has it changed your life or the way you see and interact with things and people?”

“I guess I became less judgmental. Whenever I see people do actions, I try to think in term of the motivations behind them and the fact that actually things are much more complex than it seems in the surface. For people who don’t have depression or experience with mental health, it can be difficult to try to bring yourself in the mindset of someone else. Because it’s not externalized, it’s not physical, a lot of people don’t understand that it is a real thing. So I think that even if we see the same thing from a different perspectives, it’s still important to understand how it feels from the other side from the people who are experiencing it, and the fact that it is a real thing, real problem and not that people are making it up. The fact that it is not visible does not mean that it ain’t there.”

– A talk with Alessandro Galloni, Vice President of UCL Neuroscience Society (April, 2015)

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When visiting Saatchi Gallery, 18th Dec

Oh wow, I wonder what will be there at Saatchi Gallery.

No I won’t google ‘Saatchi Gallery’.

May be for direction only.

Wait Russell Square? Is it where I am supposed to get off?

Of course there is no 4G signal underground.

Is this like the central?

7 minutes walking? Shouldn’t be too far.

So crowded.

Lights. Too many lights. Hanging over.

That poor building.

You are killing the Earth!

Hey she looks like Nuria.

Must be her.

That’s her!

Oh it’s like, a garden. Ace!

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Woa. So. Clean.

This place is like, perfect for a formal portrait shooting photo.

Anh should be here with me. She should have come.

Oh Pop Art.

Habitat.

Where’s the caption?

Urmmm…

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Squares. Color block. Pastel. Mathematics.

Okay I can stop now.

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Chinese…stuff.

I haven’t played this game since flat slim screen replaced the cube old-fashioned PC.

7 stages. Then repeated with a higher speed. It’s just a time-consuming thing we all used to do when we were 7.

Oh. Communism. I know nothing about Communism. or Socialist. Pop-art artists seem to be really keen on this kind of matter. Art and politic. Sarcasm. Makes sense.

I should research more about all kind of political-ism then.

Isn’t that a common knowledge?

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 I smell Marx.

Philosophy. Religion. Reality.

Oh hello Micky Mouse. I haven’t seen you for a while.

I think I am quite conservative.

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Why here?

What’s with the text?

I need a transcript for all of these.

I am feeling lost.

Art is so abstract.

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Hello old friend. I think your beard has grown quite fast.

Again. I don’t get it.

I hate this ignorance.

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Aren’t they just…

You guys just go ahead.

I’ll just be like staring at this for hours.

We’ll meet on the other the side.

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Why are you staring at me?

Oh wait!

MJ!!! Is that you?

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Nuria. I think she’s blended well into this stagnant atmosphere. Where’s time?

Oh I need to breathe.

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Why all of the hatred?

I’ve learnt that it’s really stressful and exhausting to hate someone.

It’s one of the most depressing and miserable things to do.

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“Have you sold your soul?”

What do you mean? Selling my soul to what? Why should I?

Wait but there isn’t any question mark.

This is not a question.

“Have you sold your soul.”

The Universe distracts me.

When will this stop?

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No I do not. Who are ‘we’ ?

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Are they even real? Humans?

Are they using their smartphone in there?

Hmm do they get paid for sitting and bowing like that for hours?

Wait they are definitely not humans, by any means.

And I must have been obsessed with finding a job.

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Should I go and find out what’s behind the hole?

I think no.

There’s something wrong with this.

Oh I see now…

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Minh will definitely be interested in this.

I should take a photo and forward it to him.

This is really interesting.

But it can be disturbing to some people.

Those middle-aged ladies over there are frowning.

They probably aren’t enjoying the show.

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I knew that he would like it.

Wait now I have to go back and see who the artists are.

Oooh that sound.

Hands are beautiful.

It’s clever.

Creative.

But I don’t like how they deliver the message.

Totally got the wrong idea of hands.

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I love taking photos of people when they don’t notice.

Pop art. I know nothing about Pop art.

There are so many things to learn.

Time. Please be frozen.

I just want to sleep and wake up without the feeling of guilt.

What if we have more than 24 hours a day?

Would there be any difference?

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Brick Brick Brick Brick Lane!

street arts

random bicycle stands

interesting water poles covered with advertising stickers

in fact, stickers were everywhere

pavements, street signs, metal fences, walls and  caps

curry ‘master chef’ on display windows

more street arts

the redolent smell of old furnitures in a vintage shop

refurbished organ and vinyl discs

the pungent smell invading the air in a maze full of beautiful, colorful textiles

Hinduism

people

multiculturalism

the lane of the bricks

the bricks of the lane

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Docklands Objects

I. Museum of London Docklands Objects 

I felt an overwhelming desire to explore as I entered the Museum of London Docklands knowing that it holds the most fundamental keys to access the history of London’s River Thames and Docklands. Among all the displays and exhibitions, “New Port New City” and “London, Sugar and Slavery” are the ones that really fascinated me.

1. Exhibition: New Port New City 1945 – present

From the primitive upriver docks to the busiest port in the world, “New Port New City” exhibits the changes that transformed this part of East London in over 60 years.

“Decline and regeneration, as the Docklands reinvented itself for a new century.” 

1960s and 1970s marked a turning point in the London Docklands’s regeneration history.  As containerization started to take place, small docks such as West India, Millwall and East India were simply too small for the modern container-ships, which required a deepwater port to park and a large space for unit-loading. Construction of new dock extension began in 1963 and by late 1960s, Tilbury had became the leading container port in the world. Considering the containerization as one of the main roles in the regeneration, making London Docklands once the biggest port in the world, ‘container ships’ were my choice of key subject of “New Port New City” exhibition.

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