I’ve been working quietly on my “Art and Smog” documentary project since returning from China this summer. I had an amazing nine months reconnecting with my main characters from 25 years ago. The societal pursuit of material advantages and profit, and the competition for survival, has overshadowed their earlier ideals of an honest and caring humanity. Their art reveals the confusions, pressures, fears, and need for refuge that they feel. Their words and images speak not only to their felt experience in China but also to the pains many people in the world experience today, even in the United States.
I already miss the amazing people I got to know in Beijing. I interviewed and spent time with many people who were generous with their thoughts and suggestions. Here are a few favorite photos I’d like to share.
Now I’m back home in Newton, Massachusetts, methodically poring through video files. Key ideas are making their way out of my hard drives, notebooks, transcription binders, notecards, and mind. I’ve begun editing some thematic highlights, which is an exciting process, and I plan to complete a rough cut by June. I will be looking for musicians and professional post-production talents to complete the film.
While shooting the documentary last year, I also participated in many activities of the Fulbright U.S. Scholar program, which truly broadened my horizons. I saw the modernization gap between the powerhouse cities in China, such as Beijing, and the peripheral cities, such as Changchun and Xiamen. I also had a chance to visit Japan, Korea, and Taiwan, coming away with a fuller appreciation of their entwined histories and culture, mixed with China’s.
I suppose in a few centuries some other traveler, maybe from Mars, will remark on the entwined histories and culture of North America and Asia.