I’ve been quiet on this “blog” for months…only because I’ve been immersed in editing. After a long process of systematically organizing my video footage, transcribing and translating the many hours of interviews, and editing selections of the best visual and verbal content, I had the great fun of weaving the story together. Good news…Rough Cut 1 (actually 2a) is done!
The working title is now “Art in Smog,” both a literal reference to artists in China and a metaphor for their seeking clarity through a haze of ideals, doubts, fears, stasis, and propelled motion.
Over the next few months, I will be working on music with an exciting young composer whose new work I heard at a concert in Cambridge, Massachusetts—Mischa Salkind-Pearl. It’s going to be an exciting collaboration since his music, I find, has great synergy with the works of artists Su Xinping and Xia Xiaowan, the film’s main characters.
I will also be screening the rough cut to friends, advisors, and interested parties, to get feedback before completion. If you would like to screen the rough cut, please contact me.
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 returned to the United States in May, after nine months in China, and my greatest enjoyment has been to breathe deeply, soak in the beautiful blue skies and fluffy white clouds, and walk around the clean water reservoirs and wooded parks in eastern Massachusetts.
Summer is glorious here. The population density in the United States is much, much less than in China…which makes me realize why we still have blue skies. If we had as many people per square mile as China has to feed, clothe, employ, and shelter in modern, industrialized, urban fashion, our skies would be grey, too.
On a beautiful spring day, I decided to make my way to the National Museum of Art on the edge of Tiananmen Square. I had tried visiting there in February during the Spring Festival holidays, but the line outside the museum had been too long. So I waited for a Friday afternoon in April, and I breezed in with no trouble at all.
I’m thinking of changing my film title to “Art in Smog” instead of “Art and Smog.”
What I’m hearing from my subjects is that they feel themselves in a haze, trying to go somewhere, but not seeing clearly where to go. I take their statements of personal mental ambiguity as a metaphor for China’s dilemma as a nation, or even the world’s dilemma as a global society. By interviewing artists and looking at their works, I’m trying to find my own clarity on “What is art?” Why is art compelling, fascinating, and thought provoking at this moment?