Category Archives: My Documentary Project

Into the Fog

Beijing fog
Dongsi Shitiao on an October afternoon, 2014

My first two days in Beijing have been mostly indoors, hiding out from the thick air outside. Yesterday I went to see Xia Xiaowan’s exhibit at the Galerie Urs Miele and had a chance to talk to him about his work.

Stunning, imaginative, and thought-provoking. He has a sketch for a public sculpture that would be a slab of glass tilted into the pavement, in which he would paint 3D goldfish into the glass layers, and then the portion tipped into the pavement would be dipped in a pool with real goldfish swimming around. Wish I could commission that work to be made!

Theme of subway conversations overheard: housing prices.

The Beginning

In the summer of 1991, I went to Beijing to find out what artists were doing, during the lull after the Tiananmen suppression. I found they were reflecting on the past and looking inward to try to understand what it meant to live a modern life in China. I interviewed about 40 artists and settled on a few main characters who carried the story in my  first independent documentary, Inner Visions: Avant-Garde Art in China.

That’s the starting point.

Now I’m going to go back and see how these and other artists navigated their lives in past 25 years, how the economic boom has affected their ideas and ideals, and what sentiments they now express through their work. My working title for the new project is “Inner Visions at 25.”

A few years ago, Xia Xiaowan visited New York and Boston, on his way between Art Basel Miami and a sightseeing tour to the American West. I wrote an article about him hoping to get it into the New Yorker, but alas! no such luck. So instead you can read it here.

Xia Xiaowan and Lydia Chen in New York, 2011
Xia Xiaowan and Lydia Chen in New York, 2011