Still in China
(written by Marlies)
A week has gone by since the opening of my exhibition and Ella went back home. And it has been a different world since. The studio is empty, no Ella no works. But it is also good to have some time on my own and experience China in another way. Some days, when I don’t have an appointment with someone, I realise that I don’t speak that much. Even when I do go out. For example when I go to the supermarket, I mostly use hand signs to communicate and my eyes to find my way. In rare occasions someone speaks english, but most times a conversation contains a lot of nodding, smiling and saying thank you in Chinese. It must be strange to not be able to speak at all.
Last Thursday Dan from the magazine ‘Focus on Dalian’ came by the studio together with a photographer. They came to look at my installation and to have an interview. In this case it was the other way around with the language, Dan could speak English (he is from GB) and the photographer could not. It was nice to be able to talk about my work directly to a person, instead of through a translator. We also talked about how your perception is different when you visit a country like China. The minute you enter the ‘strange’ country you are the exception. You are weird with your white skin and different habits. But this is also making space for a free mind, after all you are already weird. It makes it easier to step over personal boundaries. I realized that I indeed experience this free way, not in the extreme sense of the word, but more on a personal level. I remember that in the small town where I grew up I also had the feeling of not fitting in, or even being weird compared to the others. But here it is different, more anonymous. The feeling that you can just be yourself.
For example yesterday I went out for karaoke with Vivian and Lili. Something I would have never done back home. But karaoke is a big thing in China, so I had to try it once before I go back home again. There are big buildings for karaoke who are mostly called KTV (or something similar), inside you can rent a karaoke room for a few hours. We had a small room with two flat screens, a table and some microphones. It was also very very very warm and noisy. But I must say I enjoyed it very much. It turns out that the goal of karaoke is just to have fun together with friends and not to sing as pure as possible. I totally could do that. Because Vivian is from China, Lili comes from Korea and I could only read English, we had a great mix of songs in different languages.
Before we went for karaoke, Vivian took me to the Labour park in the morning. This park is used by local people to relax, dances, sing, walk and other leisure activities. It is a beautiful park in the middle of the centre of the city. The park is build uphill, so when you walk up you have a perfect view. To make the view even better we took the ferris wheel in a small amusement park area. Luckily it was a good day without smog, so we could very clearly see the surroundings. I think it must be the best view so far.
Last Saturday the central heating of the city started. That day I experienced the worst smog day I ever encountered. I went out to have a walked, but as Vivian put it, that was suicide. After a few feet my lungs were already protesting, so I took the bus to the seaside. The air was not better there, but I could take some beautiful pictures and drink some coffee inside a coffee shop. The rest of the day I decided to stay indoors.
Next week will be a busy week. A Dutch business delegation from Enschede will visit Dalian and I will have a few lectures and interviews. Still 10 more days to go.