Friday, May 9, 2008

Settling in

I have some blog catch up work to do. I've been in Beijing for 6 days and just got this blog going. There may be some missing pieces and non-linear fragments:
The Travel:

I flew out of Ohare Saturday morning and arrived in San Fransciso early afternoon to find out my plane to beijing was delayed 7 hours. It worked out well that the BART train is adjacent to the international terminal. I took the train into the city and went to SF MoMA. They had an exhibit on section with a bunch of architectural drawings and models. I took a bus to the haight in an attempt to eat at a restaurant I remembered from my visits when John was living there, but anxiously got off too early. I ended up at some memphis barbeque place instead. 

I headed back to the airport and flew off a couple hours later. The China Air plane was funky, and I think they reuse the pillow cases and blankets a few times before washing them -several hairs and food stains could be seen. But when you're tired enough that is easily dismissed. They served two dinners, one at 11pm west coast time and the other about 9 hou
rs later. The meals were strange amalgamation of chinese and american food, all of which was pretty gross. I slept almost the whole way.

The airport in Beijing is the largest building I have ever seen. I'm looking forward to having another look at it when I leave because I was probably too disoriented to appreciate it when arrived. With the time zone switch of 12 hours and the delay in San Francisco I wasn't sure what day it was. I got to my hotel without any problems -it was 1:30 am in Beijing. The taxi driver flew down the highway passing the rest of the taxis. He was going 160km/hr, I think that is 100 mph. 

I checked into the Botai Hotel. It was similar to the plane, a little stuffy and funky. The small bathroom had mold around the base of the toilet and shower. Not an uncommon sight in my own house, but unexpected in a hotel. 

It was 3 in the morning beijing time, 3 in the afternoon my time. I slept for a few hours until it became light, and went out to see where I was. I ran into one of the other baser's in the lobby, and he took me to a little crepe stand where make breakfast sandwiches. 

I thought it was Sunday (because I left the states Saturday) but it was actually Monday, and we were due at B.A.S.E in couple hours. The taxi ride out to the Cao Chand Di village took about 45 minutes in rush hour traffic and cost around $5.  B.A.S.E had been closed up for awhile and we cleaned a thick layer of dust off the surfaces, set up the desks, and began organizing the equipment.
The Village:

B.A.S.E is located in a village about 30 minutes outside of Beijing. It is supposedly a thriving at district, but the streets function like hallways because the buildings and residences put up large walls, creating courtyards and private spaces. If you didn't know there was an art scene here, you certainly would not be able to tell from the look of things. Deeper into the village everything becomes much more informal. The streets and paths are irregular as well as the structures. The roads are dirty, and lumpy -a mix between pavement gravel. The stores and restaurants spill out of the cramped indoor spaces turning the outdoor space an open air market. Snarls of electrical wire stretch from building to building.

A few of us are staying in the taxi apartments. A single efficiency studio costs $100 per month. 
We each have a private bathroom, which combines the shower with the rest of the bathroom fixtures, in other words, you shower in the same space as you brush your teeth or use the toilet, there is a drain in the floor and the surfaces are impervious. It's really a good idea except when you have to go back in to get something, and either get your feet wet, or your shoes wet, which then leaves dirty footprints all over the rest of the apartment. 

The B.A.S.E

B.A.S.E is a large warehouse space. It used to be an old factory (I think). The ceilings are probably 30 feet high. It is set up like an office, with a library, a manager's corner, a kitchen, meeting area etc. The floors are concrete and the acoustics are pretty bad -you hear everything. There is amazing light through windows on
either side of the rectangular space, and a few skylights punched through the elliptical roof. Like the rest of the buildings around here, it is protected by a walled courtyard, and is nested even further back along a side alley. There are some other studios here, next door is a british artist named Matt Hope. I'm not sure exactly what he does...I need to check his website too. I do know that he is getting 30 ton boulders out of a local quarry for an installation somewhere. I think there will be a field trip arranged to see the quarry. 

Stay tuned....

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