February 4, 2011

Beijing Sim City

Reprise: YACHT – Psychic City (Classixx Remix) (4:13) – 4.2MB mp3 @ 128kbps

Explore Beijing from the comfort of your living room with Baidu’s 3D maps:

I used to live in the future...

I used to live in the future...

I can only assume that Google is still reticulating splines for NYC…

The map ends a few short blocks from Rem Koolhaas' CCTV building...

The map ends a few short blocks from Rem Koolhaas' CCTV building...

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August 9, 2010


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June 13, 2010

Cities I've Called Home

Courtesy of Eric Fischer‘s amazing Geotagger’s World Atlas (Locals & Tourists version).





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May 29, 2010

Terence Koh in Beijing

“I want to be the most popular artist in the world.” –Terence Koh.


Terence Koh gets a custom suit made in Beijing. (purple DIARY)


Sasha Grey’s literally talks shit with Koh. (Amazing.)


Unlike most gallery darlings, Koh eschews all-black, super-serious nihilism in favor of bright colors and cutesy affectations (when writing, he uses words like “coolio” and “greato”).


Gotta love the contemporary art star… hapless ambassador to reality.


More Koh after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »

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April 22, 2010

Night Sky


Pinhole photography via Kottke



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April 5, 2010

Olafur Eliasson × Ma Yansong at Beijing's UCCA

UPDATE: Designboom has an extensive gallery of decreasingly abstract pictures.


Danish-Icelandic art star Olafur Eliasson and Chinese architect Ma Yansong have collaborated on Feelings Are Facts, a site-specific installation currently on view in the ‘Big Room’ of the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing’s 798 Dashanzi Art District (astute readers will note that a photo of the atrium of the UCCA is the background of IYK).


I’ll leave the description of the project to the nice folks at UCCA:

Basing this project on a series of previous experiments with atmospheric density, Eliasson introduces condensed banks of artificially produced fog into the gallery. Hundreds of fluorescent lights are installed in the ceiling as a grid of red, green, and blue zones. By permeating the fog, these lights create colored walk-through spaces that, in Eliasson’s words, function to ‘make the volume of the space explicit’. The colored zones introduce a scale of measurement in the gallery, their varying size and organization referencing urban-planning grids. At each color boundary, two hues blend to create transitional slivers of cyan, magenta, or yellow, and so the visitors will create their own unique color spectrum when making their way through this seemingly endless space. The artists use this structural marvel to present inquiries into the nature of reality. What should be the basis of our thinking and judgement in a space where reality and illusion interconnect? As we stand amidst such accomplished phenomena, can we re-examine with greater concern our sensations and experiences of that which is around us?

Feelings Are Facts press release


UCCA also has a bit of background info on the artists: I’m fairly well-versed in Eliasson’s oeuvre but I’m not going to pretend that I’d heard of Ma Yansong before. Another one to watch, I suppose.

Feelings Are Facts is the second time UCCA has had the pleasure to collaborate with the remarkable Ma Yansong, the first collaboration being the 2008 exhibition Christian Dior and Chinese Artists. An exceptional figure within the Chinese architectural world, Ma has managed to elude stereotypical classification and categorization. His work harbors a permanent element of surprise, capturing the viewer’s attention with an adept use of the most advanced materials and techniques to realize his bold architectural visions. His inventive architectural forms resemble organic even human-like entities, emitting undeniable life-like energy.

About Artists, Jérôme Sans, UCCA Director

Olafur Eliasson & Ma Yansong
Feelings Are Facts
Big Room
Ullens Center for Contemporary Art
798 Art District
No.4 Jiuxianqiao Lu [map]
Chaoyang District
Beijing, China 100015
+86 (0) 10 8459 9269 / 8459 9387
Through June 20, 2010

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March 11, 2010

Coffee Break

Ashley Gilbertson for the New York Times

Ashley Gilbertson for the New York Times

Today is the first day in about two weeks that I haven’t had a cup of coffee. I go through coffee phases, though I’ve been hitting the French press harder and harder, in a manner of speaking, lately. I also drank a fair amount of coffee in Beijing (related excerpt below) and I think I’ve been on the upswing since the beginning of the year…

Meanwhile, the New York Times has an excellent feature on the city’s best coffee, plus an interactive map of coffee hotspots. I’m tempted to try and get a cup of joe at each and every one, moving outward daily in concentric circles from Fort Greene starting with Ortine. NYT also says coffee is good for you and Christoph Niemann’s thoughts on coffee. (Unrelated, but he has cleverly appropriated the iconic visual language of Google maps [which now features bike directions] for the latest installment of Abstract City, which was posted yesterday. Much better than the last two, in my opinion.)

Free associating a bit, City of Sound has an excellent (if rather lengthy) essay on the iPad as a device for the third place (i.e. the coffeeshop).

Here is my analysis of the Wudaokou coffee scene, from a long-lost China post that I drafted on the food & drink situation:

Nevertheless, much of the money I’ve been saving on food, alcohol and cigarettes ends up going towards coffee, a necessary luxury which happens to go for American rates or more—$1.50 for shitty drip, $3 for anything decent—the same price as A.) lunch and an afternoon snack, B.) anywhere between one and five beers depending on the point of sale, and C.) two to four packs of cigarettes. I usually stick with the Americano, which is roughly the same price as the daily brew at 18RMB [$2.66] including one free refill; fancier drinks have fancier prices.

A staple for the wealthy elite, coffee is rarely ordered to go, as per the American on-the-go lifestyle; instead, it is usually consumed in a coffeeshop with a Continental deference (and cigarettes, of course).

Indeed, cafes are typically rather upscale affairs, a fabled “third place” that Westerners might call their own, since the Chinese seem largely unaware that there might be more than two places. Free wi-fi, long (often endless) business hours, decent service and full menus (invariably in English and Chinese) reinforce the classy atmosphere.

Still, I have come to discern clear discrepancies between the clientele of the three coffeeshops that I frequent: The Bridge, Cava Coffee and Beantree (all located conveniently on my block). The Bridge is the largest and busiest, with room for about a hundred patrons on each of two floors, catering to a majority of foreigners representing North America, most of the EU and Australia, not to mention Chinese-American students and a few native Chinese. Cava attracts more native Chinese and other assorted Asians, as well as the occasional 老外, while Beantree’s clientele consists mostly of Korean and Japanese students.

However, today marked the first time I’ve enjoyed Kombucha in about five months. Maybe that’s what got me all wired this afternoon… though I will most certainly be back on the bean tomorrow.

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February 26, 2010

Chinese Artists Protest Eviction

BEIJING — Nearly two dozen artists protesting the forced demolition of their homes and studios marched through the ceremonial heart of the capital before the police intervened and prevented them from reaching Tiananmen Square, the artists said Tuesday.

The fight over the future of Beijing’s artist villages coincides with soaring real estate values and ugly scuffles over land expropriation, several of which have led to the suicides of those facing eviction. Widely publicized in the media, the suicides have helped prompt the government to consider modifying the nation’s urban redevelopment regulations.

–Andrew Jacobs, The New York Times

…because state-controlled gentrification is a sure way to prevent a housing crisis…

Full story & Reuters video clip at NYTimes.com. Also on the Guardian.

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February 24, 2010

Indie Asia with the Handsome Furs

» Handsome Furs – I’m Confused (3:36) – 4.6MB mp3 @ 178kbps


Handsome Furs are a Montreal indie rock duo who draw musical inspiration from their travels—Russia and Scandinavia for last year’s Face Control and their 2007 debut Plague Park, respectively. For anyone who is familiar with Dan Boeckner’s songwriting/guitar work for Wolf Parade, it should come as no surprise that the synthesis of his trademark punk riffage/yelping and his wife Alexei Perry’s keyboards/electronics over sequenced beats yields jittery indie pop.

The Furs’ second album was good enough to merit CNN’s blessing for an Asian tour last fall, flip-cameras in tow, including a handful of shows in China about a month and a half before I landed in Beijing. Their mission: to create authentic travel content for the Cable News Network.


Of course, it seems like a bit of a stretch for CNN to co-opt the indie cred of the relatively obscure Canadian duo, but Sub Pop pulled it off and I, for one, appreciate the production value: flip-vid footage, when edited properly, can pass for decent amateur cultural interest content. Indeed, each webisode consists of vicarious sightseeing excursions with the Handsome Furs.

Although the winsome pair invariably see Beijing through the eyes of tourists, Dan and Alexei still manage to come off as rather genuine when, for example, they rep Double Happiness (my cigarettes of choice). Similarly, brief clips of a gig at D-22 and a brief cameo by Nathaniel of Splitworks (who I had the pleasure of meeting towards the end of my stay) elicit a distinct personal resonance that, at the risk of sounding completely cliché, really brings me back.


Unfortunately, the videos are not embeddable—apparently CNN doesn’t care for free publicity—so you’ll have to go to the microsite at CNN.com/IndieAsia to watch the videos… and, of course, comment on them.

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February 13, 2010

The Year of the Tiger


I think the cover of the latest issue of Vice is largely coincidental.

Happy Chinese New Year, if you’re into that sort of thing. Hell, happy Chinese New Year even you’re not into it—it’s going down tonight whether or not you observe it.

Tiger (Yang, 3rd Trine, Fixed Element Wood): Unpredictable, rebellious, colorful, powerful, passionate, daring, impulsive, vigorous, stimulating, sincere, affectionate, humanitarian, generous. Can be cold, restless, reckless, impatient, quick-tempered, obstinate, ruthless, selfish, aggressive, unpredictable, moody.


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