As I post my weekly round-up, we are boarding a plane to embark on a whirlwind Asia trip with stops in Hong Kong, Xiamen, Shanghai, Beijing, Hakata, Kyoto, Shimizu and Tokyo-- a trip that has been in the works for almost a year, and one that I have been looking forward to and eagerly anticipating from the moment it was finalized. As it will be our first visit to China and Japan, I have been diligently researching the urban scene in each of our stops and enjoying the opportunity to learn more about the contemporary art scene we hope to glimpse while on the ground. Japan, in particular, has been at the very top of my travel bucket list for years and was the catalyst for this trip. Japan is a place that I have long wanted to visit for a million reasons related to the modern design, visual and urban culture, architecture, fashion, and the strong emphasis on everyday aesthetics the Japanese are famous for. I have also spent time studying the influence of Japanese art on developments in European modernism, so I am particularly excited for this leg of our journey.
China was a later addition to this trip, and it is a place that I am admittedly fascinated by but also deeply ambivalent about. As a teenager in 1989, watching the Tiananmen Square protests and aftermath on TV in the same year as the fall of the Berlin Wall was both a life altering and critical turning point in my life. Looking back, I can mark this time as especially pivotal in how I eventually came to understand my own activism, research interests in the avant-garde, and the strong beliefs I formed in upholding liberalism, human rights, freedom of speech, and the role of artists, activists, and journalists in civil society. Over the years, I have been fortunate to have many students from China in my classroom, all urging me to see the country for myself, and to separate out the current politics from the long-standing culture and history that shapes the nation. At the same time, I have had students and friends from Hong Kong openly sharing how the city has been impacted since the handover to China in 1997 and describing how distinct and special the people of Hong Kong are. I have much to see and I am beyond excited to start this journey with an open mind and an open heart, and look forward to sharing what I see in the weeks to come. Enjoy the links, and happy Spring Break!
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