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Hi Art, October 2007


The deadline for submitting this article is very near, and I have written nothing. To be strictly correct, I have already written something. I initially intended to write “Sunshine on Chaobai River” in which I would talk about boisterous events surrounding land reform in Huajia Village in Tongzhou. But I stopped after writing only half.  

I then attempted to continue with the essay published two issues ago, on “Movement”. I gave up again. During this lack of focus, an old friend brought several officials form the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to my studio. They wanted to talk about many irrelevant things, and ordered several of my ink and wash paintings made by silkscreen.  

One kind hearted, humane, beautiful woman in the party heard that I was worrying about writing an article. As she left, she told me that I should write something relaxing. And all of a sudden, I knew what to write.  

Every day, when I go to downtown Beijing, I will drive the Beijing-Chengde highway. When the Africans came to Beijing last time for the Sino-African Summit, they stopped non-Beijing lorries with odd or even plates from driving the highway on alternate days. A narrow breach the width of two Jettas was left open beside the toll gates, and many suburban and non-Beijing cars swarms towards this gap like waters in the upper reaches of the Three Gorges Dam. My God!  

A passage fee of ten, twenty, thirty yuan was paid in order to save time, which had been completely destroyed by the jam at the toll gate. All the beautiful dreams of speeding along the highway vanished like burst soap bubbles.  

This same phenomenon visited a few days ago when the “Good Luck Beijing” Olympic trial events were held in Beijing. The only difference this time was that all vehicles - not just suburban ones - were regulated by the odd/even license plate system. For the African Summit, it was only official cars that were taken off the road, with private car owners invited to voluntarily participate.  

After I extracted my car from the clogged road exist, I drove onto a bridge. An electronic screen bore the words “One World, One Dream”. In, this screen was intended to warn drivers about the condition of the road ahead, but this cheery message had never been replaced before, forcing drivers to hesitate about which route would serve them best.   

I can’t work out who created this slogan. In a crosstalk routine by Hou Baolin, there was a riddle that went something like this: What is something that everyone can have, but cannot have together, and only one person can have individually, but not have by looking to one side? The answer is “a dream”. This slogan constantly reminds me of the riddle. “One World” is quite reasonable, but “One Dream” sounds quite frightening. In China, there are 1.3 billion people, and if all of us dream about eating pig shanks or fantasize about the same girl, it would have devastating consequences. On the highway, there is one toll gate for us all to squeeze through, and every day we see drivers throw open their doors to argue with another driver. They throw plastic bottles at each other. After such an incident, will they simply cheer up as they arrive at the site of the opening ceremony? If he can turn to cheer so quickly, then he is no more than an animal.

 Admittedly the Olympic Games is a good thing - and this activity is certainly better than war. I agree with it coming to Beijing from the bottom of my heart. But I desperately hope that it will be held in a leisurely and pleasant manner. Only when the majority of Chinese people feel glad can the event afford general satisfaction.

 It is not easy to hold the Olympics, because the entire society needs to be motivated, so everyone can join in. Fatigue is quite natural, and boredom is unavoidable. The US has held the Olympics twice recently, in 1984 and 1996, but otherwise, countries become tired by the end, and host it only once. But if the people can enjoy themselves to the full and feel happy, then the Games were worthwhile.  

Strangely, other slogans are following in the wake of “New Beijing, New Olympics”. They are: “New Beijing, New Haidian”, “New Beijing, New Chaoyang,” “New Beijing, New Shunyi,” “New Beijing, New Huoshenying”, and so on. The original English is not actually this, but “New Beijing, Great Olympics”. The change implies that time is urgent, pressing, and running out. After winning the bid, it became imperative that a new Beijing, Haidian, Shunyi, and Huoshenying be built up in the next seven years.

Just look at everything that sits outside those areas under national protection, such as the Forbidden City, Summer Palace, and Yuanming Gardens. Everything else has been destroyed and rebuilt. A seven-year timeline is not enough for the mobilization of people caused by destroying the houses, as well as the excavation, destruction, decoration, and support facilities. The present-day Beijing was developed over 800 years.

 “New Olympics” sounds even stranger than “New Beijing”. Which Olympics does this refer to? Which country is the organizing committee in? Who leads it? How often does it happen? What are its rules? Will martial arts be included? How about tug-of-war? These final two will benefit China, as they will be included this time.

 Since its first outing in Athens 1896, there have been 29 Games, held regularly except for during World Wars I and II. In 1984, China rejoined the Games, and in the last two Games took a place in the top three of the gold medal table.

 The Olympic Games has a history of 112 years, and they are not a new event in any respect. But they do have fair and set rules, plus human vitality and strong humanistic color. They can mobilize people from all over the world. I wonder where “New Olympics” fits with this idea.  

I have heard that the Beijing International Biennale Art Exhibition hopes to be the best in the world. I also hear that many exhibitions will time their openings for 2008 because of this New Olympics. This puzzles me, because the Venice Biennale has only been affected by the onset of World War II. All activities are promoted as a movement of some kind, and maybe this is part of our national character. (To be continued) 


Zhu Wei

Monday, September 17, 2007