This evening I met a few Chinese friends of Saschas and enjoyed Chongqing hot pot with them until my lips tingled and tastebuds were rendered completely useless. Seated atop purple plastic chairs that would be considered by most people reading this too small for a 12 year old, Sascha couldn’t take the intense evening humidity of the city and took his shirt off. Sweating all over and yelling in local dialect, he looked most like the people he seems to most loathe: the everyday adult male citizen of western China. Equally enjoying the irony and spicy challenge at hand, we spoke about the labratory which we’d visit after the meal which reveals itself to be somewhat of a sculpture gallery.
Not just a gallery though, this is the workplace of a local Chongqing sculptor who’s work is featured around the world. After a quick drive in his bright red VW Golf we arrive in what looks like a rural farm setting. Mere steps out of the car reinforce my initial suspicion when I see the parking area surrounded by overgrown grass, abandoned buildings, and heaps of rubble – but among these signs of neglect sits a beautiful 6-foot tall stone sculpture of an outstretched hand. It seems evident that it’s religious – surely buddhist, and here I begin to understand the magic of this place.
Years ago, after a 3-year struggle for it, the site was acquired and developed as a sprawling workshop. Once a communist-era facility and later a factory, what now remains are hollow shells of the former buildings – walls but no floor, roof but no doors. But this place isn’t made for comfort. No, it’s an art factory and gallery. Each of the numerous empty buildings are minimally decorated with large paintings and photo prints on the wall, many of them the victim of extended sun exposure, but they only add to the character of the place. Which is a quaint farm-like art facility set in the middle of the most populated city in the world.
The most special area that I was introduced to was a long tunnel lined with lit candles and wooden couches. Once a storage area for generators, it’s now a supremely unique gathering center. Six of us are seated around a small table surrounded only by candles and a fan, drinking aged tea and talking about the history of this place. It’s always a pleasure to be in the company of new people, but the atmosphere was almost overwhelming. Photos to follow.