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Artists Start Cultural Dialogue in Washington

The Kennedy Center for Performing Arts has witnessed a temporary transformation as it plays host to the "Festival of China," a month-long presentation of Chinese art forms.


"This is more than a performing arts festival. We are keen on cultivating an in-depth appreciation of Chinese culture in the American people," Alicia Adams, Kennedy Center's vice president, explained.


When visitors arrive at the center's front square, they are greeted by nine sculptures and installation works created by artists from the Chinese mainland and Taiwan.


In their works, the artists make use of contemporary idioms to convey local Chinese traditions. When their works were moved into the Kennedy Center, a fresh landscape, they established a cultural dialogue between the simplistic styled architecture of the Kennedy Center and visual arts from the East.


Meanwhile, these new works create a special Chinese atmosphere for the Festival of China.


"Together with the title 'Transferred Landscape,' the series of works are a microcosm of the general character of contemporary Chinese arts, which try to minimize the disruption of modern civilization and traditional culture, and contain a reminiscent mood of the fading of a lifestyle as well," says Fan Di'an, vice president of China Central Academy of Fine Arts.


In addition to the works, a variety of open air activities are also being held at the center, such as a folk-customs exposition, kite-flying, and a Chinese market where people can buy Chinese seals, kites, pinwheels and Chinese knots.


Chinese designer Tim Yip's monumental banners like huge red paper-cuttings cover the center's facade on the Potomac, along with intricate lanterns that adorn the lobby areas.


Yip, the Oscar-winning art director on the movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, has also decorated the inside of the center.


In the lobby, 60 photographs showing Beijing as an ancient yet vital new metropolis are featured, many showing the preparations for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.


The Terrace and North galleries, where "The New China Chic" exhibition and "The Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses" are on show, have been linked by 400 Chinese red knots.


French designer Adrien Gardere received the commission to create the layout for the two exhibitions in March.


Having been to China twice, Gardere was impressed by Chinese red knots, which inspired him to use this special symbol to bridge the two very different exhibitions -- one soft, feminine, modern and derived from Western fashion, while the other hard, masculine, old and truly ancient Chinese art.


"I consider the two rooms as one space and the whole thing as a metaphor for threads and knots. With them, I weave and knit the past and present, East and West," he said.


One more special room is the former Bird Room, a VIP lounge of the Eisenhower Theatre. Last Friday, it was renamed the Chinese Lounge and received a gift from China's Ministry of Culture.


Commissioned by the Ministry of Culture, artist Sun Jingbo from the China Central Academy of Fine Arts created two murals for the new Chinese Room.


One is an acrylic-painted mural "Verve of China" featuring flying female nature spirits and the other is a lacquer mural based on the works of ancient Chinese calligrapher Wang Xizhi's "Orchid Pavilion Preface."


(China Daily October 6, 2005)

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