China / Across America

Festival fosters youth cultural exchanges — food meets art

By Zhang Ruinan in New York (China Daily USA) Updated: 2017-10-24 09:15

The breadth of contemporary Chinese culture was on display at the first Creative China Festival, a three-month event geared toward fostering collaboration between young artists from China and the United States.

The festival concluded its run recently in New York after tours in Boston and Los Angeles.

"I know a lot about traditional Chinese culture and arts, such as Chinese calligraphy and painting, but I didn't know Chinese contemporary arts could be so interesting and creative," said Vincent Marchetti, a young designer from New York who attended Eating the City - an art exhibition by the Beijing-based multimedia artist Song Dong at Mana Contemporary in New Jersey.

Song, who has been building model cities around the world using biscuits, cakes and candies and has invited participants to eat them in his series exhibition since 2003, is at the vanguard of contemporary Chinese art.

"Eating is a very important part of Chinese culture," said Song. "There's an old saying in ancient China that goes: 'Food is the first necessity of people (Min Yi Shi Wei Tian).'"

Song said that when he first went overseas, he could not speak English, but everyone he met seemed to be very interested in Chinese food.

"So, the idea came to me - combining food with the art as a way to communicate with people around the world, because the food is essential to everyone," Song added.

Song's exhibition was just one part of the festival hosted by The Beijing Contemporary Art Foundation and supported by the Chinese Ministry of Culture as part of the China-US Social and People-to-People Dialogue framework. The festival featured movies, music, fashion and design, contemporary art, and a focus on the city of Nanjing.

For instance, in the design exhibitions sector, a coterie of young Chinese designers, including Lu Yang, whose work featured a balance of intense color, body parts and Asian motifs; and Angel Chen and Wu Min, represented a new generation of internationally influenced Chinese artists.

"There are not many exchanges between the young generation in China and the US as well as fields such as contemporary arts and urban culture," said Cui Qiao, the president of the Beijing Contemporary Art Foundation. "We want to change that, and we want the festival to be a platform that enables young Chinese to collaborate with American institutions and individuals.

"Young Chinese artists now have a more international outlook," Cui said. "They are very active in the international sphere such as exhibiting their work overseas and collaborating and communicating with institutions in other countries."

Cui said that when Americans think about Chinese culture, they think about the traditional culture in the abstract. So the festival brought many works from young artists in China and exposed a different side of Chinese culture - one that is more creative, dynamic and fresh.

"American audiences were really surprised and inspired by these works," Cui said.

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