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Giorgia on My Mind: 'China Now'

Engaging with the Chinese Cultural Power: Is the ‘Now’ motif rather than the ‘Then’ to matter? Giorgia Orlandi looks at the ‘China Now’ season taking place London wide, the largest festival on Chinese culture in the UK.

It was 2001 when I visited Beijing, and to this day I remember my first impression clearly. The city was growing fast with the economic expansion picking up swiftly. Everything looked fascinating. There’s something about ‘change’ that I find utterly seductive and sexy – the unforgiving, bold progression of it all.

Since then I keep hearing of that not so distant revolution, just a very confused glimpse of what’s going on. Back then I remember I was surrounded by an increasing number of people suddenly wanting to learn Mandarin. It wasn’t just being fashionable, it was maybe a genuine economically driven trend – a sign of the times to come. They tell me it’s not that hard to pick up. I'm seriously considering it - especially now.

Today 2008, London. I was so pleased to hear that we have been given the chance to understand a lot of that changing culture. Let’s not snob the mainstream production for once and realise that this is a crucial historic moment. What we are witnessing here is the cultural revolution of a nation, from its origins to ‘now’. This ‘now’ theme is about the factual evidence of the ideological and artistic change, and I think when it turns to the ‘then’ motif it will be too late and too boring for its influences to touch us. Let’s get ready for the show and be amazed NOW, I am sure the ‘encore’ will follow with ease, before fading to the sound of one hand clapping (albeit a large Eastern hand, while the other counts it’s Yen).

So, the ‘China Now’ season in London – where to start with our highlights? The choice is surprisingly and incredibly wide. Comics? ‘Manhua! China Comics Now’ is the name of a new exhibition starting from the 3rd March (running until the 11th April) at the London College of Communications, entirely focused on 21st century China through the art and stories in contemporary Chinese comic books. Chinese culture is renowned for its graphic novels, together with the traditional use of ideograms. The artworks will be displayed in three main galleries along with live projects, workshops and classes given by the young and up to date cartoonists of the moment. The evolution of Chinese comic books is one of the highlights of the season, which mostly focuses on contemporary art.

When it comes to Art I would mention the must see item which is the China Design Now exhibition at the V&A (opens 15th March), and the one about Huang Yong Ping, China’s most established contemporary artists at the Barbican Centre (25th June). If you’re not already au fait with him, then do check his work out – we like!

The ‘Now’ term is about passion, dynamism and change, which is one of the main features of Chinese sports culture. Where has the memory of Bruce Lee gone? I remember him, and you may as well, I remember his films, the pride of Chinese nationalism and the only one who spread interest in Chinese martial arts to the west. So for those who are interested in the challenge, Seni 08 opens up its doors on the 26th & 27th April at the Excel, to offer the best you can get of the martial arts world and combat sports. Ah-saw! Wanna know a secret, that’s my favourite pick so far.

Let’s go back to the contemporary China for a while with the My China Now film screenings event at the Southbank. For the whole of June discover today’s China through an entire programme of short films and documentaries. There is also another very interesting event which is already taking place until next March the All China Women’s Federation exhibition. I have yet to go and am really looking forward taking a look at this ongoing project on the changing lives of women in China through the 21st century at the City Hall on The Queen’s Walk. How interesting! There’s lot to do, play and learn. Fantastico!

Visit the China Now website for further details.