Archive for December, 2011



Happy Magic Water Park in National Geographic

Happy Magic Water Park in National Geographic

It is with great pleasure to announce that a photograph from the Happy Magic Water Park series is in this month’s issue of National Geographic. I have been meeting with editors at the renowned magazine for over a year, and although it’s just a double-page spread, getting into National Geographic was one of those markers I set for myself a long time ago and definitely dreamed about as a kid. Hopefully it will lead to a full feature with them in the future. Also, fellow INSTITUTE photographer Richard Mosse has a spread from his amazing series Infra, which Aperture just published as a monograph. In celebration, I returned to my Happy Magic Water Park material and pulled out some photographs that I have never shown before. Check them out below.

The Happy Magic Water Park in Beijing's Olympic Watercube

The Happy Magic Water Park in Beijing's Olympic WatercubeThe Happy Magic Water Park in Beijing's Olympic Watercube

The Happy Magic Water Park in Beijing's Olympic WatercubeThe Happy Magic Water Park in Beijing's Olympic Watercube



    Domus Mixtapes: The Sound of Beijing

    Looking out on Beijing in the morning from my bedroom window.

    I just completed a Domus Mixtape for Beijing. You can hear it over at Domus or on SoundCloud. I drew exclusively from Maybe Mars and Modern Sky for the music as well as a live recording of Zhang Shouwang/张守望 of White+ and Carsick Cars fame. There is a lot more music out there in China, of course, but this is definitely some of my favorite material. Sort of the soundtrack to my life over the past four years. Below is the accompanying text, track list and some portraits of the performers included on the mixtape from Sound Kapital:

    The hardest part of the day in Beijing is getting out of bed. Gazing across a smoggy skyline and watching the hectic traffic below is reason enough to hide under the covers for a few more hours. It is a dystopia – maybe even a nightmare. That is why I embrace the night. The sky remains a muted black, and I can seek out sparks of life in the darker recesses of the city. Beijing’s mutating urban landscape can only be matched by its shifting artistic climate, especially in the realm of sound. Desperation breeds discontent, and voices are emerging to express it. Every weekend features full billings at a growing number of performance spaces across Beijing: dive bars near the universities, small coffee houses hidden amongst the hutongs, larger concert halls in defunct government buildings, or experimental enclaves adjoining fish farms on the outer edges of the city. Beijing’s erratic social landscape is now molded by the Internet and mobile phones instead of more closely controlled media channels such as television and radio. Those with idiosyncratic tastes readily connect with each other and access an exponentially broader realm of music from both home and abroad as they continue to pick apart the past fifty years of western pop, rock, jazz, punk, electronic, and experimental music with increased vigor. The performers on this mixtape constitute a formidable new wave of artists striving to expand their creative limits in an autonomous and compelling fashion. Even though it is too early to tell what may come of the innovative strides made by these musicians, there is no doubt that they will continue to break ground within Beijing’s nascent artistic landscape, helping to push the boundaries of an already expanding realm of independent thought and musical expression in China. In the end the city resists description. Outside the smoke-choked bars everything is layered in a fine coat of dust. Whole neighborhoods disappear and find their way deep into your lungs. That’s the problem. The city gets inside you – fills you to the brim – consumed by a monstrous flow of people and infrastructure. It’s savage but enticing. Six million people flocked here over the past ten years and half a million are expected each year for the foreseeable future. The implosion is just beginning. The nebulous heart of the middle kingdom skips along to ever irregular beats.

    Tracks:

    01. My Great Location - Rebuilding the Rights of Statues/重塑雕像的权利

    02. Some Surprises Come Too Soon - P.K. 14

    03. No. 6 Space Ship - AV Okubo/AV大久保

    04. Sand Hammer - Hedgehog/刺猬

    05. Sunday Girl - Ourself Beside Me

    06. Flu - Snapline

    07. You Can Listen You Can Talk - Carsick Cars

    08. Golden Gate - Duck Fight Goose/鸭打鹅乐队

    09. This Side Down - The Offset Spectacle/憬观:像同叠

    10. To Die - Soviet Pop/苏维埃·波普

    11. The Earthquake - 24 Hour/24小时

    12. Hospital - Guai Li/怪力

    13. Beijing is Not My Home - Demerit/过失

    14. Intro/Outro/Transitions - Zhang Shouwang/张守望 live at D-22 on November 22, 2011

    Sound Kapital Portraits: HedgehogSound Kapital Portraits: AV Okubo

    Sound Kapital Portraits: Ourself Beside MeSound Kapital Portraits: Guai LiSound Kapital Portraits: 24 Hours

    Sound Kapital Portraits: LiqingSound Kapital Portraits: Zhang ShouwangSound Kapital Portraits: Liweisi

    Sound Kapital Portraits: P.K. 14Sound Kapital Portraits: Offset SpectaclesSound Kapital Portraits: Demerit

    Sound Kapital Portraits: Snapline



      Ai Weiwei/艾未未 Marches On – Portraits for Foreign Policy

      Ai Weiwei poses for a portrait with one of his cats in his studio compound.

      A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of visiting Ai Weiwei in his studio to take portraits for Foreign Policy’s Top 100 Global Thinkers list where he appeared at #18 in the rankings. He was very amiable and open to me directing him about his compound where I posed him with some of his favorite cats. Ai Weiwei is all over the news again. After a short period of silence following an 81-day incarceration, he continues to lash out at authorities and decry the trumped-up charges of tax evasion brought against him in an attempt to silence his outspoken criticisms. A recent Newsweek piece he penned where he related Beijing to a “nightmare” was especially noteworthy. This renewed vigor and boldness seem in large part due to the outpouring of support shown by anonymous Chinese donors who rallied behind him to raise $1.4 million to challenge his huge tax bill which he refers to as ransom money. Other admirers are finding more brazen outlets to show support by posting nude photos of themselves online in defense of other spurious pornography charges brought against Ai Weiwei for a set of revealing self portraits released on the Internet. To make things even more controversial, high profile figures are weighing in on the situation, including Taiwan’s president Ma Ying-jeou who visited his current exhibition at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum. It’s all quite a mess, but I am sure Ai Weiwei is pleased with himself for creating an even larger fuss than before his arrest – another great case of censorship backfiring in the face of the Chinese state.

      In a crazy sense I think the political space in China has truly transformed Ai Weiwei’s life into an interdisciplinary work of art or a “social performance” as he calls it. His invocation of the Chinese state’s ire came through a combination of critical sculptures, writings, photographs, videos and installations. While these separate pieces might not be interdisciplinary in nature, they have brought about a dynamic where every action or utterance of Ai Weiwei becomes performative in nature and open to intense analysis by journalists, officials, police and, increasingly so, the general public. His identity remains at the center and activates all of these mediums of expression, especially through the Internet which exponentially magnifies his impact. In a statistical sense, Ai Weiwei is not well known in China. Still, he is making waves where it counts and China’s intelligentsia is taking note. These are the people fashioning the new China, and his stand against censorship and political suppression is singular. By tapping into a populist sentiment with his donation drive, he is putting officials even more on edge. It’s a very crucial moment for Ai Weiwei right now. There is still a very distinct possibility he might disappear again.

      In other Ai Weiwei news, my friend Alison Klayman’s documentary, Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, is set to premiere at the Sundance Festival in January. Check out the trailer and her appearance on the Colbert Report. It is very timely and should be a great film.

      Ai Weiwei poses for a portrait in his studio compound.

      Ai Weiwei poses for a portrait with one of his cats in his studio compound.Ai Weiwei poses for a portrait in his studio compound.Ai Weiwei poses for a portrait in his studio compound.

      Ai Weiwei poses for a portrait in his studio compound.Ai Weiwei poses for a portrait in his studio compound.Ai Weiwei poses for a portrait in his studio compound.

      Ai Weiwei poses for Foreign Policy's Top 100 Global Thinkers





        All content © 2013 to Matthew Niederhauser