Tag Archives: communism


31 Oct

Career Suicide: Ten Years as a Free Range ArtistI thought I would spice up our imaginary (and in most cases non-existent) relationship, dear reader, with some teasing previews of the good seeing-to that awaits you between the covers when you buy Career Suicide. It’s also coming out soon for the Apple store and other ebook formats (available as an ebook on Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Apple Store, etc. now) so that might tempt you if you like ebooks or if you’re one of those zealots who threw all your DEAD TREE books and BARBARIC CDs onto the bonfire because you think it’s the future and you’re the protagonist in a William Gibson novel or something. See, this is what passes for marketing when I do it. I’m not going to kiss your arse. You should read the book, it’s good. It will improve your world a bit, I think. A number of people have said it’s better and more grounded in reality than Sarah Thornton’s book about the art world, which honestly isn’t a very high bar to hurdle. Still, I thank these people for the compliment.

The section excerpted here deals with my last period of work and residence in China; some of it has taken on new resonance following the arrests and disappearances of Ai Weiwei, Ai’s colleagues and various other artists and activists in the last few years.  It wasn’t exactly an idyllic utopia when I was there 2006-2008, but I wonder now how myself and my colleagues would have fared in the considerably more draconian climate that came into effect shortly after I left.

Ni hao, PRC Blue Army sock puppet whitewashers! Please criticise interfering, arrogant foreigner in comments!

I’m splitting this into several parts to be published over the next few days. It may interest you to know that this part of the book is the nucleus around which everything else was written. Following a conversation with one of the friends mentioned later on, at first I wrote it as private catharsis for myself. My secondary objective was to make my friend laugh. Having achieved both of these aims, I went on to catalogue some of the other highly educational artistic catastrophes I’ve been lucky enough to get tangled up with… and lo, a masterpiece was born.


The problems start before I do. I get an email warning me that when I arrive I’m to take a red taxi, not a yellow taxi, or a green one, or any vehicle calling itself a taxi whether it looks like one or not. At the time this raises a smile; obviously someone’s just had an adventure because it’s the kind of stipulation that only comes after a narrowly averted disaster.

It should also act as a reminder of the way things go, since I’ve been to China before, but the intervening time had eroded away my first temporary attempt at a Chinese mindset. But it doesn’t act as much of a prompt, possibly because my first Chinese experience was with younger people, the beneficiaries of China’s opening up to the world, and some of them have rather more open minds and hearts to match. Go as little as ten years further back— look even to people in their late twenties— and for the most part it’s Cultural Revolution damage as far as the eye can see. Continue reading

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