Explore the Festival
Full Calendar ›
Browse Artists ›
Focus on
Ancient Paths ›
Modern Voices ›
Ways to Buy
Save 15% or More on
Festival Tickets
Buy a Three-Concert
Package and Save
Blog Archive
About the Author
Ken Smith currently divides his time between New York (where he writes for Gramophone magazine) and Hong Kong (where he serves as the Asian–performing arts critic for the Financial Times). He is Co–Music Director of the recordings Dong Folk Songs and Miao Music for China's MediaFusion Group, and he won an ASCAP–Deems Taylor Award in 2008 for his liner notes to Gil Shaham's recording of The Butterfly Lovers Concerto for Violin. Ken is also the author of Fate! Luck! Chance!, published in 2008 by Chronicle Books.

Ancient Paths, Modern Voices Blog

11/2 China Art(s) Today @ Asia Society

China today is blossoming with torrents of energy in many artistic areas, which the world now has the opportunity to see, hear, and touch. On Monday evening, two representatives of China's emerging artistic growth—avant-garde artist Wenda Gu and composer and conductor Tan Dun—appeared at the Asia Society as part of a panel moderated by Melissa Chiu, Director of the Asia Society Museum. Some brief film excerpts were presented by both artists.

During one of the excerpts, Tan Dun commented that 1+1=1, a reference to themes of young and old, past and present, and so on. Tan Dun presented this conundrum—with a sense of playfulness, I thought—as a way of expressing an underlying artistic principle that seems to capture an elusive artful essence. Both Tan Dun and Mr. Gu represent, in a sense, the idea of two separate entities or cultures unifying by striving to achieve or create a new sort of "oneness."

This theme is especially relevant, as many of Wenda Gu's projects involve efforts to construct massive structures made entirely of human hair—a common symbol unifying people of all cultures. Tan Dun's nurturing inspiration is water, another universal symbol. In Tan's works, water is often used as an instrument that accompanies other parts of the orchestra. It strikes me that both artists have a strong affinity with nature and universal symbols that emanate from a period during which China was still isolated from other cultures—which is also the China that I knew. Then, unlike today, there was little material means, food, or technology; people had to rely solely on their ingenuity and resourcefulness to survive. Listening intently to these artists describing their work and inferred struggles, expressed with such fundamental symbols—hair and water—I discovered that their music and art also resonated with something from my own memory, because everything was all very simple and bare. I never could have imagined or believed then that such raw elements could be magically transformed into art forms that could touch so many people around the world.

Panel Discussion

View a slide show from the Panel Discussion: CHINA ART(S) TODAY event at Asia Society on November 2, 2009.

Posted by Yee Ping Wu, co-founder of Knoa Software and a graduate of The Juilliard School

© 2001-2009 Carnegie Hall Corporation

Chinese Translation (Traditional Characters)
Chinese Translation (Simplified Characters)