There is an idea of art as luxury good and there is an idea of art as public good – to make the world better and happier. This morally driven aesthetic view usually has a harder time coping with the complex bits, more than the luxury one which can just ride the waves. (I used to do the former, but it didn’t like falling in the water, to milk the analogy.) Getting bogged down in morals and righteousness, particularly in art world symposia, usually means a lot of ‘unpacking’ and sitting round in a circle of chairs. But if we were to embrace the multiplicity of contemporary culture and revel in the pile up, like a teenager surfing, texting, DS-ing, you-tubing and watching tv all at the same time, could we get to a more appropriate way to respond to cultural change and be helpful from the inside rather than out?

It would also be good to move on from the local-global talk like they are still two worlds apart. We all know this now surely. Local is an old word with an old use and it doesn’t fit anything anymore. I live in a town, work on a farm, travel the world etc etc. Claire Bishop said she couldn’t see how we could work in China at the moment. But half my family are Chinese. My children are Chinese, maybe I’m Chinese too. You can only talk this talk so long before you start to cringe, hearing yourself sound like a middle aged lecturer in multi-coloured Aztec pattern stretch pants. The theme of this year’s Guangzhou Triennial (down the road) is ‘Beyond the post-colonial’ and you can sort of see what they mean. But they need to look at another angle too, not just from a year zero redefinition of Asian art sense, but from an all encompassing multi-layered sensibility. The Sino-International art world is on a roll right now, highly commercialised and highly successful, but there is also a huge groundswell of activity outside the centralised zones of Beijing and Shanghai that going to play a big part in China’s intellectual growth.

This project has come from the ground up, not because we want to ‘get into China’, but because we made friends there and think that they might be able to help us and we might be able to help them. Nanling is like the Lake District was 50 years ago and possibly Nanling will be a model for the Lake District of the future. These are nodes of cultural activity that seem important and relevant. These are the places that are now feeling the pinch from an expanding, intertextual, convoluted world. It’s not as clear as that, obviously, but it’s a good point to start doing something.

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