Pop life exhibition at Tate Modern

I have been meaning to go and see this exhibition for a while now, as it was getting quite a few column inches in the newspapers plus Tate Modern building is surrounded by so many unusual buildings that is always nice to just go and walk in the area, observing people, the river and the surroundings. It was raining really badly by the time I got there on saturday, so I rushed in but the coolish air inside didn’t make me feel too welcome either. Well, at least it was dry….

The exhibition is called ‘Pop life: Art in a Material World’ and is spread over several rooms on the 4th floor. You can see the works by Richard Prince, Jeff Koons, Takashi Murakami (I so love his work!), Andy Warhol, Tracy Emin and other artists. Some of the exhibits on display are completely beyond my comprehension, like Damien Hurst’s sheep in formaldehyde or the ‘dead’ horse lying on the floor with a spear going through it. Two of the exhibition’s rooms contain the material of sexual nature and you won’t be let in if you are under 18. I can only say that the room dedicated to Jeff Koon’s art, mostly containing photos or sculptures of him having intercourse with his ex-wife, pornstar Cicciolina, is quite grotesque.

The only room that I really enjoyed was dedicated to Takashi Murakami and contained shoes that he made in collaboration with Louis Vuitton, some sculptures and colorful figurines and my absolute favorite, a video titled ‘Akihabara’ which stars an actress Kirsten Dunst and was produced by the artist. I ended up humming the tune for the rest of the day.

All in all, I thought that seeing this exhibition, which cost me £12.50, was a waste of my time. The brochure that you can pick up before entering says that ‘Pop life examines how artists since the 80s have cultivated public personas and conjured a dazzling mix of media, commerce and glamour to build their own ‘brands’’. I didn’t learn anything new and most of the exhibits on display made me question their substance.

The Vagrants

The Vagrants book coverThe book ‘The Vagrants’ by YiYun Li was published this year and I bought it a few months ago, but only recently I finally got it off my bookshelf and read it (a little confession: I am a book addict, I have quite a few unread books on my shelf, but as soon as something interesting comes out I have to rush out and buy it or order it on the Amazon; then the lovely books have to wait their turn).

The author’s style of writing is unlike anyone I have ever read, it is beautifully evocative in a simple way, with no pretentiously composed sentences. The book draws you in from the beginning but because it is dramatic and thought provoking it takes you a while to read it.

The main event is the execution of Gu Shan who went from being a loyal communist to a counter-revolutionary. Her father, a teacher and an intellectual, finds it hard to accept the fact that his daughter turned into a rebel and her mother is devastated by the loss of her only child. The citizens of Muddy River, a town where the events take place, is very small but the event resonates and leads to unexpected consequences for Tong, a young boy, an orphan Bashi who lives with his old grandmother, a crippled girl named Nini, beautiful Kai, a wife on an important man, and Mr and Mrs Hua who are the poor cleaners.

This book made me very sad and at times I left it on my bedside table for a few days before it drew me back. I have never been to China and as yet don’t have any Chinese friends but the story of this huge country is fascinating and the author makes you feel like you are part of the events that are unfolding before your eyes. The love of people, the loss of faith, the sorrows of being a person with special needs can apply to any person, of any nationality, but the sad truth is that the book is based on the true events and you get to educate yourself about the life of people during the Communist regime when it was impossible to distinguish yourself or to try to appear different from the crowd. A highly recommendable read.