[div class=attrib]From The New York Times:[end-div]
THERE was a chill in the morning air in 2005 when dozens of artists from China, Europe and North America emerged from their red-brick studios here to find the police blocking the gates to Suojiacun, their compound on the city’s outskirts. They were told that the village of about 100 illegally built structures was to be demolished, and were given two hours to pack.
By noon bulldozers were smashing the walls of several studios, revealing ripped-apart canvases and half-glazed clay vases lying in the rubble. But then the machines ceased their pulverizing, and the police dispersed, leaving most of the buildings unscathed. It was not the first time the authorities had threatened to evict these artists, nor would it be the last. But it was still frightening.
“I had invested everything in my studio,” said Alessandro Rolandi, a sculptor and performance artist originally from Italy who had removed his belongings before the destruction commenced. “I was really worried about my work being destroyed.”
He eventually left Suojiacun, but he has remained in China. Like the artists’ colony, the country offers challenges, but expatriates here say that the rewards outweigh the hardships. Mr. Rolandi is one of many artists (five are profiled here) who have left the United States and Europe for China, seeking respite from tiny apartments, an insular art world and nagging doubts about whether it’s best to forgo art for a reliable office job. They have discovered a land of vast creative possibility, where scale is virtually limitless and costs are comically low. They can rent airy studios, hire assistants, experiment in costly mediums like bronze and fiberglass.
“Today China has become one of the most important places to create and invent,” said Jérôme Sans, director of the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing. “A lot of Western artists are coming here to live the dynamism and make especially crazy work they could never do anywhere else in the world.”
A major challenge for foreigners, no matter how fluent or familiar with life here, is that even if they look like locals, it is virtually impossible to feel truly of this culture. For seven years Rania Ho, the daughter of Chinese immigrants born and raised in San Francisco, has lived in Beijing, where she runs a small gallery in a hutong, or alley, near one of the city’s main temples. “Being Chinese-American makes it easier to be an observer of what’s really happening because I’m camouflaged,” she said. “But it doesn’t mean I understand any more what people are thinking.”
Still, Ms. Ho, 40, revels in her role as outsider in a society that she says is blindly enthusiastic about remaking itself. She creates and exhibits work by both foreign and Chinese artists that often plays with China’s fetishization of mechanized modernity.
Because she lives so close to military parades and futuristic architecture, she said that her own pieces — like a water fountain gushing on the roof of her gallery and a cardboard table that levitates a Ping-Pong ball — chuckle at the “hypnotic properties of unceasing labor.” She said they are futile responses to the absurd experiences she shares with her neighbors, who are constantly seeing their world transform before their eyes. “Being in China forces one to reassess everything,” she said, “which is at times difficult and exhausting, but for a majority of the time it’s all very amusing and enlightening.”
[div class=attrib]More from theSource here.[end-div]