FINE FINE SMALL MOUNTAIN!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWelcome to the website for Fine Fine Small Mountain, please click on the links to find out more about Naima Fine, Miranda Hill, or Fine Fine Small Mountain. We’re currently working on the presentation of a small project we did in Melbourne in 2016. It’s not at all music related, and here are some clues: reclamation | installation | redistribution. Stay tuned to see what we got up to!

If you are looking for information on our first Australian show, 翻译山 FānYìShān – Translating Mountains (Melbourne; November 2015), please click here.

If you’re looking for information on our second Australian show, 和 家 的 故 事 Hé Jiā de Gùshì – Hé family stories (Brisbane, Lismore and Sydney; May 2016), please click here.

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Leagues of Breaking Light fundraiser – Naima

Hi folks!

This year is the year for my big work from China, Leagues of Breaking Light.

I just presented it at the Ecoacoustics Congress in Brisbane, Australia, which was wonderful. I’m presenting it again at the Gender Diversity in Music Making Conference in Melbourne, Australia next week. I’m also presenting it live at Melbourne Fringe Festival in September.

AND I’m releasing it as a multi-media album! I’m running a fundraising campaign to make this album to become a reality – which ends in TWO DAYS! ! I’m so humbled with everbody’s generosity so far. I’m aiming as high as possible. If we raise 100% of my goal, I can pay the recording musicians and engineer. If we raise more than 100%, I can start to finance mastering the album, producing the other sections (e.g. artist-quality image files, etc), and distribution. Please have a look, share it with friends, and donate whatever you can if you can. It’s also TAX DEDUCTIBLE (for Australians) and ends on the last day of financial year, Saturday 30th June!

https://australianculturalfund.org.au/projects/leagues/

IMG_1181

More details on Leagues of Breaking Light soon.

Thankyou!

 

7th Homophonic! concert.

Hi everyone and Happy New Year. Miranda and Naima have been busy doing their own projects in 2017, but coming up this Monday and Tuesday evening in Melbourne as part of the Midsumma Festival is the amazing annual concert with music by all queer composers: Homophonic!

Miranda is founder/director/producer of 3 Shades Black ensemble. 3 Shades Black produces various projects including Homophonic!.

Naima has had a composition performed in 6 out of the 7 Homophonic! concerts so far, with most of them being commissioned premieres.

Show details:
Mon 29th & Tue 30th Jan 2018, 7:30pm.
La Mama Courthouse Theatre, 349 Drummond Street, Carlton, Victoria, Australia.
Tactile tour for folks with vision impairment: Tue 30th Jan, 6:30pm.

This year Homophonic! includes three works exploring refugees and refugee activism:

Tansy Davies  – Greenhouses – with text by Rachel Corrie, the woman who was killed by an Israeli bulldozer protecting Palestinian homes.

Jack Body – Cries From the Border – about Walter Benjamin, philosopher, literary critic and German Jew, who in 1940 requested an official stamp to depart from France into Spain but was denied. That night, facing being delivered back into the hands of the Nazis, he died of suicide.

Naima Fine – Their Voices Were Over The Sky – an expression of the passing of time in the detention centre on Manus Island. The title is words spoken by Abdul Aziz Adam in a WhatsApp message to reporter Michael Green for the podcast The Messenger, co-produced by The Wheeler Centre and Behind The Wire. Used with permission by Aziz. Aziz has been imprisoned in refugee detention on Manus Island for over four years.

Also on the program is a stunning and rarely-performed piece by Lou Harrison with full gamelan!

Media:
Stream Ian Parsons’ interview with Miranda for Homophonic! on his wonderful show The Sound Barrier (PBS fm) here.

Read an interview with Naima, Andrew Aronowicz, and Moya Hendersen – the Australian composers in Homophonic!’s program – by the awesome magazine CutCommon here.

And if you’re a member of Arts Hub, you can read an interview with Miranda focusing on Homophonic! about “programming new classical music, and attracting new audiences to our awesome art-form” here.

3 Shades Black on facebook.

Hope to see you there and don’t forget to book – tickets are selling!

Small Mountain is a 2016 “Two to Three 二到三” Residency Finalist!

Guess what? Miranda got into the finalists for this great residency opportunity in Xiàmén, Fújiàn. I don’t envy the panel deciding which 2 or 3 artists will go out of this bunch, they all sound super-interesting! Check out the finalists list and project proposals here.

Thanks as always to China Residencies for being awesome and the backbone of support for artists-who-wanna-make-art-in-China.

Good luck Miranda!

Naima ~ Qíng Nà Mǎ ~ 晴 纳 玛

China Residencies Interview!

Hello everyone! The incredible China Residencies (who linked us up with Lijiang Studio) has done an artist profile on us recently. Head over to their website to check it out:

http://www.chinaresidencies.com/news/131

Apologies to all those who came to look at the last post only to find it was password protected expression of interest materials. Hopefully you enjoy this interview and keep keeping your ear to the ground – we are still doing residency-related stuff and will be into spring 2017.

Naima ~ Qíng Nà Mǎ ~ 晴 纳 玛

Lìjiāng Studio, weeks 27 & 28 – Nà Mǎ 纳 玛

(24th August – 6th September)

The past 2 weeks were all work. It was great! I finally settled into the “new normal” of being here with just the family, and got on with my projects.

So this fortnight, you mainly get photos.

Mushrooms

It’s mushroom season! There’s mushrooms at the markets everywhere and Xue Mei has gone mushroom foraging twice since we went with the others last time. The first time I walked into the kitchen I was so blown away by the array of mushroom species that I took a photo series. Here it is. We ate them all!

Things

On Saturday 5th Sept, He Er Ge and I went to Mu Yun Bai’s exhibition. It was good, although I felt that I’d seen his work a bit too regularly recently to properly appreciate it. Since I’m drawing ten flowers at the moment, I spent some time examining how he made lines of shade change without drawing a line – which is pretty much what his whole drawing style is. I can’t do it very well yet; and it’s my only specific aim of improvement for my pencil drawing. Oh, that – and less perfectionism! The exhibition was in an old school, in an undercover but only 3-walled area, and it worked really well.

He Ji Yu and I are working on finishing repainting this mural that’s in the family kitchen. Here’s a photo of the mural before he’s done many flowers, and while he’s doing them! My sister Hildy started this mural revitalising project and my aim is for it be finished by the time I leave.

I came home at lunchtime one day and Anai hadn’t cooked because she wasn’t expecting me. She was worried but it worked out perfectly because the day before, she had pulled up all the nettles I was cultivating – well, letting grow, anyway – in my flower-bed that Miranda and Jay built and I’ve grown against the front wall of the studio. So, nettle soup it was!

Hi Ji Xing’s horse has a pretty crappy life when he’s not around, as nobody else takes it for walks and it lives on a short rope. So I asked him to show me the basic, and took the horse out. It was really scary! I have never handled a horse alone before, and this horse is pretty frisky and jumpy. But we made it to the lake, and he was so happy to be out!

Things I saw around and about:

WORK
I am in the midst of a completely non-musical project. I am using rubbish and a few natural found objects I’ve been collecting since I arrived here to create a menagerie of animals that maybe once lived in the mountains around Lashihai. There are several inspirations for this project and I’ll put a detailed post up about it after I finish it. Next weekend I plan to exhibit the animals in a little diorama in the village, with Ji Yu helping me explain to the villagers what it’s about.  Here’s a few animals-in-progress.

I sat down to write a Second Iteration: He Family Portrait for Anai. It wasn’t happening. But some other little thoughts and ideas were happening. I tried to focus but to no avail. So I started turning the little thoughts and ideas into a piece. 2 days later, I had a finished draft. I’ve written a piece for 2 tenor voices; violin; bass; and percussion. The piece sets text by Francis Kingdon-Ward (1885-1958), an English botanist, explorer, plant collector and author who spent a lot of time in this part of the world. The text is from one of his many books, “Riddle of the Tsangpo Gorges” (1926), and describes the wonder of mountainsides of Rhododendrons. Robbie Hart used this quote in his thesis, which is how I discovered it…and so this piece became my 3rd approach in my Robbie’s-data-into-music project. The text is set simultaneously in Mandarin and English. 周巧(Zhōu Qiǎo)did the translation for me, and it happened to be the exact same number of syllables, which was perfect!

Kindgon-Ward quote 1926

I finally made a decision about my graphic score, and started drawing. Here’s species 3, Rhododendron beesianum: the photo by Robbie Hart, and my drawing in-process and completed. I plan to do high-quality photocopies of the flowers onto transparencies and overlay them onto manuscript.

Qíng Nà Mǎ

晴 纳 玛

Rainstallation – 山慕

Big Orange Friend.

Please play this track while reading this blog post. Maybe hit repeat, it’s only 5 minutes long, even though the full track goes for over an hour.

The percussion machine met a different end to what was expected. Naima and I both got immersed in other projects, and the machine languished in the courtyard for quite a while. When Jen and Lizzy were here, all talk in the village was about rain, and the lack thereof. No rain is bad anywhere, but it’s hard to ignore the negatives while living on a farm. The extra water let down from the reserve on the mountain had already dried up, and Lashihai was retreating apace. The rain was late, very late. He Yeye mentioned it almost every day, with a sad defeated look on his face, and aNai said this was the latest she had ever seen the rain come. Even if it did finally come, it was too late, she said, while miming all the corn keeling over and dying of heat stroke.

So the talk was of rain, and Jen and I both came to the idea of building something that sounds good in the rain, as a portent of the much longed for downpour. To tempt fate and call the rain from the sky. Our ideas ranged from the simple to the increasingly ornate, but we settled on the half finished installation already in the courtyard.

We danced for the rain in Wumu, and we watched others eat the goat sacrificed for her pleasure; we commiserated with Yeye and stared at the blue sky with our arms stretched, asking “为什么” “wei, shenme?” and so we again sifted through the rubbish piles, built the rainstallation, and we all waited patiently for the rain.

It took a few weeks for any rain to fall, and it wasn’t until weeks after Jen left that it started raining in earnest. Good solid summer rains, drenching the soil and filling the ditches. A rain that’s here for the duration, the type that turns soccer games into mud wrestling matches, and makes the solar hot water frustratingly inefficient when it’s time to wash off.

In other words, a rain that makes the rainstallation sing.

But the rain didn’t last. It came, the old people smiled over Mahjong and Baiju, the middle generation grimaced over beer and said it was too little too late, and the children and tourists laughed at the dogs dancing in the downpour; then it left again, leaving a muddy footprint on the way out.

But by then, I’d captured the rain, crouching in the courtyard, recorder in hand. Instinctively holding my raincoat out over the artwork to protect it, then realising that it was a rainstallation made from found rubbish. I couldn’t make it rain, but I could help it sound like it should.

I wanted our sculpture to sing for the rain. To lament what it’s missing and wail for precipitation. I wanted our rainstallation to highlight everything that was missing from the rainclouds over Lashihai. I wanted our bright orange pile of suspended rubbish to help people remember the rain, how it feels, how it smells, and how it sounds.

So we gave it a voice.

I mixed recordings of the rainstallation together, to simulate a big rain, a solid rain, a good old timey drenching. Making all the little rains together sound like a torrential downpour, the type of rain that seems to give birth to frogs. The sound of a rain that hasn’t happened this year, the type that makes streams out of driveways and makes the roots of the sunflowers smile.

Hanging tiny speakers in the sculpture, we put it out to pasture. Leaving it for passers by and wandering Anai’s to discover. The rainstallation sat there, still, unmoved by the weather. Its pans and tins swung lifeless in the breath of breezes. But yet, something stirred, a memory of sound, of how it feels to be wet from the sky. The sound of rain echoes out of these dry corners, reverberating in the cracked earth.

Watching this dry dusty sculpture while listening to it rain, I felt the song of Australia, of California, of China and everywhere else. I felt the sadness of an empty room, of an empty cloud and a dry well. The memory of a time when streams ran down the road, and you could catch fish with your hands. The rainstallation sung of the olden times, of last week, last year, last generation, last time; do you remember?

It was eerie.

It was sad.

Teenagers used it as a giant drum kit.

Watching it, (because after an hour the rain-track switched to exuberant Naxi Pop music) I felt a chill, a shiver up my spine. Seeing the village elderly double take, because they know the sound so well they didn’t even look where it was coming from at first, I felt a cool breeze. A change breeze. Spitting drops.

And friends? It rained. They didn’t stay that day, but very soon… the summer rains came. The frogs were born and the soccer was muddy. The showers were cold and the crops were happy. Anai hummed while she checked her corn, and Yeye put on an extra polar fleece, and muttered less when he looked at the sky.

Lìjiāng Studio weeks 19 & 20 – Nà Mǎ 纳 玛

29th June – 12th July (Written 26th August)

After I returned from Hong Kong, I had 8 or 9 days until our big concert. Just after I left for Hong Kong, Crystal Pascucci, a cellist and composer, had arrived from America, and then Jen Torrence, a percussionist, and Lizzie Peacocke, a public health worker, both from, well, Norway, via a lot of other places.

Crystal’s website: http://www.crystalpascucci.com/

Jen’s website: http://www.jennifertorrence.com/

And somehow I think I didn’t mention Michelle/ the weaver, who arrived shortly after Frog: http://www.ozzoombro.com/

I was so happy to come back – be back home; be away from the big stinky challenging city; see my family again; spend time with some lovely people and get to know them better; and perform some of my work in the place it was written.

Lesser Heat Festival poster, by Frog Wing.

Lesser Heat Festival poster, by Frog Wing.

I didn’t count on all of the time the others had all had together influencing my time with them so much, but it really did. Conversations were often continuations of events or earlier ideas that I wasn’t there for, and people had all fallen into the habits and the knowings of each other that happens when you live together. In a way, even though of course I was welcomed, I felt I’d disrupted the rhythms that they’d developed together and they never really got regained in a group sense. I actually feel (still, 2 months later) that I really missed out on something possibly more important than the Hong Kong Academy, not being here for the whole time that the others were. It was a risk I took because the opportunity to participate in the Academy seemed so great, and I’d never done anything like that before, and I was interested in the tutors. But I’d been looking towards this period and writing music for this group of people back at the Studio almost since I arrived in February, and I really think I did myself a disservice by missing out on much of that time.

Michelle/LìLì's homemade loom, with 2 works-in-progress.

Michelle/Lili’s homemade loom, with 2 works-in-progress.

Some things about the week building up to the concert were lovely. But other things were stressful. I didn’t quite leave myself enough time to learn the hardest part I’d made for myself, Crystal Ruth Bell’s piece. And then in putting the time I had into learning that piece, I didn’t do other important things like properly transcribe the part for dí zi (Chinese transverse flute with a membrane) into the right key for the dí zi I own for the Rhododendron piece. There were some disagreements about the venue. Rehearsals were challenging for me because I wanted to make a timetable for the week so that I could manage my time better, but no-one else wanted to. So we didn’t, and I didn’t manage my time well. Miranda wasn’t feeling great about her playing. The whole week was really just organising, practicing, and rehearsing. So I really didn’t get to spend much hanging out/bouncing concepts off each other/giving and getting feedback along the way time with Crystal, Jen or Lizzie. had retreated into quite an internal and ascetic place, and I was worrying about her. She was producing a lot of work, and fasting, and not sleeping a lot, and had really socially withdrawn too. Frog was trying to get her giant dodecahedron sanded, painted and installed in time, as well as doing a really beautiful flyer for the whole event as well, so she was also under the pump.

The orb is installed! Jen and Lizzie are taking photos. Dudu is along for the ride.

The orb is installed! Jen and Lizzie are taking photos. Dūdū is along for the ride.

But also: we had a walk every afternoon in rehearsal break through the village to buy an iceblock. Lizzie and I went to Fēng Le Market together on our bicycles. Lizzie bought a broom that subsequently faithfully travelled with her through Hong Kong, America and Europe and eventually back to Norway. The feeling of being amongst several lovely and hard-working artistic women was pretty great. I had some insight into how someone else (Crystal) composes, looking, listening to and discussing her score-in-process, which was valuable and not that common an experience for me. We were organised enough to rehearse enough for most pieces to be ready to perform.

Us all! Back L-R: Jay; Lili/Michelle; Lizzie; Jen Front L-R; Frog; Naima; Crystal; Miranda.

Us all!
Back L-R: Jay; LìLì/Michelle; Lizzie; Jen
Front L-R; Frog; Naima; Crystal/JīngJīng; Miranda/Shān Mù.

The pieces of mine we played are:

Crystal Ruth Bell: We Keep Going

flute – me;

tuned glass bottles – Jen Torrence;

cello – Crystal Pascucci; and

double bass – Miranda Hill.

Climate-Driven Change in Himalayan Rhododendron Phenology (sections 1-3 of 6)

pre-recorded sine waves;

dí zi – me;

cello – Crystal Pascucci;

double bass – Miranda Hill;

tuned percussion – Jen Torrence; and

harmonium – Frog Wing.

I felt we played both pieces well, even though we had played both better. But I completely messed up the Climate-Driven Change… piece, and because it seemed easy and I felt a bit embarrassed by it because I wasn’t yet used to how it turned out, I didn’t push enough practice time with it and so we didn’t record it either, which I’m a bit disappointed about.

I also played flute in an improvised version of “Bái Yún de Měi Lì” (“The Beautiful White Clouds”) with Jimmy / Yáng Zé Mín, Crystal and Miranda; harmonium in a movement of Crystal Pascucci’s “Flute Poems”; and metal bowl, pebble and lentils in Jenn Torrence’s “Women’s Work” piece.

One sad thing is that Miranda had rehearsed to play some of the First Impressions Family Portraits that I wrote in March/April. But dinner took longer than we allotted it, and we still had to finish at sundown, so the Portraits got squashed out. Also, Miranda was really taking on an organising and rehearsal-leading role, and so although she also has work that could have been played, she didn’t have the time to introduce and rehearse any of her stuff as well.

Rehearsal time.

Rehearsal time.

Highlights for me:

We were playing Jen’s piece (in which lentils are rolled and swished around in bowls), Ānǎi was sitting next to Miranda, and at first she was really dismayed that the lentils were going out onto the floor and being wasted as food – but then at a certain point she just shrugged and threw the handful she was retrieving off the floor into the air and started laughing. It was the best.

While folks were eating, a bunch of the Jí Xiáng Orchestra members had gotten the tuned bottles from my piece and rearranged them, and were playing Nàxī tunes on them.

Earlier in the day, Miranda and I went for a walk together and collected flowers and sheaves of grasses to put in Jen’s bottles for the piece I wrote for Crystal. It was a really lovely cycle to collect flowers from Lì jiāng Studio and Jí Xiáng Cūn, a place she had loved and had helped Miranda and I get to, as part of playing the piece I wrote for her. She helped me get here, and then I wrote a piece for her here, and we performed it here, with flowers for her from here.

Setting up ‘s work for the festival (she had to leave 2 days beforehand). She had completed a huge number of simple paintings, all in the same format, as well as a number of stunning woven pieces. We laid out all of the paintings on a wooden floor with pebbles holding them down, and it looked really amazing. Throughout the day, people came in and made a same-size painting of their own, left it behind, and took one of hers. So the shape and content of the laid-out paintings slowly changed over the day. I really liked going up to the room every so often to see what had gone and what had arrived.

At the end of Crystal’s piece, she had some troubles orchestrating a part for the harmonium simple enough for Frog and I to play for the final movement (we are not very accomplished!). So she made a last-minute decision to cut the final movement and just follow the penultimate movement with one chord to finish, following her lead for the fade-out. We had never rehearsed it and it was slightly nerve-wracking because I wanted to get it right, but I did, and even though it wasn’t what she’d wanted, I thought it was a beautiful ending to the piece.

Lizzie’s story about street-dental work. It was captivating, and I really loved her photos of teeth and things that reminded her of teeth that accompanied the story, too.

The Dōngbā ritual blessing of the giant dodecahedron/orb. Frog danced a Dōngbā dance inside the orb, at sunset, with a smoky atmosphere from burning green pine needles to purify the area, and it was just magic.

Our teachers from school came; the villagers came; Jay’s family came… there was such a festive joyful feel and I’m so glad we decided to put the festival on, in just the format we did. It really worked.

For a detailed program and more photos of the concert, you can go here: http://www.lijiangstudio.org/lesserheatfestival/

Finally, and perhaps most importantly of all, the day of the concert, it rained. And the villagers said that we musicians called the rain.

And then the next day, Crystal and her partner Mark left; and the day after that Jen and Lizzie left; and a few days after that Frog left to go to Lú Gū Hú (Lúgū Lake; home of the Mósuō matriarchal folk that we’ve been interested in visiting for months, but we couldn’t go because we had things to do); and Jay left to go to some appointments interstate, and it felt like a really fast exodus with no downtime or group debrief. For me, the whole period of time between returning from Hong Kong and doing our festival and the other 3 artists leaving was a bit of a gasp and a run and it’s over before I got another breath. I really do wish I’d gotten to spend the whole month with them.

But I won’t forget that the villagers said we musicians called the rain. To me, that is a huge compliment, and a blessing beyond any blessing I would hope to have.

Qíng Nà Mǎ

晴 纳 玛

Lìjiāng Studio, weeks 25 & 26 – Nà Mǎ 纳 玛

Last week was a really intense week. It was Shān (Miranda)’s last week in the Studio and in China. We had: 2 Mandarin classes;

2 trips to the Public Security Bureau to organise her visa;

1 visit to the artist Mù Yún Bái’s house to look at some work of his to buy;

The ditch I fell in. But not in the daytime. It's quite obvious in the daytime!

The ditch I fell in. But not in the daytime. It’s quite obvious in the daytime!

1 rather dramatic and thankfully helmeted dark and rainy night fall into a deep ditch with water in it (that was me…I got away with bruised ribs and a few scratches);

1 delightful trip with Hé Jī Xīng, Hé Jī Yǔ, and Hé Èr Gē to some nearby mountains to go mushroom-picking;

1 last-minute purchase of low-crotch baggy cotton pants (the van home from Lìjiāng for M’s last time waited for us);

1 last walk to Lāshìhǎi that ended up having Miranda’s foot stuck knee-deep in mud; 1 poor muddy little microbat collected into my hat from hanging in the sun on the giant mud pile;

1 train trip to Kūnmíng where we booked a bed each but then gave one to some other nice bed-less passengers and snuggled together in a very narrow single bed on the false assumption we would still be able to sleep;

1 lost or stolen phone somewhere between a taxi ride and picking up Miranda’s luggage;

1 cranky airline check-in staff;

1 really bizarre and rather hilarious report of stolen phone to police (which involved several police phoning their friends who had a tiny bit of English and then handing me the phone, and getting picked up and dropped off at the Kūnmíng Train Station in an awesome 80’s cop car complete with the occasional flashing lights and siren wail to move through the traffic faster);

1 small box of Miranda’s things posted home; and

1 Miranda safe and sound on her flight.

You’re not allowed to bring knives on any long-distance Chinese public transport, and they have luggage scanners at every major train and bus station. But I really wanted to try to get my pocket knives home. I have no idea how I got them here from Kūnmíng, since I came on the train – but last time I tried to travel with one I had to leave it with security to collect on my return. So I packed them both between 2 steel scourers, and put that inside a silver-lined coffee bag. The staff member who was checking what was in the bass bag went straight past the “coffee bag” when she was unpacking it, and I didn’t say a thing. So my knives are home! : /

The whole luggage situation was quite stressful – one bag was overweight and the other one was full of weird objects that they wanted to examine – namely an electric-acoustic bass with various metal components, as well as electronic metronomes, tuners, etc. Eventually we got everything through, but we were glad we checked in 3 hours before her flight!

Miranda's last Lashihai photo - on the dam wall with Yulongxue Shan peeking out between the mountains and the clouds.

Miranda’s last Lāshìhǎi photo – a beautiful day, baggy new pants, and muddy legs on the dam wall, with Yùlóngxuě shān peeking out between the mountains and the clouds.

To be honest, after I got back from Kūnmíng, I slept for 2 days. I was so tired, and a little bit freaked out! I was suddenly more isolated than I’d planned – no Frog, no Jay, no Miranda, no Hildy, no recorder (it had mysteriously stopped working at the Qílín dance), no phone and as I discovered no internet connection either. Oh well, I thought, I’ll snuggle into bed and watch a movie. But my computer had other plans, and my CD drive reported an unfixable error!

So I read some books and had some quiet time. I bought a new SD card to try in my recorder, and despite it not recognising various other ones, it works fine. I got myself a wonderfully awful alarm clock, and began to try to settle in to the new normal Lāshìhǎi.

I had my last 2 lessons with Shàng lǎo shī, our wonderful Mandarin teacher. She is just so lovely and funny and undeniably adorably clumsy, and she’s moving to stay with her sister who’s gotten into a PhD in computing at the University of Chéngdū. Shàng lǎo shī is a wonderful person and I wish her all the best in her life.

I took copies of the beautiful posters for our Lesser Heat Festival from July down to the old people’s gathering area and gave them to the head of the Nàxī Jíxiáng Village Orchestra to distribute as mementoes.

Drying limes

Drying limes.

And then I started working again. I’ve started on the “Second Iterations Family Portraits” (working title!). First up is Ānǎi, wonderful grandmother. I’m already having trouble – I want the piece to connect to the first piece, but not just restate or recapitulate it. I wrote down an updated list of descriptions and thoughts about Ānǎi, but so far that hasn’t helped much. One thing I love that isn’t in the First Impressions portrait of her is the way she calls Dūdū for food, and the way she calls the chooks for food. But I am not sure if I want to put those calls in as a literal mimic or not. So I’m a little bit stuck.

I’ve also continued on my next idea for the Yù lóng xuě shān Rhododendrons work. When I was messing around with ideas for another approach about 6 weeks ago (oh dear), I ended up drawing out one of the species, RhododeRhododendron Yunnanensendron yunnanense, onto manuscript. That got me thinking about drawing all 10 species of blossom on a manuscript as a graphic score. Each blossom would be positioned on the manuscript as if it were a point on a scatterplot indicating that species’ Mean Flowering Day (x axis) and Mean Elevation (y axis).

I sat on the idea for a while, talked it over with Miranda and Hildy (my sister) and Jay, wrote to Robbie asking for these meta-data averages and close-up photos of all the species, and kept sitting on it. Now in the past few days I have finally started building the work. I’ve got my ~A2 manuscript (I couldn’t draw small enough to fit them all on A4); made a scatterplot of the above-mentioned stats; done a bunch of maths to convert the datapoints to mm on my manuscript; plotted the points; chosen my final blossom shots to draw from, and drawn a bloom! Of course I started at number 1, so it’s good old Rhododendron racemosum, which is always the example, being first.

But in the midst of drawing it, and definitely by the end; I’ve begun questioning whether I’m doing this the best way. For starters, why did I make the data space tall and thin? It would make much more musical sense for it to be short and wide, giving the players more horizontal space to read the complex information I’m giving them. And why did I commit the drawing straight to the manuscript? Maybe it would be better to draw in on plastic overhead sheets so I can overlay it onto all different sizes and directions of manuscript until I’m happy. But I’m not so good drawing with pen as pencil, and pencil doesn’t go on plastic sheets. Or maybe I should draw just on plain paper so I can photocopy onto plastic sheets and go from there. Then I thought well I can just do the drawings more than once – go-on Naima, commit them to the manuscript now! But the drawing I did today took about 3 hours. And there’s 10 of them. 30 hours is already a lot of time, let alone drawing more than 1 of each. Sigh! So I’m not entirely sure what to do now. Start again, lose some detail to photocopying but gain flexibility; or continue on in perhaps not the best format?

Just-polished boots. A huge thank you to Emily whose father donated these boots to me. They are honestly the best shoes I've ever had, and they've been all along the East Coast of Aus; helping me do fieldwork in the Northern Territory; and now helping me hike and walk through muddy puddles and still have dry feet here in China. And there's a lot of life left in them yet!

Just-polished boots (behind: a sleeping Dūdū and an awesome broom made from old Brassica stalks). A huge thank you to Emily whose father donated these boots to me. They are honestly the best shoes I’ve ever had, and they’ve been all along the East Coast of Aus; helping me do fieldwork in the Northern Territory; and now helping me hike and walk through muddy puddles and still have dry feet here in China. And there’s a lot of life left in them yet!

And one final great thing is that I finally started writing blog posts again! I must apologise to anyone who was hoping to read anything during my long silence. All the routine went out the window. I wrote this last Sunday afternoon, for the 10th-23rd of August. Then last Sunday night an internet cable that had been dodgy gave out, and just got fixed on Friday evening. Expect a sudden glut of posts as I backdate. I’ve already started on them and I’ll pop them up as they happen. It’s good to be writing again.

Things I saw in town:

Things I saw at home:

Qíng Nà Mǎ

晴 纳 玛

好久不见了! – 山慕

LiJiang, the other Lijiang, not the city I live near, but the river near Guilin.

LiJiang, the other Lijiang, not the city I live near, but the river near Guilin.

Let’s play a game: Two truths and a lie.

Since I’ve been in China I have done the following things:

Gone night swimming in my underpants in a river surrounded by mysterious Karst mountains with an old man named Mao.

Caught a cable car up a Himalayan mountain.

Seen a man whistling softly in the early morning light, responding to the dawn chorus of birdsong; then pulling out his slingshot and killing one.

CaveyCavey good times. Made even better by our guide chain smoking inside the enclosed cavern...

CaveyCavey good times. Made even better by our guide chain smoking inside the enclosed cavern…

The answer, probably obviously, is that I cheated, and they’re all true. China is amazing, and anything is possible. I’ve been here almost 6 months now, and my time is almost up for this adventure. I have somewhat neglected this blog, so first this is a “now” post, and then I’ll do a series of posts of the art projects that have occurred since we last spoke, dear anonymous internet friends.

Literally, writing this on a train. Posting it from home though, the slow trains are super comfy, but not wifi enabled... yet...

Literally, writing this on a train. Posting it from home though, the slow trains are super comfy, but not wifi enabled… yet…

I’m writing this from a train, hurtling through the Guanxi countryside. Naima, Hildy and I just took a brief trip to Guilin where we stayed in a small quiet village in the middle of a massive tourist operation. This trip has been a study in mountains, and these mountains are the ones you see in the old paintings of China; unreal in their shape and irregularity. Previous to this trip, my adjectives for mountains were limited to tall, round, small, and pointy. Now, however, they are skinny, leaning, appley, tortisey, bloopy, boppy, sneaky, triangular, square, and bizarre. (as well as tall, round, small, and pointy)

Adjectives for these mountains really don’t do them justice, so I will stop trying, and leave a few photos to speak for me.

(Our internet is being very very very slow, so I will continue to update photos as I can. The really pointy mountain photos just won’t upload! Please check back to see more pics of the crazyness)

We spent a few days hiking in the mountains, going caving, swimming in the river, and finding small freezing streams to dunk ourselves in as a respite from the clammy heat.

One night we took a night boat to drink tea and stargaze, with the aforementioned old man named Mao. We got on his “bamboo” (read PolyPipe) boat, motored out 20 meters from the shore, and then he shut off the motor, poured hot water into paper cups furnished with local green tea, and proceeded to strip off and jump straight into the dark water. The effect was somewhat less than expected, as he landed standing up with water only up to his knees… After many entreaties Hildy dangled her feet in the water and I went for a night water walk, while Mao washed his clothes in the river, and interrogated us one by one about our marriage prospects and children, (or lack thereof). 2 hours later I think he still didn’t believe us. No boyfriends, no children, unheard-of.

It’s a good analogy for the whole experience of this trip to Guilin, as it was so close to amazingly relaxing and peaceful, but included aspects of the truly bizarre and slightly annoying. I’m pleased for Mao however, that in his older age he can get paid to go night swimming. That’s a pretty good place to be in life. Something to aim for, methinks.

We’ve had an adventurous time since Hildy (Naima’s sister) arrived, we’ve spent 3 days hiking Tiger Leaping Gorge, which was amazingly beautiful. We’ve taken a night bus that saw Hildy downing a bottle of herbal liquour, me cradling my banjo all night, while Naima was between 3 teenage girls and a mother with two small children on one giant bed. We’ve argued valiantly but in vain to convince an airline to let us on a plane they said we missed but we disagreed. (By the time we’d lost the argument, it was hard to say we had not missed the plane, however. Their tactic was sound.) We’ve had pedicures and unexpected massages, swam in pristine rivers until we saw someone mixing their pesticide on the banks, and we’ve been so frustrated with the non-transparency of transportation that we swore in public where little old ladies could hear but not understand us. We played with a pig, watched the neighbourhood kids do a traditional dance in our courtyard, ate bbq late at night and watched a movie that our host family all starred in, we learnt the ‘heel and toe polka’ as a trio, and spoke in Mandarin Chinese mixed with broad Australian accents. It’s as close to a secret language as I think you can get.

It’s tempting to wax lyrical about the beauty of Tiger Leaping Gorge, of the misty mountains and herds of bleating goats; to describe the inexplicable joy of a panoramic view of endlessness after climbing in dense forest for 2 hours. To talk about how He JiXing and He JiYu were so joyously delighted with their own provinces beauty that they’d run ahead of us and we’d hear JiYu yell “BEAUTIFUL! PIAO LIANG!” from the upcoming peak, and look up to see a tiny 16yo in the distance, jumping and waving and soaking in the majesty of this place so close to his home. I’d like to talk at length about how having our level of language ability makes such a difference to my enjoyment of travel here, but also means that annoying conversations such as “really? No husband or children? But you’re so old!” can be understood clearly, which is a bummer. Innocence really was bliss in that instance. There’s so much to be said about the clash of cultures here, of the selfie sticks in front of ancient temples, of ErHu and bass ukelele duets, of bamboo boats made of PVC piping, and fast trains displacing whole villages. But this is supposed to be an art blog! So I will leave some photos here, to whet your appetite, and continue with cataloguing the art projects pronto.

 

But first: would you believe I fainted while walking up a mountain, and cursed the fact that no one was selling anything in this particular part of the national park? How about going caving with a topless ‘uncle’ who smoked the whole time? Then there was the time I was told I was unwell because I was too pale, and then was compared to a Taiwanese woman to prove their point…

I’m going to struggle to find lies for ‘two truths and a lie’ from now on in…