Satisfying the Inner Tourist: China Residency, Part 6

By Elliot Purse (MFA 2014)

After a long, post-opening, post-artist talk, post-John Jacobsmeyer hang out, post-spa weekend, all of us subconsciously decided some down time was due. Monday and Tuesday were spent mostly entertaining ourselves and taking care of all the little things we’d put off over our eventful weekend (i.e. laundry, shopping, and getting a little more time to take advantage of our great studio here at SHU). However, by the time Wednesday rolled around, we were totally rejuvenated and ready to embrace our inner tourists. So we jumped on the subway and headed into the city center. 

Contrary to the familiar grime of the New York MTA, the Shanghai subway was impeccably clean and made for an easy ride into the city. Once in the city, we headed over to the Bund area to take in the incredible skyline of Pudong and hitched a ride on the infamous “sight-seeing tunnel,” a light/laser side-show-esque tunnel under the Huangpu River.

When we exited the futuristic trolley that had taken us through the tunnel, we found ourselves right around the corner from the Oriental Pearl Tower. Staring up at the giant pink pearlescent orbs, we decided to go see Shanghai from above by making our way up to the viewing decks.

Somewhere around 265 meters above the ground, the view was stunning and uniquely unnerving due to the glass floor on the second observation deck. I noted that it actually felt similar to seeing the mountainranges on our earlier excursion. While the buildings certainly were not as mammoth as mountains, the sheer expanse of highrises receding into the distance was just as sublime.

We made are way down, grabbed some nearby food, and continued our journey over to the Old City. The Old City of Shanghai is the original urban development of the city center. I was told that some of the buildings are between four and 500 years old. Of course, like the rest of Shanghai, the incredible architecture of the past is now completely infused with modern shops, and it is a bustling maze of streets. 

After we had walked and seen as much as we could, bought some gifts while perusing a few markets and tended to some hard-earned blisters, Wang Yi met us for a quick dessert as his local favorite dessert cafe. Now, I’m not a huge sweets person, but when my plate of fudge hit the table, you can bet it didn’t take long for me become a sweets person. The night concluded with an evening walk through the French Concession, another district of Shanghai, and a few drinks at a jazz club: inner-tourist satisfied.

After de-installing our show, exploring the city a little more on foot, visiting the South Bund Soft Material Market (an incredibly cheap tailoring market), we also got a chance to have dinner with Yi, his grandparents, parents and extended family. The meal once again was an incredible spread of food, which we eagerly and thankfully devoured. 

After all this, the rest of the weekend was spent, most importantly in my eyes, with a few last nights with the incredible group of international friends who so warmly shaped our experience on campus and in the city. Much love to Roland, Wen, John, Sylvia, Ray, Marta, Kamal, Agata, Anna, Peter, Sara, Elke, Rory, Andy, Alec, Iona, Tania, Dasha, the Kate’s and Mateo (and this goes without saying of course: Wang Yi!).      

On May 25, four Academy students arrived in China to start a two-month residency in Shanghai and Beijing. James Adelman, Elliot Purse, Elizabeth Shupe and Zoe Sua-Kay (all members of the class of 2014) will share their experiences here throughout the summer.

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