Mappa Mundi and other 798 delights

A few months ago I was asked to arrange a walking tour of 798 by the RAS  -Beijing  (Royal Asiatic Society ) . I knew that Mappa Mundi by polymath Qiu Zhijie would be a high priority for this visit. Prof Qiu is a writer, educator and curator believes that map making produces ‘awareness’ rather than understanding. Navigating links and building connections as we develop our own perceptions may well be one of those special things that shows us what it is to be human. These particular maps explore lost meanings and hidden connections that lie outside of history and common knowledge. On Saturday morning 4th (this was the last weekend the exhibition was running) we began our voyage of discovery at the UCCA.

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Odyssey The Return – ‘what the artists say’

Fion Gunn, Niamh Cunningham, Gulistan, Li Xinmo and Qingqing
Fion Gunn, Niamh Cunningham, Gulistan, Li Xinmo and Qingqing

In concluding his essay for this exhibition academic curator Huang Du writes 

In short, whether the featured works are abstract or imaginative, whether rational or perceptual, the five artists participating in this exhibition contemplate, to varying degrees, the links between image making and literature and what these concepts mean in their individual artistic practices. They interpret James Joyce’s work from Irish and Chinese perspectives; in a profound way and in a variety of visual languages, they reconstruct a visual Odyssey from the lens of their personal experience.

They have fully wielded their imagination, judgment and expressive power; they have expressed their lived experience from different viewpoints, either subjectively or instinctively. They have contemplated identity, critiqued gender politics, explored the classics, reconstructed artistic ontology. Ongoing and close investigation of these themes has enabled the artists to construct unique, personal and ideological visions – to develop formidable, artistic narratives with confidence. This is what will enable the viewer to find a deep sense of spiritual connection to their work.

The five participating artists say a few words about their works in the exhibition.

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Odyssey the Outreach: Bookworm talk , BFSU talk , Tuesday Trotters visit ect …

Beijing Bookworm talk:

Beijing Bookworm talk on James Joyce with Prof Fu Hao , Niamh Cunningham and FIon Gunn

This year’s Irish project ‘Odyssey the Return ‘ explores James Joyces book Ulysses and the ancient epic poem The Odyssey.  On April 15th the famed Beijing Bookworm hosted our talk ‘What has James Joyce ever done for you?’  Our Monty Pythonesque title became slightly distorted with time as people started to refer to it as ‘What as James Joyce ever done to you?’

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Odyssey -The Return

In his essay about Odyssey: The Return, celebrated curator Huang Du, writes

“The exhibition features different reflections and diverse manifestations of Irish and Chinese artists on the process of globalization, in the face of complex, shifting social and cultural issues. Inspired by the famous Irish writer James Joyce’s Ulysses, the theme aims to express and reflect on the culture of both countries in a metaphorical way.”

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Swim Duck- Blooms thoughts on water as he fills a kettle

Swim Duck (Qingdao still) Niamh Cunningham 2019

James Joyce included numerous lists in various parts of his book Ulysses.  Some of these lists were not meaningful but this list on water qualities is rich and diverse as it is poetic. It’s quite an intense moment of thought while filling a kettle (in the Chapter Ithaca ) , everything is magnified and heightened.

Swim Duck : Bloom’s thoughts when filling a kettle
(5 mins) . Artist : Niamh Cunningham

YouKu Link:

Swim Duck (Taipei undersurface outdoor still ) Niamh Cunningham 2019

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