Feb 112016
 



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Aussie Cyril

Another photo from the first Shanghai Art Nude Photographers group session. Aussie Cyril says it is apres the work of early photographer Ruth Bernhard. He has lectured in photography. He has a lot of knowledge.

I flounce up to Bel who is waiting, as arranged, on the China Art Museum steps. ‘Huh. Pompous git.’
    ‘Fei Mo Di?’ She puts out her cigarette, wheezing. ‘Your shoot didn’t go too well, then?’
    ‘He called Anaïs Nin a ‘spoiled upper-crust adulteress’. Why does she get treated with such contempt? Lee Miller doesn’t, even though her sexual conduct was just as liberated and controversial…’ I follow Bel through the museum’s entrance. ‘It’s because Anaïs Nin was a writer, that’s why. Visual imagery is infinitely ambiguous – all about the viewer’s perception – whereas the written word is a record of a thing perceived, and furthermore, is the writer’s take on it – their analysis. So the writer is laid bare, and therefore more vulnerable to personal criticism.’
    Zero response from Bel. Which is becoming usual. Does she think I talk rubbish? When a man ignores me I assume it’s coz he’s a sexist pig.
    Do I talk rubbish?
    The foyer is a huge modern space. A ruddy-faced immigrant from the countryside in cheap gaudy leggings shows Bel and I to her toddler, like pointing out cows in a field.
    ‘Maybe I talked too much.’
    Bel hands me an English-language leaflet about the current exhibition. ‘Did you? That’s interesting. When you model for artists you never utter a word.’
    ‘But with a photographer there needs to be interaction, doesn’t there? To find the poses.’
    Checking the leaflet’s map, Bel heads off. ‘What did you think of his penthouse?’
    I hurry after her. ‘Oh my god. Space-age. Shiny high-tech everything. That whole district is so pristine, glittering, brand new. All those exclusive luxury tower blocks. Was there ever anything old there?’
    ‘Shanghai isn’t old. Pudong was all paddy fields twenty years ago. You should read JG Ballard. He spent his formative years in wartime Shanghai when it was pure anarchy, which is why everything he’s ever written has an apocalyptic undercurrent. That’s Shanghai. Those towers built for the elite remind me of his novel High-Rise. They spook me.’
    Why does Bel only get animated about climate change, wars, and the end of the world? I don’t like thinking about those things.
    ‘Anyway’ – I shift the subject back – ‘I don’t think he’ll book me again. He definitely didn’t fancy me, I know that much.’
    ‘Fei Mo Di? Apart from being twenty years younger than you he’s as gay as a French horn.’

We wander through the museum. Bel’s and other visitors’ pulled-off pollution-masks dangle against their chests, like surgeons taking coffee breaks.
    I stop to field a Wechat message. ‘Hey – another one-to-one booking! Next week. That elderly Aussie, Cyril.’
    ‘Three times married.’
    ‘God, Bel, your ex-pat world is incestuous.’
    ‘He likes to submit to women. Apparently.’
    ‘How on earth do you…’ –
    – ‘One of his ex-girlfriends told me.’ We have reached the central hall where the new exhibition is installed. Some are gigantic. ‘Look! This is the fantastic stuff I wanted to show you. There’s so much photography-based art here, of a kind you don’t see in Europe.’ Bel is again animated, and this time, for once, about something positive. Her sweeping arm takes in all the works: ‘This isn’t about photographs. Photographic techniques and media are merely tools in the creation of these works. This all goes way beyond the debate on whether a photograph can be considered art.’ Her enthusiasm is a wonderful relief. ‘I’m going to bring my students,’ she declares.
    This is our best moment together since my arrival a fortnight ago: Bel actually being relaxed, enjoying something. I am so happy! I link my arm through hers. ‘So. When are you going to start your Art Nude project with me?’
    She immediately tightens a little. ‘When are you going to get out your unfinished manuscript?’


 

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Jan 142016
 

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ALT TEXT

Bel

From Bel’s website. I don’t believe this is (as Ilka would have it) evidence of Bel “having a fixation” on me.

Berlin Schönefeld Airport. End-of-September rain.
    ‘Welcome on board.’ The air hostess smiles, looking at me curiously. My eyes are still swollen from crying.
    My flight is with Aeroflot. Cheap. Over-long. Thirteen hours to contemplate my fate.
    On my lap is my half-read biography of Lee Miller, “Man Ray’s muse” in the 1930s. In the month since my epiphanic Shibari session, and in view of the project Bel wants to carry out, I’ve been googling Art Nude photography, and have thus collected interesting reading-matter for my new adventure.
    We taxi down the runway.
    First I will prime myself by watching Mr. Right-On New Man John Berger’s 1972 TV series Ways of Seeing. The Youtube review says it “challenged and changed a whole nation”. Berger famously said “women watch themselves being looked at”, as in, women are taught to think of themselves as always on view. But this is the 21st century. Men, too, are on view now – aren’t they? I have uploaded all four episodes onto my i-Pad. I put in my earphones…

Moscow airport. Awaiting my connection I check emails. One from Ilka already! My eyes well up again, but it turns out to be annoying.

Just visited Bel’s website. She got fixation on yu, see pics on homepage. Be worried.

Dear Ilka, Yes, tankyu 4 askin, journey going fine. Re Bel’s pics of me – they from when she made those film shorts, just by-products. Im not her focus. See her intrestin Shanghai blog. Hav nice day.

I’m being made to defend Bel. Is Ilka jealous?
    Last leg. Moscow to Shanghai. The plane is taxi-ing.
    Clunk. Seatbelt on. I stick my nose back into the biography. Lee Miller was only Man Ray’s lover or so-called ‘muse’ for three years – so why does it seem to be her main claim to fame? Frivolous model, or professional photographer? Despite her son’s posthumous promotion of her photographic and journalistic achievements, it seems images of her are more known than images by her.
    Zzz… zzz…

Shanghai Pudong Airport. Sudden overwhelming humid heat. China. Fuck. Fuck.
    Long sleek black hair… Short skirts… Smooth slender legs… Who would ever give a man a second look? Bel could surely get some gorgeous skinny Chinese woman for this project. Why does she want me?
    Eventually, at the other side of a striped barrier, I see her. Creased linen shirt and slacks. Hot and sticky. Every bit the pasty British expat teacher.
    I don’t feel attracted to her. I just don’t. Ought I to?
    The awkwardness of having to work out how to greet each other is avoided – thank god – by the gushing of a pretty, beaming young girl:
    ‘Welcome you! My name is Miss Lily Hong’ – she holds out her name-card to me with both hands. ‘Assistant vice-manager Foreign Affairs Department.’
    ‘Hello – “Lily Hong”, was that? Ni Hao!’


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