I remember seeing my first Ai Weiwei installation in person. It was his collection of porcelain sunflower seeds at the Tate Modern and it was a sight to behold. It gave me my first sense of the scope and scale in which the Chinese artist works. His latest exhibition, in New York, is no less as ambitious.
It’s called Good Fences Make Good Neighbours, and features site-specific works dealing with the theme of migration and people moving across borders and space. The two largest pieces of the public art showing (which also celebrates the 40th anniversary of New York’s Public Art Fund) are located in Central Park and in Washington Square Park. They encourage you to walk through them, to look up and around, and consider the implications of your own movement being limited or restricted.
This theme is timely, even if it the refugee crisis may not necessarily still be headline news. Displacement of people, how they are or are not welcomed in other countries and what it means to be citizens, of one country or many, are issues worth talking about. For this reason, I’ve liked seeing these pieces across the city – whether it’s the giant pieces or the smaller portraits hanging from lamp-posts of well-known immigrants, like Marlene Dietrich or Alfred Einstein.
“You can be an immigrant without risking your lives /
Or crossing these borders with thrifty supplies /
All you got to do
Is see the world through new eyes.”
Seeking to see the world through new eyes is a laudable aim, but when it doesn’t happen on an every-day basis, art is so important for this. It’s one of the reasons I was so moved by the virtual reality piece Alejandro G. Iñárritu and Emmanuel Lubezki made that debuted at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, and for which the filmmaking duo will receive an honorary Oscar. Their short film Carne y Arena took me deep into my own prejudice, to the point where when I, placed in the scenario of crossing the Mexican border, was asked to get down by a policeman, I shook my head no. I was in a made-up world, based on fact, yes, but my mind told me there was no way he was talking to me; that I would never be in that situation. When his gun was directed straight on in my face, I found myself scrambling to the floor. I hope to never be in that kind of situation, but it showed me that I still hold some perhaps discriminatory ideas about what being a refugee really means. It’s powerful to feel with new eyes too.
The exhibition will run until February next year. In the meantime, here’s my episode of The Rundown dedicated to Good Fences Make Good Neighbours.
When you’re a journalist who loves running, you start to want to find out more about how running has influenced others. I knew my passion for running had seeped into my work life when the first thing I noticed about sitting down to watch J-Lo’s newest movie was that the scene opened with her running. I researched and found out she was a runner at school, and I couldn’t resist asking her about it during our interview the next day.
I’m really interested in how running affects the musicians and actors and artists I interview. Because I know it has had such an immeasurable impact on my life, I want to know more about the impact it has had on others. The logistics of it – how the running happens – and also the stuff that goes beyond, the why.
But it’s not just the movie stars and singers whose stories I am interested in. Running with a regular group of people, some of whom, like me, picked up running later on in life, has led to many interesting tales and anecdotes shared. Usually, the talk is of mileage, pace, and upcoming races. Those things are interesting, but I also like talking about the joy and discomfort and the mental push beyond just the physical challenge it poses.
So, I’m running and recording interviews with people I admire who work in a creative field – I want to know what running means to them, how it helps their careers, and, you know, life in general.
The streets of NYC can be busy and noisy but they can throw up some pretty fantastic running adventures too.
For the first interview, I ran with artist and illustrator Daniel Medina, who studied Illustration at Parsons School of Design, and paces at Nike Run Club in New York. He often likes to run the Queensboro Bridge, and in our interview he tells me more about why “running always made sense” in his life, and why time and speed aren’t everything, even for a former high school cross-country enthusiast.
You can see Daniel’s work here and sign up to run with him at NRC here.