Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Ageing Rock Star

All the weather forecasts said "sunny 24 degrees", yet we awoke to a chilly thunderstorm. Which must have given the photography festival organizers the heebie-jeebies as the opening ceremony was outside.Thankfully the rain went away as quickly as it had appeared and we were treated to dancers, drummers, fireworks and speeches outside the south gate of the city.

Pingyao International Photography Festival is in its 12th year and is presented in a bunch of disused factories and warehouses in the north-west of town - a sort of less developed version of Beijing's 798. Much of the industrial paraphenalia is left as it was, which is great in some ways, but distracting in others. I found myself gawping at the rusting hulks of incomprehensible, yesteryear machinery rather than the photographs. It was n interesting mix of big worthy shows and smaller amateur efforts. There was a good one about migrant workers by Ouyang Xingkai, and I was amazed to see a big exhibition of photographs by Joseph Koudelka documenting the Soviet invasion of Prague in 1968. 

Our Rockarchive exhibition looked good, thanks to Liu Lu's sterling efforts. They gave us a building to ourselves which had a big diesel engine at the back but we chose to screen it off. Our trump card was to hire a local band to play a few numbers outside which blocked the road in and brought the place to a standstill. This meant they also had to listen to my speech before being ushered in, after which I gave a talk across the road in a big building with an even bigger chimney. It was funny: for a couple of hours I was treated like a rock star. Being western, dressed in black, clutching a microphone and wearing shades probably helped. Anyway, I quite enjoyed the endless interviews: "Why are you touring this exhibition? Which is your favourite group? What do you think of Pingyao International Photography Festival?". I like it very much thank you.

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