Finding Kukan - Uncovering the Story of An Asian-American Female Producer from the 1940's

KUKAN, a landmark color film that revealed the atrocities of World War II China to audiences around the world, was the first ever American feature documentary to receive an Academy Award in 1942 and was considered lost for decades. When filmmaker Robin Lung discovers a badly damaged film print of KUKAN, she pieces together the inspirational tale of the two renegades behind the making of it — Chinese American playwright Li Ling-Ai and cameraman Rey Scott.

Hutong Photographer

With a camera around his neck, this wandering old gentleman is, however, no tourist at all, but a Beijing native. His photographic journey through the city’s famous hutongs started in the 1980s, when he hung around, trying to capture any interesting views. His neighbors used to think of he had a screw loose.


30 years later, you can find the same kind of wanderers with their cameras on almost every corner.


This 55-year-old man is Jia Yong, who’s been living in south Beijing with five generations of his family. Now he runs a luzhu – stewed pork offal – restaurant in the Dashilar shopping street which is south of Tian’anmen Square. This restaurant is renowned for the black-and-white photos upon its walls, and in those photos, Jia has preserved what the hutongs used looked like decades ago.


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Funkhaus Berlin: A Facility With an Illustrious Past

Walk down Köpenicker Chaussee, past Club Sisyphus, into industrial area that looks like an abandoned cold-war nuclear facility. When you see the alien spacecraft, you’ll know you’ve arrived at the Funkhaus, a mysterious one of a kind landmark of Berlin music culture.

The Funkhaus is not an all night disco – funk means radio in german– rather, it’s a colossal East German structure that used to be the largest radio-broadcasting site in the world. Think of it as the BBC of the DDR. After the fall of the wall, and despite a series of ambiguous ownerships since the 90’s, the Funkhaus maintained its relevance renting out its numerous studios to artists. Today the facility is a treasure trove for musicians, sound designers, producers, film directors, performance artists, and a great resource for anyone interested in Berlin history or architecture.

Berlin’s Ethical Fashion Show opens at new Funkhaus venue

The Funkhaus was built in 1951 at a time when Berlin was carved up by Allied powers. East and west Berlin had just begun a decades long competitive tradition of who could make their part of the city look more prosperous. Radio was emerging as a battleground for political ideology and the Deutsche Democratic Republic needed a way to compete with broadcasts coming from the West.

The DDR chose famous Bauhaus architect Franz Ehrlich to lead the design of a massive new broadcasting center. As a communist Ehrlich had spent half of the previous decade as a prisoner of the Third Reich, forced to build entryway arches to concentration camps. Now his job was to create the world’s largest and most sophisticated recording facility. It promised to be an ideal marriage of German functionality and Eastern decadence. The DRR gave him a generous budget and Ehrlich’s work turned out to be the greatest of his life.

Skunkfunk’s CEO at Berlin’s Ethical Fashion Show

Continue reading at Berlin Logs.


Ancient Porcelain Arts Thrive Again in a Chinese River Town

JINGDEZHEN, China — For centuries, the most coveted china from China came out of Jingdezhen’s workshops — fashioned from clay made smooth by trained hands, fired in kilns and then transported across the world.

The works graced the courts of the Persians, Mongols and French. Some craved blue-and-white vases. Others admired jade-green celadon bowls. This was China’s greatest export, the rival of silk.

The fall of the Qing dynasty and war and revolutions in the 20th century broke the artisan culture, unless one counts Communist statues as an important stage in China’s hallowed porcelain tradition.

Now that tradition is being revived at the roots. Young people are moving to study in Jingdezhen, a river town in the southern Chinese province of Jiangxi. Studios and workshops have popped up around town and in the surrounding valleys. Some of the new artisans hope to profit from their skills, since the country’s middle-class boom of recent decades has meant a greater demand for porcelain.

Continue reading at NYT

Art Village: A Year in Caochangdi

The warning arrived early on an April morning in 2010: a sheet of paper emblazoned with the red seal of the local party. “Notice,” it said, in big, bold Chinese characters. “Due to the rapid development of our cities, our village belongs to a demolition area. The date for demolition is uncertain.” The village secretary personally delivered the notice, one of hundreds issued that day in Caochangdi Art Village, on the outskirts of Beijing.

RongRong was busy when the message arrived. He and his wife, inri — founders and co-directors of the Three Shadows Photography Art Centre — were planning to launch Caochangdi’s first annual art festival, PhotoSpring, the next day. In the decade since the influential artist Ai Weiwei had moved to this sleepy district just off the Airport Expressway, Caochangdi had grown into an international center of contemporary art. Three Shadows played a major role in that transformation. Founded in 2007, the sprawling 4,600-square-meter gallery complex, designed by Ai, was the first contemporary art space dedicated exclusively to Chinese photography. RongRong hoped that PhotoSpring would further unify the district’s galleries through a couple of months of exhibitions.

Now the demolition notice put all that in jeopardy; RongRong worried the festival would be canceled. Residents could challenge the eviction, but their chances for success were slim. When the nearby art village of Suojiacun was razed the year before, artists had only a few weeks’ notice to vacate their studios, and some carted out their work as bulldozers approached.

Neighborhood demolitions, and the lives they disrupt, have become a common story in Beijing and across China, and not only in arts communities. In 2011, China became for the first time a mostly urban country, with more than half the population living in cities. Today more than a third of Beijing’s 20 million residents are migrants, and because they need spaces to live, work and play, the city’s traditional housing, scattered in a mazelike warren of hutong, or alleyways, is being demolished at record rates. In its place rise multi-story offices, shopping centers and apartment buildings. A staggering 2 billion square meters of new buildings are added in China each year.

grabs” initiated by developers without official oversight; in such cases shadowy demolition crews evict residents by force or with inadequate compensation. Indeed, land seizures and disputes are now the chief cause of social unrest in China.  The most resilient residents resort to life as dingzi hu — literally “nail households” that stick out like a stubborn nail because they refuse to budge. But eventually they give up, and when the bulldozers roll in, few beyond the immediate community pay much heed.  Anyone living in the path of development — poor or middle class, famous or anonymous — can be served an eviction notice, and there’s little chance for recourse in a country with a complicated history of property rights.

Continue reading at Places Journal