In China, I am a 'foreigner', or laowai. When I first arrived in Beijing the casual application of this label made me uneasy. While I’ve come to realise that the term is not always negatively dished out, it continues to conjure up a sense of strange against familiar, foreign versus local, international divided from national. Interestingly, the permeation of 'foreignness' and its operation across social, historical, political and professional domains in China is both nuanced and complex. How foreignness is applied within these various spheres illuminates conflicting armies on the battlefield of belonging.
Michael Chow's exhibition opened this week at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing. Here’s a snapshot of the work, which is characterised by another set of binaries: order and chaos, rigour and improvisation, freedom and control. Chow creates balance between these competing forces using an expressive interplay of mix media. Photo by Raveen Hunjan