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Krasner in Shanghai; take two

*****My work is featured on the PHOTOGRAPHY OF CHINA web site which is written and curated by Art Historian Marine Cabos*****


Krasner in Shanghai: take one
Krasner in Shanghai; take three (Part 2, A Trip to the Country)
Krasner in Shanghai; take four (Part 3, A Trip to the Country)
Krasner in Shanghai; take five (Part 4, A Trip to the Country)



Over the next month you will receive a 5 part Vlog/Blog on my trip to the JiangXi Province of China with a man I didn’t know who my friends only knew as the waiter in their Chinese restaurant in Virginia, U.S.A.. He was in China during the Cultural Revolution and I went with him to visit the town he was sent to at age 16 to work in the rice fields. I think what is interesting here, is the cultural clash between a ‘regular’ American woman and a ‘regular’ Chinese man who I would like to believe, underneath the immediate problems, felt compassion for each others predicaments though neither, and I stress neither, had any intention of changing their ways to accommodate the other.

My writing reflects my immediate frustration as I had absolutely no previous understanding of Chinese culture whatsoever and was given no clues. My images on the other hand, I hope, reflect the compassion I had for Eddy and my extraordinary fascination and awe of China and its incredible people.    – Jenny Krasner






On the train to the JiangXi Province…. I am not entirely sure who I am with or exactly where I’m going, honestly. Susan and Peter really like this guy, Eddy, that either serves food or does the dishes at a Chinese restaurant near them in Virginia, U.S.A.. He’s in Shanghai to visit his family so they gave him my email address. Anyway….he told me he was born in Shanghai before the Cultural Revolution, lived there during it with his parents who had their business and job taken away from them and then after it. He has a son in the U.S. but I have no idea where his wife is. He said he came to the U.S. and then his family couldn’t come, it’s unclear. Anyway…he came to the Swatch Hotel and was dressed like a proper gentleman…I on the other hand, as I knew nothing about him and thought he was a kid, was dressed in a white tee shirt printed with a rabbit made out of wood with holes through him waving a gun, jeans and the now old, New Balance sneakers.  He is Buddhist, told me he doesn’t drink, is understated and an extremely nice person; clearly we have nothing in common ( ;-) ). Nevertheless, that night, after an evening out with the SAPHArtists (Swatch Art Peace Hotel Artists) and feeling rather too happy, I emailed him and flippantly suggested that he pick some place to go and we should go there. He’s only here for a month, but the next morning, thinking, oh no, why did I do that…I get a return email which said…O.K..

The following morning at 11 a.m., I went into my studio and the phone rang…it was Eddy and he sounded put out, and he said, “I have been calling you since 7:30 in the morning!!! Where have you been!!! Why you not picking up the phone?!!!!!!!”. Apparently, he decided we had to leave suddenly, going who knows where…I knew absolutely nothing about this. Anyway….he went to get tickets and we are on the train, today, the following day. Yesterday he needed my passport to get the tickets and phoned me again. It took over an hour to get to the bank, train station, and then find him though he did offer to come pick it up. Somehow, I wound up paying for his, mine and some ‘agents’ ticket who is with us….we are staying with Eddy’s friend in a place that I was told was VERY rustic…WITH the agent, I think…. I THINK the agent is supposed to take us around and is also a friend of this guy we are staying with, but nothing was made clear to me AT ALL, not even where we are going. I would rather not have paid for everyone’s ticket and just stayed at an ‘inn’ but maybe not, who knows…anyway…..I have no choice but to…(oooooh, we’re going past massive cooling towers!….and rows and rows of four story houses that all look the same……imagine, living in clear view of five nuclear or chemical cooling towers. And now a pagoda on top of a little hill…and factories…and now old run down houses with the brown/orange roofs and a little polluted river. …piles of garbage all put into collections by color…little piles of red, clear, yellow and blue garbage).

“You are Here”  Imagine not knowing where you’re going, who you’re with or where you are for five days

Eddy is mad at me because I was in a different waiting area from him at the South Shanghai Train station which looks exactly like an airport, really really nice, except they will not stop blasting musac…..and now that we’re on the train, they are STILL blasting MUSAC….for eight entire hours!!!! ….oh….and then people are walking up and down the aisle with electric microphone speakers attached to their heads belting out some advertisements in Chinese NON-STOP….selling Tiger Balm and fruit and toothbrushes…it’s so weird…I mean, they pay what I imagine for them is a fortune for these tickets, and then they can’t read or do anything at all where they would have to think….it is impossible to think….but luckily….I learned one major thing from traveling so much, EAR PLUGS OR DIE.  …anyway, Eddy is mad at me because he was waiting in section #9 and I was completely in another section, #8, and when they let us on, I had to phone him and he told me to come to #9 and I told him….which I guess I should not have done…that HE needed to come to gate #8. Well….I was right, #9 would have been fine except it was the front of the train and no where near where we should be….AND…….if I had KNOWN that there was a first class (that was completely empty by the way) I would have bought him and me 1st class tickets…..even the ear plugs cannot drown out the man screaming at us all to buy this and that with his speaker and the horrible nullifying never ending drone of MUSAC….

“Eddy and The Agent”  (Eddy’s on the right)














So…..all squooshed in here in last class….my huge bag (Eddy has a tiny backpack), is carrying a gift of assorted sweets which Segoline (sculptor, but fun video she did) and Cyril (his films) (spent at least an hour or more helping me pick out last night after some sushi. Segoline will be back in Geneva when I return which way too bad because she is fabulous….Well this is odd, now that we are starting to get out of Shanghai…3 ½ hours later…there are huge advertising signs way up in the air on metal poles like along the 95 interstate in the U.S…..really out of place with the marble Chinese burial plots up a hill in the background.  Great, now it’s getting hot, it is HOT then cool then HOT then cool….ugh. …now highways and advertisements up in the air and houses, all looking the same…you might as well be in the United States…except for the POLLUTION…OMG…it is GRAY GRAY GRAY GRAY GRAY…and SMOGGY SMOGGY SMOGGY…….now THIS is how I remembered China…….but Shanghai seems to be different which is why I wanted to come back to Shanghai;  Not even Beijing is like it.  Maybe the North East might be less marred by technology and the dreaded ‘international global awareness’.  All the applications for American Universities I’ve been applying to for teaching positions stress that they are looking for someone who has an open, transdisciplinary internationally globally aware pedagogical approach. You want to know what global awareness is? Global awareness is pollution and poverty and massive incomprehensible discrepancy between the rich and the poor, it’s Starbucks, McDonalds, Wal-Mart, Gucci and Lady GaGa….global *$#%ing awareness, Kumbai *$#%ing Ya.

“Global Awareness” McDonald’s in the Pudong (business) District, across the Huangpu River from SAPH













It’s crazy depressing out the window…new four story condo looking row houses…and then poverty, houses falling to pieces, pollution, so much building of STUFF going on, so many trees removed, coal everywhere…mud, lots of mud…and soooooooo GRAY and then in the train car, the people shrieking with the speaker/microphone headsets…well, it’s good I can’t understand what they’re saying, that would be a lot worse.




O.K., this is VERY confusing, I mean EXTREMELY confusing, and I’m feeling really uncomfortable….but I suppose it doesn’t really matter.

Anyway….So Eddy, who I am also confused by the relationship to why my friends Susan and Peter know him, but that is entirely my fault for not paying attention to when they told me……I think they only see their waiter Eddy at their Chinese Restaurant about once a month when they go there,….so I have a funny feeling, they know him probably a little bit better than I know my friend at my Chinese restaurant….but that is hardly the problem at the moment.

When I met Eddy at the train station to buy the tickets, of which, as you know, I bought ALL the tickets, he kept stressing to me, that I should NOT WORRY…and that I WAS NOT GOING TO BE KIDNAPPED!!!! And that everything was SAFE!!!!!…..You know, just like when the cops put a wire on a pedestrian in the movies and they get freaked out and say to the man they are trying to capture….and WHY DID YOU KILL THE MAN WHO SOLD YOU THE COCAINE?????!?!?!?!?!?

So….I was thinking…I don’t know these men, and really, how well do Susan and Peter really know him…

TO BE CONTINUED next Wednesday………

“Dead Ducks” in the Old City of Shanghai