I spent my final morning in Beijing on a somewhat comical and fruitless quest to ship these stones and bricks by sea. This is what I mean to be as part of their “life” span, and I am curious to see how “weathered” they become in the process.
This all began yesterday afternoon when I took a trip to the Beishatan Market, which is just outside of the Beishatan metro stop—an amazingly huge and cheap market that not a whole lot of people seem to be aware of. I must say, that of all of the many markets that I have visited in Beijing, that this one is probably my favorite… no need to haggle too much, all sorts of every kind of “stuff” imaginable, super cheap, and never-ending!
I arrived there on a Monday afternoon, which appeared to be a shipment day. There were loads of people unpacking hundreds—likely thousands of boxes of goods. I first walked around to score some last minute gifts for friends and family, and then thought that this is a prime opportunity to try and snag myself a box or two to ship my stones with.
I thus began to attempt to haggle with these people, using my trusty itranslate as a poor device to try and offer them money for their boxes. I tried this with one woman and gave her my puppy dog face, which scored me one box…. And so I tried my luck to see if I could get three—oh, but no, no, no. Couldn’t have three… So, I sauntered around further amongst the stalls and tried to ask another woman, who just shook her head sternly… and then another… no, no, no… so finally I was getting desperate. I attempted to simply take one out of a large group of folded up boxes, but nearly had a mass of people chase me down! Really? Of all of these many, many boxes, they could give up just a few? Only one??? Shucks. I was stuck. Who knew cardboard boxes were such a hot commodity in China. So, I hung my head and headed back to the studio on the subway with my singular box in the hopes that I could make it work.
Back at the studio, I began to process of wrapping up the stones and bricks. I first dampened them a bit, and then wrapped them in the raw linen that I had dripped the gouache on, which served as something like a shroud for the stones. I liked this idea of the stone being wrapped and “buried” and shipped by sea, where it would arrive and be “reborn” or some such, with the linen carrying some remains of evidence of its travel.
So, I wrapped each stone and brick with each of the 8 pieces of torn linen. And dismantled my singular box that I had fought so sorely for and wrapped them into two smaller constructed boxes that I intended to ship off.
That morning, one of the residency volunteers offered to meet me to help with the language translation, and so we called a taxi and lugged these boxes of stones and bricks into the first taxi and set off to a post office near the 798 gallery district.
We lugged the stones into the post office, and stood in line for a while, only to discover from a woman that they don’t do international shipping there… And so the woman meant to just shove us off with only the most spare description of walking 20 minutes down the street. Yeah. That wasn’t going to cut it. Not with these things to carry. So, we get her to pull out this crazy map and we photographed it as she explained, and then lugged the stones back out to the street.
At this point, I was truly wishing that I had eaten something more for breakfast. Silly me thought that this would be a much easier task than it was. Ha.
Ok. Next taxi. We showed him the map and got to the next poste offic. Lugged the bricks and stones into the next place, where they indicated that I should cut the boxes open to show them what was inside. Oh my.
So, I unwrapped one of the shrouds and they all looked at my like I was crazy and this woman said that she had to call her supervisor…. So, chat, chat, chat… she talked to the supervisor, and then came out from the office laughing a bit and proceeded to tell us to take them behind the building to this other loading dock. Oh lovely.
I learned that the Chinese postal system has a connected off-shoot called EMS, which does air mail. This is where we were sent. Ok fine… But I didn’t want the stones to go by air. I wanted them to go by sea. Anyhow, we lugged the boxes outside, across a parking lot to this loading dock where we met a very nice man who wanted to help us out. He took them to the back and put them on the scale and proceeded to tell us that it would be around $800 to send these things, and that they did not ship by sea. Only air. How disappointing. So, at this point, I really needed to get back so that I could grab my things and get to the airport.
Back to the taxi for the stones and back to the studio for us all. I left that day being assured that they would try and find a way to ship them in the next few days after I had left…. So, we will see what happens! Quite the saga…