Sunday, 27 June 2010


Our walk on the beach at low tide today included a look at Dutch artist Theo Jansen's Strandbeest which has been living and moving around on the sand for a couple of days. Theo Jansen (pictured above with his Strandbeest) explained that the creature was made out of ordinary conduit that is used everywhere in Holland for domestic and industrial buildings. The Strandbeest works on wind power, and uses moving sails to harness wind and store it as air under pressure in plastic bottles. We saw the sails working and saw the Strandbeest walk on the sand. This is the best addition to Exmouth beach that we've ever seen. Jansen drew a crowd of people for his talk about the creature and everyone was delighted to see the Strandbeest walking on the beach. There is also a smaller model that can be pulled along to demonstrate the mechanism in action and that was in use all the time. The Strandbeest is going to Exeter city centre for a few days during the Exeter Festival, and there is a Theo Jansen exhibition at Spacex currently.

Friday, 25 June 2010


I was in Shanghai and Hanzhou from 1 - 10 June for the conference Modernism and the Orient, held at the Santai Villa Hotel, Hangzhou, on 5 - 7 June. I gave a paper on the English poets Harry Guest and Lee Harwood, choosing Guest's 'Two Poems for O-Bon' and Harwood's 'Chen' as poems that represent Japanese and Chinese cultures in their different ways. There were more than seventy papers at the conference, including contributions from Ron Bush, Ira Nadel, Daniel Albright, Sabine Sielke, Christine Froula, Zhaoming Qian, Fen Gao, Qiping Yin and Jiande Lu. I particularly liked the papers by Richard Parker, David Ewick, Dorsey Kleitz but as usual I was only too aware of the papers I was missing because of timetable clashes. A high point was the visit to the Lingyin Temple on a hillside near Hangzhou, my first visit to a Buddhist site, something I should have done about forty years ago. It was a wonderful experience to see the different temples and huge carved Buddhas, buddhist saints and warrior guardians. I was invited to give a lecture at very short notice at Shanghai Institute of Foreign Trade and so time for exploring Hangzhou and Shanghai was limited, but I did get to spend some time at the Shanghai Museum, a day in all, some of it with my friend Wendy Flory of Purdue University in USA who is a good companion and knows a great deal about Chinese Art. I was looked after in Shanghai and Hangzhou by various University postgraduate students and staff, a really warm welcome and great hospitality. The photos above are 1 West Lake, Hangzhou; 2 Lingyin Temple; 3 Buddhist Stele, Shanghai Museum; 4 Lingyin Temple; 5 Memorial temple for Yu Qian. My trip to China was sponsored by the British Academy, I'm really grateful for their support.