Friday, September 23, 2005

Blue Sun

I was in Mongolia last summer. There's plenty of time to discuss My Summer Vacation in subsequent posts, but this simply cannot wait, because I just remembered it.

Ulaanbaatar is a strange city, flat & industrial & post-Soviet with a fetal spirit of capitalism emerging amid the decaying apartment buildings. This is still a predominantly nomadic country: even in the capital city, the "suburbs" are composed of gers (traditional felt tents) by the thousand (recent emigrants from the countryside who are quite likely to return to livestock herding if city life doesn't work out). Many restaurants and businesses are not exactly in high-traffic areas; they're just as likely to be in a sheltered courtyard, far from any street or sidewalk.

One day I followed a series of hand-painted red arrows to the dingy basement of an apartment building in one such courtyard. This was the Blue Sun Mongolian Contemporary Art Studio & Center. Really, it was just a bunch of guys hanging out and getting drunk on freely poured Chinggis vodka. [Incidentally, unlike Chinggis vodka, Chinggis beer is not bad. Check out their "virtual testing Chinggis beer" website. Like a horde of warriors thundering across the corpse-strewn steppes-- a simile courted by the website developer-- it will rock your world.] Oh, and a coupla paintings. They were kind enough to get me drunk as well, a phenomenon that took perhaps seconds to occur. The fellas were friendly but bewildered: they'd been open a week, and I was the very first gallery visitor. No wonder they were getting wasted. Did I have art-loving Western friends? Could I please direct them to the gallery? I couldn't really solve their attendance problem at the time; I could only get drunk and sway back & forth. But I'm trying to make up for it now. Art-loving Western friends, go visit the Blue Sun Gallery. Follow the red arrows; it's near the UB Guesthouse.

Don't remember the guy's name, but I met someone who claimed to be Mongolia's first performance artist. He dressed up in a black suit & tie, smeared mud all over his body & head, and wandered around Ulaanbaatar. Thusly do Western cultures & values progress inexorably around the world, illuminating all dark corners with the gentle light of freedom.