Cristina de Middel

Artists are a rare breed of mind. Rarely do they care much for the truth, for they know it is a myth. Yet, they love to instigate discussions surrounding this myth. They love to make you think. By means of light, eyes, and hands, artists across centuries have lined the road to curiosities, paved with good intentions from such minds we call ‘Masters’.


Cristina de Middel is one of this century’s new Masters.


At Spark International Festival of Media, Arts and Design, we were informed Cristina has 12 exhibitions opening globally this year, three of which were occurring on the same day. Two years previous to this, Cristina was, broadly speaking, relatively unknown on such a scale. How did she achieve such success at a tremendously quick pace?


Passion, delight, and “a little revenge every day”.


Cristina was a successful photo-journalist, working for large businesses like Reuters, all the way across to NPO’s based in third world countries. She learnt the traditional formulaic approach, in which news stories would be re-hashed every year at around the same time as years previous. There were only so many corrupt politicians one could photograph before the sport became as exciting as watching paint dry. The “informative value of the document” (document meaning photograph), recycled year after year, started to lose its mystical qualities of “truth” to Cristina. As a result, she created a blog (and a little payback) that ignited her curiosity and set her future alight.


This blog allowed for her experiments to gain momentum alongside the traditional 9-5 job she claimed as her security blanket. She would photograph the generic “truth” wanted by the media, then set about obtaining her own story from the same locations. This parallel allowed for quirky and delightful discussions. It was here that she could see documents need not be for shock/horror, but can be used for fun, for play, for discussions that asked from the audience, not tell you what you need to know.


I particularly enjoyed her project involving spam mail. She proudly declared she probably owns the largest collection of spam mail in the world. Now, spam is something we generally try to avoid. It wastes time (and for some ridiculous folks, their money). But spam is a great curiosity, in that it shows the creative nature of people, especially when trying to coerce others to release some of their hard earned cash towards their woeful tales of despair. Stories from her collection ranged from Nigerian banks, to marriage proposals, and a thousand more in between. Cristina selected eight delightful spam ‘stories’ and created from them an image to represent it. Turning a fictional string of sentences, into a real world image. Instantly, she blurred what we took to be fake Internet hash, and created images we would take (with a grain of salt) to be a representation of some idea of “truth”. 


Her wonderment and inspiring dedication to her work fuelled the rest of the presentation, with works like ‘The Afronauts’ detailing how she tricked mainstream media, the world she learnt all the rules of “truth” in, and changed what can be considered ‘real’.


Cristina de Middel is a force to be reckoned with. This new Master is going to show us that the galleries she shows in, these white cubes well known for holding fiction in high esteems, might instead show us, inside her documents, the real world we’ve been curious about all along,


Trust me on this, it’s the truth.




Cristina de Middel:











Job interview questions.

So I might be moving to Beijing.


And this thought (irrationally) terrifies me.


Update: I am progressing upon the idea of not working at 43 Middle School next year. I cannot deny that it has been a great learning experience, but the time has come for me to move on to something that gets me closer to what I actually want to do.


(I’m not sure exactly what it is I want to do, however a change of pace usually gets me closer to it; do not attempt to dislodge this logic as it’s all I have going for me).


I have had two prospective work places contact me so far. One is for a high school graduate training school in Shijiazhuang. The other is for an oral English teacher in Kede College, Beijing.


Pros for Shijiazhuang:


I know the city already.

The city is very cheap to live in.

I have friends here.


Pros for Beijing:


Hi-tech art school (with their own fricken 3D cinema mayun).

Two days work for twice the money I currently make.

Capital of China.


They both have their respective cons as well, but I want to look on the bright side of life when making this decision do doo bedoop bedoop bedoooop.


But I must pause on this discussion, and write the reason for today’s post:


Today I had to give a demo lesson to the job in Shijiazhuang. They gave me an elementary level book that they have in their curriculum (published by Oxford, so already very promising), and asked for a half hour lesson to be provided. So I biked over with a .ppt in my pocket this afternoon and showed them what I came up with. There were no students to test the lesson on, so I had teacher’s sit in and watch/discuss my methods and approach to the book. One teacher, and the main character of my story, was named Liam.


Liam arrived late (already promising) but was polite during my lesson completion. At the end, when we had time to discuss various points, he was very interested in listening to a native English speakers opinion to how the Chinese textbooks continuously have damaging English mistakes, which permeate within the entire English development of China.


Then this question appeared.


“Are you religious?”


While somewhat taken aback, I answer truthfully and said “No.”

His reply to sum up was “That’s great, most of China is not religious either.”


I have had this question before, and while it is a little rare it’s still something foreigners are expected to be asked once or twice in China.


Then another question, “What is your blood type?” Again a little taken aback I say “B negative.”


“B is what a lot of Chinese are!”


Ok this is getting weird. But then conversation resumes back to the job so I think the strangeness is over.


Alas it was not. The grand finale, complete with a dead-pan serious face, “What is your star sign?”




“Ah, the fire sign, I knew it.” And he proceeded to rattle off the many reason he knew I was a fire type. (I didn’t know I had stumbled into Avatar). Then he asks, “What do you think I am, I’ll give you a hint, I am a water type.”


And so my brain, not knowing how to play this game, automatically things Aquarius, logic being aqua=water=correct.




The look of sadness and horror as I said this to him is unbelievable, and hard to describe using the limited vocabulary I know.


“Aquarius is an air type actually.”


Well shit son, my bad.




So that’s a quick update about my brain. Chat to me, what school do you think I should look into? I’ll put on record saying I would be immensely happy with the Kede College job. My inhibitions are currently stuck in the whole ‘moving to another place where I know absolutely NOBODY’ phase. How do I get out of this, any tips guys?


Until next time, China you stay classy (and crazy).