Kunming Markets


Location: Kunming City, Yunnan Province, Yong He Xing Market and Zhuan Xin Market
Date: August 7-8, 2012
Description: Sumi ink, watercolors, brushes, paper, painting sad penguins in popular fresh food markets.

I was selected by the curators to participate in Kunming Markets, a project bringing contemporary experimental art to fresh food markets. I spent two days painting in a smaller neighborhood market named Yong He Xing Market. This small covered market of family operated stalls has green grocers, butchers, dry goods, street food stalls, and cheap manufactured household goods. I made friends with the children who spend the day with their parents working at the market.

photo credit: orion martin
photo credit: orion martin

penguins in the meat market
penguins in the meat market

I set up my painting station in our rented stall next to the butchers. I painted sad penguins and gave them away. Mostly only children accepted my penguins.


The excess penguins I taped up on the tiled columns of the market. Each tile a perfect frame for a sad penguin.


On the third day, the curators had me perform in Zhuan Xin Market, a destination popular market. This is the market people travel from all over the city and region to get specialty items and everyday goods. Zhuan Xin is several large markets surrounded by improvised markets sprawling into neighboring streets and sidewalks.


My stall was amongst the mushrooms, vegetables, and a stall of art supplies.


photo credit: jay brown
photo credit: jay brown


From my writing for the Kunming Markets project website:
“It is a sad penguin. It might not be all about climate. Some penguins just feel sorry for the human people.
I sit at a table and paint very simple ink and water color penguins on small pieces of paper. I try to make them feel as sad as possible. If any spectators come along, I offer them one or more of the penguins. Then we often talk about sadness, penguins, ice, ducks, eggs, climate heating, and other sad penguin related subjects. Sometimes we take photos together. When my work area becomes full and crowded with sad penguin paintings, I gather them together and tape them up in strips and grids on nearby surfaces. I can paint hundreds in a day. ‘sad penguins’ is a very simple performance that attempts to communicate non-violently with and about sadness, penguins, cuteness, and the hyperobject called climate change.”

sad penguins at Zhuan Xin Market
sad penguins at Zhuan Xin Market

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