Today, in Shanghai, I walked to the Museum of Contemporary Art. Except that Google Maps (displaying my directions in Chinese) instead took me to what must have been some sort of government or military office complex.
I approached the wide, open gate and was met by a stern-faced (somewhat perplexed) guard. I walked up to show him the address (which was written in Chinese) for where I was trying to go but in doing so, inadvertently stepped over a white line painted on the pavement. Suddenly three guards stepped forward to intercept me and raised their voices – I assume to tell me to back the train up. I know I can often seem like a significant national security threat, so I obliged.
I eventually found the MoCA and had the weirdest art experience ever. The guide explained to me that I needed to enter the futuristic installation and find the password in order to get out (everything was in Chinese). He encouraged me to take a wheelchair but I politely declined.
Walking through the entrance, I was scanned by lasers. A toilet with metal letters in the bowl, animated alien go-go dancers and mind-bending swirly constellations were just a few of the things I encountered. I got to the end and, true to his word, the guide would not let me out…because I hadn’t found the password. I backtracked through the installation and he let me exit via the entrance. He pointed me towards a curtain saying I could leave by the special exit but after pulling and feeling my way along the wall, I realized there was no way to go through.
On my walk back to the hotel, I saw a man on a moped drive up to an elderly woman. He stopped, they exchanged curt words and she handed him a clear plastic bag with a large goldfish in it. He hung it on the scooter and drove away.
In the last 50 yards, I heard a weird combination of circus music and opera blaring behind me. I turned and saw its source – a rough, shirtless man wearing a leather vest, on one of those Harleys with huge handlebars. He was attempting to drive he motorcycle up onto the sidewalk.
Just another day in Shanghai…