Sometimes it is important to consider the past.

August 14, 2022

I am an American living in China. In these times of heated tensions between the U.S. and China it is important to remember that things have not always been, and need not continue to be this way.

As an expat living on this side of the Pacific Ocean, I am keenly aware of Sino-US relations. Under intelligent leadership like that of Presidents Franklin Delano Roosevelt and more recently Obama, we have benefited from engagement with China. Many American business people enjoyed the benefit of President Obama’s engagement with China’s President Xi Jing Ping, when together they ironed out a 6 to 10 year mutual Business Visa scheme in 2014.

This relationship changed drastically under the inflammatory rhetoric of Donald Trump and continues to deteriorate under a sustained program of sanctions, accusations and provocation adopted by President Biden and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken. Most Americans don’t understand China, nor have had much direct experience with the country, so the misunderstandings allow this policy to continue unquestioned.

For this reason, I will reflect here on a little history documented in a recent visit to the Flying Tiger Museum in Kunming, China. Like the people of Berlin, Germany, who hold the pilots of the U.S. air force in high regard for their role in the “Berlin Airlift”, the people of Kunming, China honor the spirit of the Americans who came to their aid in overthrowing the Japanese occupation of their country during the Second World War. During this conflict 35 million Chinese people died.

It was under these circumstances that many Americans volunteered to come to China, to aid the Chinese people in this struggle. “In the Chinese war of resistance against Japanese aggression close friends from allied nations, especially the American Flying Tigers, fought side by side with the Chinese people and forged a profound friendship.

Although American Air Task Force challenged Japanese control in the air, it was difficult for them to achieve air superiority, because of its small size. On March 8, 1943, U.S. President Roosevelt decided to strengthen American Air Force stationed in China by establishing the 14th Army Air Force. The 14th Army Air Force were established on the basis of the “Flying Tigers”. Compared with the volunteer group and Air Task Force, the 14th Army Air Force had larger military forces, better and varied planes, and more supplies.

From 1941 to 1945, these units worked with the China-India Union Force of American Transport Command, which undertook the Hump Ferrying tasks (supply flights over the Himalaya Mountains), as well as the 58th Heavy Bomber Wing and Doolittle Bombardment Brigade, which jointly performed the action of bombing Japan. All these soldiers have shed blood, devoted their lives, and fought courageously for victory. Chinese people will always commemorate and cherish the Flying Tigers and their glorious achievements. In late October 1943, Chinese-American Composite Wing of the 14th AAF was established. Though commanded by the 14th AAF, it followed China Air Force establishment so on the body of planes, the national emblem of KMT Government were painted. The Chinese-American Composite Wing was an important component of the 14th Army Air force. It signified joint effort of U.S. and China against Japanese invasion as well as Sino-U.S. people’s friendship.” 1

1 Text from the Kunming Flying Tigers Museum exhibition.

Trump’s folly stripped bare.

May 8, 2020

If there is one positive side to this Coronavirus scare it may be that it exposes the ignorance of the current American administration’s policies of denying scientific fact, evicerating public services and allowing extreme health care disfunctions to persist. 

Hopefully it will aide in making Americans aware that the current government is working against their interests. Instead, it works to support the voracious business practices of the biggest corporations, and an elite that sees its own wealth as a foil to insulate it from the plagues that inflict the masses they rule.  If you work in the American Meat Industry you may have just come face to face with this reality. You have a Presidential Mandate to go to work, or risk loosing your job and your unemployment insurance. In addition the same administration is suggesting legislature to take away your right to sue your employer when they fail to provided the safe work environment and equipment that you need to protect yourself and your family.

I am American, but I am living in China. I’ve just come out of my own days in quarantine here in Guangdong province where I live. I can say first hand, I’ve seen in China a government response that speaks to a committment in protecting its citizens. Enough so, that a 40 day shut down of the nation’s economy was not too much to ask to save lives. 

I certainly do not see such an interest back home. There is a leadership in the U.S. so selfishly in denial of basic facts that they are willing to strip away any of the meager health care benefits put in place by earlier administrations, to leave millions of their own citizens at the mercy of private health brokers. How much will you have to pay for your COVID-19 test? In China mine was free and the health workers that administered it brought me the groceries I needed while in quarantine,which they paid for. 

‌The calus disregard for human life certainly shocked many when President Trump announced that the death figures in the U.S, which are already the world’s worst, may top 100,000 of its citizens. Even more so, while Mr. Trump at the same time announced the reopening of the American Economy. 

‌The CDC / Center for Disease Control, the one public bastion of defense available to the American people is so economically strapped, or operatively disfunctional that the COVID-19 test kits distributed to the states was producing false results. Major cities in the U.S were hard pressed to find a method to test sick citizens, to the extent that New York had to produce its own test kit for the virus. 

‌This is just one front in the calamities soon to face us. We have a shrinking world of interdependent nations and a more pressing need for global cooperation. The spector of global warming makes it all too real a possibility that the pathogens entombed, in what was once perma-frost, will now come back haunt us with the plagues of our past. Maybe it is time we wake up?

The fashion of distress

April 15, 2019
Hong Kong MTR 13 April, 2019


Anyone who remembers the 1970’s knows the infatuation most young people had with their blue jeans at the time. Jeans were in essence the symbol of an individual’s freedom, sense of adventure and individuality. Even more so as the jeans got older showing the signs of wear and tear. In essence, documenting the adventures they had endured, and the experience’s of their owner.

In Europe, blue jeans were coveted, a hallmark of contemporary American culture. I remember during my first trip to Europe in 1974 in Budapest, Hungary, which was then behind the so called “Iron Curtain”, I had to fend off several requests to purchase my blue jean pants and jacket, from young men in the Hostel dorm room where I stayed. My travel companion, a woman was less fortunate, as one of the other women in her dorm room never bothered to ask, but simply stole her jeans during the night.

Anyway, it is strange today to see here in China how blue jeans, specifically worn and tattered blue jeans have become a comodity. The photo above was taken on a Hong Kong MTR train on 13 April, 2019. Seeing brand new jeans which have been intentionally torn sold in a botique clothing store is not a new thing, I have seen them sold in New York in the past, but what is so pecular here is how these two women having clearly purchased these two denim jeans from the same store, at the same time are wearing pants that have the same manufactured, almost identical tear and shredding. In essence, totally defeating any sense of individuality and perhaps even highlighting the absurdity of buying a processed product that is meant to mimic the wear and tear of use.

An evening of dance at Zhuhai’s Dream Theater

September 16, 2018
                                                                                                                                              photo:  Hobi Ho

Silent Voices, a solo performance by Ning Xi with choreography by Kevin Polak artistic director of KheN, is a deeply psychological work. Performed at the Dream Theater in Zhuhai, China on Friday, September 14, 2018 the performance is scheduled to appear in Shenzhen and Guangzhou in coming months.[1]

Silent Voices, documents a woman’s journey from a state of anxiety and uncertainty to psychic liberation. As Mr. Polak stated, when discussing how he conceived the work, he said it functions as an assessment of the historical role of women and the presentation of a readjustment of that role.

In his writing regarding the performance he wrote, “I kept lingering into the relationship between Men and Women. Silent Voices is a performance about the unspoken words and worth of Women, their fear to speak out and/or be themselves, which is imprinted in their cell memory for millennia, due to numerous reasons. Just to name a few, monotonous religions, society, men’s fear, laws, opinions, awareness and history.”[2]

When asked about the work’s genesis, the choreographer quoted philosopher William Golding in stating: “Whatever you give a woman, she will make greater. If you give her sperm, she’ll give you a baby. If you give her a house, she’ll give you a home. If you give her groceries, she’ll give you a meal. If you give her a smile, she’ll give you her heart. She multiplies and enlarges what is given to her.”

[1] Dalian 10/5-7, Beijing 10/19, Chengdu 10/27, Changde 11/3, Xian 11/10, Kunming 11/19, Guangzhou Dance Festival 11/17-22, Shenzhen 11/30, Nanjing 12/21/2018

[2]  Quoted from Mr. Polak’s article at:


With this Mr. Polak speaks of how the world has turned upside down the roles between men and women. He identifies this work as an attempt to address the imbalance and prescribe a remedy.

On stage, the set was minimally dressed with two folding chairs over which two white fabrics are placed. These function as projection screens hosting the image of water, in this case surf lapping the shore. As Mr. Polak clarified that the structure of the work followed the 5 elements of Chinese philosophy, “water, metal, wood, fire and earth”, this image was meant to articulate the first of these.

The sound track for the performance are songs from the Dutch singers Stef Bos, Maaike Ouboter, Wende Snijders and Irishman, Damian Rice. From Stef Bos we hear, Ik haar gekend I have known her and Damian Rice’s work, Long, long way, which we are told by the choreographer identify the water element and fear.

As the event began, Ning Xi rose from the floor working her way to a microphone placed downstage at its center. She attempted to speak, but could not and from this the dancer moved into her performance. At one point she detached the microphone’s cable and wound it around her body, almost possessed by its form. Her movements became violent spasms as she confronted her entanglement in the cable and at one point sought the aide of a member of the audience to release her.

photo: Zheng Wei Zhuhai TV

These actions were accompanied by a song from Maaike Ouboter, entitled Smoor with lyrics that speak about dispossession and sadness, and we are told by the artistic director are symbolized by the metal element as displayed in the metal of the microphone and its cable.


Later in the performance from a song by Stef Bos, Niet van deze Wereld we get the lyrics:

Stilte is kracht, Jij bent niet van deze wereld. Jij bent niet van deze tijd. Jij strooit zout in open wonden. En ze zijn je liever kwijt dan rijk, Ze zijn je liever kwijt dan rijk.

The English translation: Silence is Power. You are not from this world. You are not from this time. You sprinkle salt in open wounds. They rather get rid of you then acknowledge you.

Lyrics alluding to the awakening of a woman’s power, and the historic attempts to suppress her, as seen in the performance with the dancer undergoing her transformation by stripping away her shirt to reveal the female form below her tightly fitted leotards.

photos:  Zheng Wei, Zhuhai TV

The artistic director of KheN, in describing the significance of the musical score for this work, wrote the following:

“Going from pinky to thumb, pinky is water = fear (first and second songs Stef Bos, Ik haar gekend and Damian Rice’s, Long, long way)

Then ring finger, sadness metal, microphone cable (Maaike Ouboter, Smoor)

Then middle finger – fire – happiness – but in history, the women that where truly connected to their essence were burned as witches ( Stef Bos, Niet van deze Wereld)

Then index finger – wood- aggression ( Wende Snijders, Laat me)

And as a last conclusion thumb – Earth- love (Maaike Ouboter, Lijmen).”[1]

[1]Excerpt from the author’s correspondence with Kevin Polak regarding the musical score for Silent Voices.


photo:  Zheng Wei and Liu Jing, Zhuhai TV

The performance, in this manifestation, was illuminated by a single light source, that of the video projector placed downstage of the dancer. From it the field of movement was illuminated and at times Chinese texts were scrolled, providing a poetic counterpoint to the motion on stage.

The performance moved through the five Chinese elements articulated above with projected images of fire, as the dancer mounted one of the chairs, now positioned upstage, with her background illuminated by the video of projected fire.

photo:  Zheng Wei, Zhuhai TV

It was hard not to be moved by the artist and her struggle. Her freedom came at a moment when an image of her hands cupping soil appeared from behind her, forming a heart shaped pattern.

photo:  Ron Rocco

From this the performer once again approached the microphone, but now her voice was liberated, she spoke:




This is something that was very painful for me and of which I was shameful. The feeling of shame tortured me for a very long time. It was never easy to come forward and talk about it.

Where to start? How would you think of me?

Not willing to look at my pain, or stand on the side talking about this or that and ignore my tears falling down, or to explore any further. I am a woman, I used to feel apologetic about it.

I am a woman, now I feel proud of it.”

In conclusion, the choice of lyrics, stage effects and lighting along with the choreographed movement made this is an extremely well-conceived work coming from an established choreographer of international recognition.

Mr. Polak, who was a member of the Nederlands Dans Theater based in The Hague, has a good knowledge of stage craft, no doubt benefiting from the example of Jirí Kylian the Nederlands Dans Theater’s Artistic Director.

Ning Xi is an accomplished dancer trained in both Asian and western traditions. In China, where Modern Dance and Dance Theater are a novelty, this work is a brilliant beacon signaling the future of dance in China.

Grenfell one year on.

June 18, 2018

photo: (c) Natalie Oxford

TEDx Zhuhai

May 2, 2017

TEDx Xiangzhou /Introducing My Muse: TEDx Reworked FINAL

TED detail  TED1

Dear friends, for those of you who are interested I have provided above a link to the PDF of my live web broadcast TEDx Xiangzhou talk, presented in Zhuhai, China at the Chengchuan Art Gallery in the Beishan Village, April 22, 2017.

Art Basel Hong Kong’s SZ-GZ Tour March 24, 2017

April 4, 2017

SZ-GZ Art Tour

On the road for the 2017 SZ-GZ Art Tour

One of the highlights of this year’s Art Basel Hong Kong Art Fair was the SZ-GZ Tour to Shenzhen and Guangzhou. The bus picked us up at 9:00 from the Hong Kong Expo site and drove to the Mainland border. After passing through the required Chinese Customs check we headed off to the OCT exhibition spaces (

OCT Loft

OCT Loft exhibition space Shenzhen, China

This cultural organization in Shenzhen has been providing a rich diet of cutting edge contemporary art to the Delta region since 2005. Here we viewed a solo exhibition, installation and video work by Simon Denny entitled, Real Mass Entrepreneurship curated by Venus Lau. As a frequent visitor to the OCT Museums I have enjoyed their program, a highlight of which can be seen in this 2016 ‘Land’ Art exhibition, Digging China.

OCT Loft exhibition space

OCT Loft exhibition space’s 2016 exhibition, Digging China

Next after a small bus mishap we were taxied off to our second stop, which was the Shenzhen-Shekou offices of the Frank F. Yang Art and Education Foundation ( where a wonderful exhibition was prepared by curator Biljana Ciric to go with a great bag lunch.

From Shenzhen we then headed off to the Chinese mega city of Guangzhou, known historically as Canton it is the largest city and capital of Guangdong province. Guangzhou, which is located on the Pearl River is approximately 120 kilometers northwest of Hong Kong, and has an estimated population of over 13 million. Here our first stop was in the delta-lands just outside the city the site of the Mirrored Gardens, hosted by Vitamin Creative Space (

Mirrored Gardens at Vitamin Creative Space

The architecture of ‘Mirrored Gardens’ is designed by Sou Fujimoto Architects

Mirrored Gardens at Vitamin Creative Space

the Mirrored Gardens

Mirrored Gardens at Vitamin Creative Space

The Mirrored Gardens

Zheng Guogu at Vitamin Creative Space

Zheng Guogu exhibition, The Winding Path to Trueness.

Here we were presented with the work of Zheng Guogu, The Winding Path to Trueness. The architecture and landscaping of this tropical garden designed by Sou Fujimoto Architects is spectacular! Onward to the final stop on this trip, one of my favorite sites in Guangzhou, the Times Museum ( in the city’s Huangbian district. Here curator Nikita Yingqian Cai guided us through the exhition, The Man Who Never Threw Anything Away, a conceptual show based thematically on the 1988 installation by Russian artist, Ilya Kabakov. Another great show at the Times Museum was the 2013 Pipilotti Rist solo exhibition highlighting the artist’s video work recorded in Guangzhou, China.

Times Museum

Pipilotti Rist solo exhibition at the Times Museum 2013 Guangzhou, China

Times Museum

Pipilotti Rist solo exhibition at the Times Museum 2013 Guangzhou, China

To say the tour was a fantastic glimpse of the contemporary art resources of southern China’s Delta region is an understatement. I look forward to future adventures along these lines, perhaps including some of the other great sites of the region like Shenzhen’s Design Center, as well as locations in Zhuhai and Macau.

Bayerisches Staatsballett II, presented by the Hong Kong Arts Festival at the Lyric Theatre at HKAPA, Hong Kong. February 21, 2017

February 23, 2017

The program presented by the Bayerisches Staatsballett II for the Hong Kong Arts Festival consisted of four parts. The first performance entitled, Allegro Brillante entailed the choreography of George Balanchine performed by soloists Bianca Teixeira and Francesco Leone, set to the music of Piotr Llyich Tchaikovsky.


This exuberant work is true to Balanchine’s genius and portrays “an expansive Russian romanticism”, according to Maria Tallchief for whom the leading role was crafted.

Jardi Tancat the second of the works presented was a beautifully conceived production with choreography by Spanish born, Nacho Duato, music from Catalonia by Maria del Mar Bonet and lighting design by Nicholas Fischtel. The work, which borrows musically from Catalonian legends, takes visual reference from the daily life of regional farmers.


Mr. Duato, who had once accompanied Jiri Kylian at the Netherlands Dans Theater in The Hague, retains a modern stylistic approach in this work, using a perimeter of vertical posts of assorted heights to define the stage boundary and provide points at which performers could take pause, as they assume postures reminiscent of Picasso paintings of the Blue Period. This feature gave the work a minimalist visual presence, which balanced wonderfully with the rich flowing movement of the dancer’s costumes.


A third work entitled, 3 Preludes (Prelude I, Prelude II: Blue Lullaby, Prelude III: Spanish Prelude and Rialto Ripples) choreographed by Richard Siegal was a lively and refreshing dance accompanied by the music of George Gershwin. The lighting design by Christian Kass and costume design by Susanne Stehle provided a sexy, ballroom dance atmosphere for the work, which brought to mind the stage musical, West Side Story. The mix, an energetic ballet featuring three men and a woman was a brilliant combination of movements evoking drama and seductive gesture.


The final work for the evening was the historically significant Triadic Ballet from Oskar Schlemmer. This Bauhaus era work was choreographically reconstructed by Gerhard Bohner in 1977 and recreated for this staging by Ivan Liška and Colleen Scott. It was produced in cooperation with the Akademie der Künste Berlin and Bayerisches Staatsballett München with Production Manager Bettina Wagner-Bergelt.


The colorful costumes were constructed 3D structures made with seemingly metallic or ceramic surfaces. They are boldly geometric and captivating in their use of form and reflected light to augment the often-times minimally prescribed choreography. The movement was often very circumscribed consisted of hand and head gestures, spiraling rotations, or leg movements due to the restrictive nature of the costumes. Unfortunately, the music accompaniment to this performance from Hans-Joachim Hespos was neither historically relevant, nor conductive to the whimsical quality of the performance.


Instead it was often intense and staccato, creating a neurotic and disturbing ambiance not in character with the work presented. The original musical accompaniment, which we are told from the program notes included assorted pieces from Tarenghi, Bossi, Debussy, Haydn, Mozart, Paradies, Galuppi and Handel were not employed due to Gerhard Bohner’s assessment that Schlemmer wished that the music be written by a contemporary composer. A better choice in light of this constraint might have been the work of the musicians Robert Fripp and Brian Eno who at least share a light and sometimes humorous element in their work.

Overall this evening’s performance was memorable. It is a rare balance of elements that weave together to form an enjoyable presentation.

Sehr geehrte Frau Merkel Bundeskanzlerin

December 17, 2015

Sleepless Nights Left Behind

The Sleepless Nights Left Behind, Die hinterlassenen schlaflosen Nächte.  Berlin, Deutschland 2007

85x45x40cm Weiss-Beton Kisse mit Stacheldraht.
40x20x37cm Rot-Beton Kisse mit Stacheldraht.

ich wende mich an Sie als ein amerikanischer Künstler, der lange Zeit in New York City lebte und jetzt seit einigen Jahren in der Volksrepublik China arbeitet. Ich habe von 1991 bis 2010 wiederholt in Deutschland gearbeitet und ausgestellt und dort eine Verbindung zum Künstlerhaus Bethanien und der BBK Berlin aufgebaut.

Ich möchte Ihnen mitteilen, dass ich von Ihrer Arbeit für die Menschen in Deutschland sowie von Ihrer aufgeklärten Führungsrolle als zentraler Partner der internationalen Gemeinschaft tief bewegt bin. Ich selbst habe von der Großzügigkeit und Aufgeschlossenheit des deutschen Volkes stark profitiert, als ich zunächst 1991 als Gastkünstler in Berlin weilte und dann in der Stadt von 2006 bis 2009 meinen Wohnsitz hatte. In diesen Jahren lernte ich die Menschen in Berlin und die Tugenden der deutschen Kultur kennen und schätzen. Ihre jüngsten Bemühungen, die Flüchtlinge der Kriege in Syrien, dem Irak und anderen Nationen in Ihrem Land unterzubringen, wirkt beispielhaft und zeigt das großzügige Herz der deutschen Nation. Ich wäre stolz, Deutscher zu sein.

Während meines Aufenthalts in Berlin habe ich im Jahr 2007 ein Kunstwerk, mit dem Titel “The Sleepless Nights Left Behind”, “Die hinterlassenen schlaflosen Nächte” angefertigt, das darstellt, welche Qualen und Ängste die nächtliche Realität eines Flüchtlings prägen. Die Befreiung von diesen Ängsten ist das, was Sie und Ihre Regierung sowie die deutschen Menschen zur Zeit mit ihrem Engagement bewerkstelligen.

Ich würde dieses Kunstwerk gerne Ihnen und den Menschen in Deutschland zur Ehre zum Geschenk machen, um die großen Hilfeleistungen, die Sie erbracht haben, zu würdigen.

Zu Ihrer Information füge ich für Sie und Ihre Mitarbeiter hier ein Foto der Skulptur sowie einige Details zu ihren Ausmaßen bei. Ich würde mich sehr freuen, wenn Sie dieses kleine Zeichen meiner Dankbarkeit für Ihre weltweite Führungsrolle entgegennehmen würden.

Die Skulptur befindet sich gegenwärtig in Berlin, wo ich vom 12. bis 22. Januar sein werde. Ich könnte ihre Überführung zu jedem Amt, Platz oder Museum organisieren, das Ihnen geeignet erschiene. Bitte lassen Sie mich wissen, ob Sie von meinem Angebot Gebrauch machen möchten.

Mit bestem Dank und hochachtungsvollem Gruß
Ron Rocco


After Aurora

August 18, 2015

After the Aurora, Colorado theater gunman, James Holmes was convicted and sentenced to life in prison, for the rampage that killed 12 people and left 70 people injured, the U.S. media began focusing on the grief of victim’s families who felt cheated of a death sentence. In a short video aired of Holmes in the courtroom during sentencing, one can clearly see that the man is mentally not even present in the room, his schizophrenia being so severe.

It was reported in the Huffington Post that Dr. Jeffrey Metzner, the psychiatrist to first interview Holmes after the shooting, testified, “Holmes was psychotic, with symptoms that included his delusion that killing other people would increase his self-worth and help him recover from depression. But people with delusions can still tell right from wrong, the psychiatrist said.”

“I thought his judgment was clinically impaired, despite having the capacity to judge right from wrong,” Metzner testified. “He was so depressed he was willing to do anything that would make him feel less depressed, even if it meant going to jail.”

It has been reported that, “Holmes said he wrote his feelings in a notebook and sent it to a therapist in advance so mental health professionals could understand people like him and keep them from committing similar crimes.”

The tragedy is that people with such severe mental illness are not cared for in the U.S. Instead communities unwilling to pay for clinics and care facilities for the most severely and dangerous patients, opt out and these patients are released into society unmonitored and untreated. Perhaps we should be addressing the correction of a defective system of government and punish those responsible for their neglect? Or perhaps the media should focus on the individuals who sold Holmes a gun, an automatic weapon to be exact, a weapon capable of killing dozens of people in seconds. How does one justify selling such a thing to anyone without getting a background check of the buyer?

Americans are quick to request an “eye for an eye” punishment, but continually fail to learn anything that could cure a defective society, when it produces such horror.