The history of the city is underfoot and can, when the light is clear, old waters shimmer into awareness. Twenty years ago (give or take) Houhai Avenue and New Shekou Road met at a 90 degree angle. To the northeast was the entry to Dongjiaotou Port, where sand, building materials and “unauthorized stuff” were brought in. The port entry faced a gas and oil supply station, which was located at the northeastern foot of Shekou Hill, behind the hill, away from the water, where there were docks for ships to anchor.
Today, I noticed the intersection is an intersection. Both the entryway to the port and the gas supply station are under construction, as is the former dock area. The northeastern and northwestern corners of the intersection remain unchanged and thus are showing their age. In the northeastern corner is the Shekou #4 pump station, which was built as a work unit compound. In the northeastern corner is an older Shekou administrative building that looks abandoned?
Point du jour: the intersection is an uncanny reminder of the coastline that is no longer. Walking west along New Shekou Road, you enter that once-upon-a-time coastline. At Wanxia Road, you turn north to enter Wanxia Village and south to enter Fishing #2 Village. A few meters ahead is Old Shekou Street, follow it west to the Industrial Zone. Below, pictures of the intersection four corners. Imagine salt in the air, the approach of ships, and workers on bicycles navigating muddy roads…
It’s been a few years since I roamed Liuxiandong （留仙洞), which was an industrial area and then (briefly) a creative area. I remember in 2006 or 7, it was so cheap to rent that artists were renting several hundred meters for a few 1000 a month. Now, however, it is cloud city, a large Vanke project that looms on the horizon like a rendering.
So, six years after his appearance on “歌手 (The Singer),” I finally saw the youtube of Dimash Qudaibergen’s performance of Vitas’s “Opera 2.” Where have I been? His voice. His presence. And yes, his anime vibe. Seriously. If this was the kind of globalism with Chinese characteristics that Belt and Road was about, I’ld be walking the walk. But. Today, I’m grateful for the convergence of events that brought “进口小哥哥 (imported bro)” Dimash Kudabergen to Hunan TV in 2017.
The conversation will be about beginnings, middles and endings; how do participatory art projects create a sense of time? And what’s that got to do with the history of Shenzhen and its speedy development? Inquiring minds want to know.
This morning I went for a walk through one of Nanshan’s park. About 50 meters ahead of me on the path, a woman in sporting gear was kneeling with her camera held to film her friend, who was also wearing coordinated sportswear (pastels) jog toward me. They waited for several elderly people to walk past and then “action!” I waited for the jogger to pass me, but both she and the videographer wanted to film me walking past. Was I really that much more attractive to their Shenzhen vision than the grannies? When I refused to be filmed, the woman shut off the function and commented, “Wow! Your Chinese is really good.”
Yesterday, I walked Huangbeiling, which is located on the eastern section of Shennan Road. Before the construction of the subway system, Huangbeiling felt like the end of the accessible SEZ; there was more beyond, but getting there required a car or plans for a day trip. Today, Huangbeiling is a major transportation transit hub, linking the downtown area to the eastern coast.
Huangbeiling still feels like a golden era urban village, albeit recovering from Covid shutdowns. The layout of the village is against and up the Wutong Mountain Range, with enough nooks and crannies for unexpected encounters: a household temple to Guanyin, a mountain park with feral cats hanging out in tree branches, and good, relatively cheap food.
Sixteen years ago, one of the earliest Fat Bird guerrilla performances was held at the Huangbeiling pet market. Dogs and cats were just becoming fixtures–like cars and branded items–of the middle class Shenzhen lifestyle. Fat Bird “rented” a large dog cage for about five minutes before security guards and village leaders appeared and asked us to leave In the video of the post-performance interview you can also glimpse what this section of Shennan Road used to be like. After the performers were asked to leave, we jumped on a bus and went across the city to Chiwan. The short performance gives a sense of both the transformation of the area, as well as the relative openness of the city at the time compared to the present moment.
Last weekend (April 1-2), Handshake 302 set up a stand at the T-Street craft fair. We brought ten years of memories, including original bags that had been repurposed from the 2017 UABB Longhua (Dalang) venue installation “Story of Rice,” teeshirts from “Urban Flesh and Bones,” our series of walking tours, and “Mahjong Parlor,” or “exhibition in the palm of your hand.”
The stalls are lined up in the center of the pedestrian walks in the northern and southern sections of OCT Loft, allowing visitors to browse stalls, stop for a snack or settle into an alfresco coffee shop, where one can rest and watch the different people. Following the side roads a bit further into OCT brings visitors to interesting galleries like Feidi and Dade, or to Ecological Park where many art installations from previous sculpture biennales continue to entice new audiences.
So, this weekend we’ve brought “Mahjong Parlor” to the Overseas Chinese Town craft fair. Its our second 10th anniversary activity/ exhibition (in the palm of your hand). If you have time today or tomorrow, please stop by.
This week Kaiqin, Wu Dan and I have been in Xiamen for a Tiffany glass DIY workshop. The workshop was held in a gated housing estate near the tourist docks for going to Gulangyu. As we couldn’t afford to stay in nearby hotels, we found a small (40 sq meters including open area) b&b (民宿) in Shapowei (沙坡尾), which any quick google will tell you is unlike any other neighborhood in the city. It’s hip, it’s arty, and it lives like an urban village.