paper cranes

The inspiration for Paper Crane Tea came from Wan Yan, an architecture student by way of the fine arts. Below, her statement on the current installation at Handshake 302:

We’ve probably all heard about paper cranes; if you fold 1,000 they will take flight and help you realize your aspirations. Children believe this story, but for adults it is. Nothing more than a pipe dream. And that transition–from hope to resignation and simultaneously from ignorance to understanding–is the journey of a human heart.

The repetitive task that is folding 1,000 paper cranes symbolizes an important truth about being human. We are constantly repeating some task to achieve some goal; in order to graduate, we memorize and review coursework; to earn a living, we go to work from 9 to 5; to master a new skill, we practice, practice, practice. Each of these repetitions is like folding 1,000 paper cranes–it embodies the hope and determination necessary to realize a particular goal.

In an urban village handshake building, renters come and go, but the spirit that haunts each cramped rental unit remains–the recurring struggle to realize a dream. Indeed, achieving a a goal by diligently repeating he same activities is like folding one’s life in order to realize the crane of freedom. And there is something exuberantly childlike in that image. However, there is no unambiguous desire. In an era of heterogeneous values, different desires and ambitions will create fierce conflicts and mental confusion. Hope can be simple and even pure, but to realize an ambition requires unavoidable complexity and sufficient flexibility.

The first time I came to Handshake 302, in addition to feeling how cramped and narrow it was, I also thought about the repetitive suffering and struggles that every inhabitant would have to undergo in order to move into a “respectable” home. I also thought about how difficult it would be to find oneself (as the expression has it) in that vexed space between desire and it’s realization. But ultimately, each of us must inhabit that mental crucible where relentless economic and social pressure smelt perseverance, inner voices, and anxiety into “me”.

Handshake 302 is our stage, where members of Urban Village Special Forces perform stories of and about Baishizhou and it’s 140,000 residents. For some people, however, Handshake 302 symbolizes he cage they are trying to escape, or the long ago first stop on thei Shenzhen sojourn. In this space, 1,000 folded paper cranes take on new meanings, not only drawing our attention to what it means to be human, but also reminding us that we strive to achieve our humanity in specific contexts.

And photos of the Paper Cranes Fly installation at Handshake 302.

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