stuck.

I have been applying for a grant. The US based foundation asks for a CD-rom of work samples, while it is still illegal in China to send CD-roms overseas (domestic mailing no problem.) Here’s the thing. It is perfectly possible to send mega-files from China anywhere in the world, even without a VPN. It’s also possible for foundations to store information on clouds and have a protocol for deleting extra information after a round of submissions. But instead of a simple information transfer, I’m stuck between two outdated systems for archiving (or not) information.

Indeed, much has happened this week that involves shuttling between categories on a form. The expression is “走程序” which seems to mean “following procedures”. Of note du jour, the character 走 literally means “to walk”. Colloquially, people also speak of “跑事” when handling affairs, and 跑, of course, means “to run”–run, run, run between bureaus because ultimately all transactions must take place face-to-face. Yesterday, for example, we presented on a project we were working on for the past 1/2 year. The goal? To get our government sponsor to sign the contract to actually pay for the research. Definitely a live and learn kind of situation. General sense of working in Shenzhen, get a downpayment before beginning work. However, if the government signs a contract, although the money comes very very slowly, it does come.

The character 顺 describes the experience of smoothly navigating these processes. However, it also means to follow the beaten path or the natural inclination of a situation. Usually, one uses the expression 顺利 to describe smoothly managing affairs and handling situations. Like 走程序 and 跑事 the verb is active, it describes moving through, between, and toward social relationships. Important insight: bureaucracy is a way of being in the world.

So growing in within a bureaucratically structured environment scares me. Not because I don’t want more outreach, but because I don’t want paperwork. When we started Handshake 302, the idea was to see what was possible. Now we know that taking it to the next step means walking through procedures and running between forms… bureaucracy is, as so many have noticed, a way of keeping us off the streets and out of the studio because we’re stuck archiving.

Related in a virtual way, we also finally started a FB page for Handshake 302! We will be uploading information about events, stories on and about Baishizhou, and reports on our permutations. Most recent news? We’ve been given a dorm room in the Dalang Youth Dream Center, where we will be running programs for migrant workers beginning in January 2016. The invitation to operate a space in the dorm room comes after two years of collaboration with the Dalang Cultural Office–yeah! If you’re on FB, please join or like us.

So today I’m thinking about archiving Handshake 302 and the creation of a viable public persona for a group that has eschewed bureaucratically formalizing our relationships. We realize that next year we’ll be managing an additional space as well as trying to grow a more consistent program. This will entail ADMINISTRATION. Eek. And double eek. The joy of the project has come from the actual engagement with people and projects, chatting and painting as it were. However, spreading the joy means archiving and filling out forms. And filling out forms to get money to chat and paint, which we’re already doing…

5 thoughts on “stuck.

  1. What type of program for migrant workers? And yes, bureaucracy is difficult, tiresome and essentially a leech to the soul. It is, however, universal. The amount of absolutely absurd and ridiculous paperwork that needs to be completed on each patient leaves me with 70 percent typing and 30 percent taking care of my patients. But at least there is the 30 percent. I guess one has to weigh the joy of one’s content against capital “B” bureaucracy,

    • Our programs try to bring art to children. On bureaucracy, yes universal, but also yes more intensive bureaucratic intrusions the closer one comes to power. If we just play on our own, we can do what we can afford. However, if we want to bring in more people it means bringing in all sorts of contents, such as “moral education” which is basically, “love the country, love the party, love the city”. Full stop.

      • I think that you have a unique MaryAnn way of getting around the cloud and moving on to clarity, despite anyone’s effort otherwise. It is your clarity which I love so dearly. (among other things, of course!)

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