emptied out / true emptiness

Last week, I participated in the “真空” art week. 真空  means emptied out or true emptiness. The curatorial statement (translated below) emphasizes how urban renewal is “emptying out” the villages and what remains is neither this, nor that. Almost buddhist, except we’re still yearning and true emptiness alludes us. 

Langkou’s historical hakka village is positioned between the double vacuums of space and time.

As soon as you step into the village, you notice that half of the old village has been demolished or has collapsed, even though traces of the old village remain. In the half-ruined walls garbage accumulates, yet vines of beans grow stubbornly. Throughout the village, as throughout the country one sees the character for “raze (拆),” etched into the walls. Garbage and flies crowd the narrow alleys, and rancid odors follow your steps. The renovated village may already have been drawn up on a planning board, but on the ground, it’s hard to say what will happen.At the village edges, chalk drawings draw your attention.

This place is neither village nor city.

This is a place forgotten by time. The villagers have moved to new homes nearby. The old buildings have been rented to migrants, garbage pickers, and small entrepreneurs; everyone here is ultimately transient and new residents ignore present conditions and seem uninterested in its future.

This place has forgotten the past, but is cut off from the future.

Without any direct relationship to the village, the artist A Bu nevertheless felt some kind of regret about this situation. He sighed for those who will come later and not have known this place; he sighed for himself because now people gather in Wuzhen to experience old fashioned white walls and grey tiles. So he got some money together and invited his friends to Langkou. Their art replenishes what has been emptied out.

Participating artists: Chen Feng, Chen Weicai, Chen Zhou, Zhang Xiaojing, Nut Brother, Liu He, Mary Ann O’Donnell, Ren Lei, Wu Dan, Yang Guang, Zhang Kaiqin, Zhang Qinu, and Zheng Zhongguo (A Bu).

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