Last night, the Baishizhou Squad (as I think of the loosely organised group that is dedicated to documenting and finding alternatives to redeveloping urban villages) held a “flash exhibition” of images from their “Don’t Demolish Baishizhou” series. The entire performance took 30 minutes: 25 minutes to put up the images and then roughly 5 minutes for the city management folk to take them down. They chose to put the pictures up near the pharmacy, which is contesting the demolition in order to secure compensation for his investment.
The walls that go up around demolition sites are some of the most insidious of the withering practices in a sustained demolition because they naturalise the absence of what was there. We become accustomed to nothing because we don’t see the actual work of tearing down the remaining buildings, digging up the few trees that survived, and the preparation of the land to put up a high-end residential development. In two years’ time, we will see the rising buildings and by the time of the big reveal (maybe four or five years down the line), it will seem as if we have been waiting for this event.
The demolition of the Baishizhou area has been an ongoing conversation and series of interventions for the past five years. This wall, however, is the first intervention into a major commercial area along a main artery.