handshake 302+friends

It’s the tenth anniversary of Handshake 302 and you’re invited to the party!!!!

The first event is “Mahjong Parlor.” We have designed a deck of cards–a handheld exhibition. Each suit is a curated introduction to a Handshake project. Hearts are images from the village residency; clubs are from the Biennale; diamonds are from “Singleton Lunch” and; spades are from “Art Sprouts,” which we ran at the P+V gallery (Longheu Girls’ School) in Dalang. “Mahjong Parlor” will be held every second and fourth Saturday afternoon at at Stone Stage in Luohu.

So how did we get here?

front row (left to right): WAN Yan, Hilarie ROBIE, Michael PATTE, Dan MUNTEAN, Gigi LEUNG; back row: Mary Ann O’DONNELL, YANG Qian, ZHANG Karin

In the fall of 2012, a group of architects, sociologists and artists took a walk through Baishizhou. For people accustomed to air-conditioned offices, the air seemed viscous. Hot and sticky and noisy, Baishizhou buzzed with stories: children playing in the allies between handshake buildings; young people who were trying to change their fortune by working as waitresses and delivery boys; Chaoshan entrepreneurs who served up Sichuan 小面 to construction workers, and; retirees who had come to Shenzhen to work as street cleaners in order not to be a burden to their children. 

Although we came from different homelands, nevertheless once in Shenzhen, we shared a common feeling: if Shenzhen is all of China’s Shenzhen, then Baishizhou is every Shenzhener’s Baishizhou. It was an amazing social platform. For new immigrants, Baishizhou was their first arrival spot in Shenzhen. For entrepreneurs, Baishizhou was where they first set up shop. For workers, Baishizhou was a cheap and convenient residence. And here’s where the story becomes even more poignant: for the children of these immigrants, Baishizhou was were they first fell in love with Shenzhen.

We called ourselves CZC Special forces. Over the next six months, we did field research in Baishizhou. We brainstormed and we even came up with a logo. It was an exciting time because once we entered Baishizhou, we realized the potential of urban villages. What potential? Was Baishizhou dirty? Yes. Was Baishizhou chaotic? Again yes. Was Baishizhou substandard? Absolutely not. Baishizhou was vibrant potential. 

Baishizhou was urban in the most modern sense of the world—its low rents, its convenient shops and street culture meant that Baishizhou accommodated diversity and experimentation. There was not one typical Baishizhou resident. Instead, there were many Baishizhou types—old and young, married and single, northerners and southerners, office workers and shopkeepers. Each of these different types were a potential market. Thus, Baishizhou had a range of housing options, a diversity of dining options, and amusement options that ranged from alley billiards to online gaming bars.

This is where our art story entwines with everyday life in Baishizhou. Kaiqin and I realized that for 800 yuan a month, we could rent an efficiency apartment and start an independent art space. Yes. It really was that simple. There was no overhead. No KPI. No PowerPoints. Just 12.5 square meters where we could make art that responded to the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Over the course of 2023, Handshake 302 will be visiting our friends to thank them for their support. Each and every one of them have made it possible for us to explore Baishizhou, to creatively engage Shenzhen’s cultural geography, and to expand our artistic horizons.

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