nantou ancient city. again.

Sometimes, I walk through older sections of the city, and I try to remember what it felt like the first time I walked there. Or, if I can’t track my emotional memories, I try to remember what this place used to look like. Who was here? What were they doing? Did I take pictures or take notes and if not, where has it all gone?

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learning farm in zhongshan

A few weeks ago, Handshake 302 visited a learning farm in Zhongshan. The farm was located in a valley near Zhuhai; five hundred years ago, the area would have been an island. There is underground spring water on the mountain, which facilitated the conversion of sand and silt runoff (from the West and North Rivers) into polders, where it was possible to grow rice and lotuses, and to cultivate fish ponds and vegetable gardens. This particular farm is too small to support a family, but large enough for children and their parents to visit and learn about organic gardening. Indeed, the municipal government has already annexed surrounding farms into its latest master plan. This farm survived because it has a “modern” purpose.

huidong: impressions of the edge

A week or so ago, we went to Huidong (惠东), one of the poorer counties in Huizhou City (惠州市). Huidong is located within the valleys of the mountain range that runs parallel to the eastern coast of Guangdong. Via mountain paths, it is a four-hour hike from Huidong to Haifeng (海丰县).

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Chinese translation of “Learning from Shenzhen” is out!

The launch for the Chinese translation of “Learning from Shenzhen” was held at the Central Book City public area. There were several hundred in attendance and young children came up to meet the author and get an autograph. It was an exciting–and let’s be frank–unexpected reception for the translation of an academic book.

unmasked in shenzhen

The following post was first published on Pandemic Discourses, a blog curated by the India China Institute at the New School. The goal of the blog is to bring differently situated perspectives on the COVID-19 pandemic into conversation with each other. The purpose of my post was to provide impressions of the first six months of the pandemic and responses in Shenzhen.

It’s been roughly six months since Shenzhen introduced measures to control the spread of COVID-19. Statistics from the Shenzhen Health Commission 卫健委 show that the highest number of cases occurred at the end of January and early February. There was a second wave that coincided with the return of residents after the Chinese New Year’s holiday. Indeed, the city has emphasized the difference between “locally transmitted” and “imported” cases. As of July 19, 2020, the city had a confirmed total of 462 cases, while the most recent case was reported on April 28, 2020. Continue reading

where have all the people gone?

Yesterday I walked Baishizhou, remembering the bustle of our rushed departure. Bikes and motorbikes, cars and moving vans clogged the hot streets, and we squeezed through and around pedestrians on their way home or to work or to shop or out for a snack. Yesterday, even the once crowded food alley has been mostly abandoned; a few shops are still open at the intersections between the alley and main roads, but the overwhelming feeling is one of departure and a viscous waiting.

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clearance sale

WechatIMG916

Huang Yihong came to Baishizhou with a plan—to explore the materiality of different objects and experiment using them to create different objects. As an aesthetic concept, materiality is a response to both formalism’s emphasis on visual aspects of art and structuralism’s interest in context and communication. Materiality is time and situation based: it acknowledges that the human experience takes physical form. This kind of artistic exploration requires curiosity, patience, and a systematic method of exploring objects, their physicality, and their social context. Imagine, for example, everything that might possibly be done with the green netting that is ubiquitous on Chinese construction sites. The netting keeps dust in place on recently demolished sites and hangs protectively around buildings under construction. Now consider: given this context, what does it mean when an artist wraps an old brick in green netting?

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SZ8X80206//The Myriad Transformations//City on the Fill: One Small Step

You may be wondering, how much more literal a representation of a cultural ecology can we get than that of a prospector walking a grid on reclaimed land? Not many prospected on the rubble beneath Coastal City, circa 2006, but for a few brief years–after the fill had dried but before it had settled–the stretch of bay which would become Coastal City, the Nanshan Cultural Area, including the Shenzhen Bay Arena and Talent Park gave rise to a strange ecology of squatters, tree farmers, hi-tech garbage pickers, and children who set off firecrackers at the city’s edges. The images below, for example, were taken one overcast day in April 2006 at the former site of a squatting community and the future site of the Tencent building. That day, several men had driven onto the land fill in order to fly their planes.

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are we there yet? @ singleton lunch

On June 1, Handshake 302 celebrated Children’s Day with a Singleton Lunch. Kiki Mager cooked up well-seasoned veggie-dishes for eight guests. The peripatetic German chose the topic “community” for the meal, inviting guests to share stories about themselves, how they ended up in Shenzhen and elsewhere, and what the experience of moving around had been. “Where,” one of the guests pointedly asked, “is home?” Continue reading

local flavor: shajing

On May 25, 2019, Handshake 302 was honored to have Cheng Jian lead the fifth tour of Urban Flesh and Bones—Local Flavor: Shajing.

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