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.
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?
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.
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
Once you have a house on the beach, what do you do there? You play. And where were the toys once made? In factories built along the old new coastline. Continue reading
… this time on Jiming Island, which is located in Rongcheng City, Shandong and made famous during an episode of “Daddy, where are we going? Impressions, below:
So romancing the ocean, or is it oceans of romance? At any rate, once we’ve cordoned off and sold the coastline, it seems that all we’re left with romantic sunsets, looking toward the horizon that we’ll never reach. Poetic. Deliciously melancholy, even. And I do like looking off into the sunset. It’s just that the reduction of the coastline to commodified views distresses me. I keep wondering, what about the other senses? In Shenzhen it is incredibly difficult to smell fishing nets, feel of water rippling over our toes, listen to seabirds diving for crabs, and taste a gritty ocean breeze because we have been reduced to a pair of eyes in bodies that do not move beyond high rise window sills. Continue reading
So one of the ongoing transformation in Shenzhen has been the transvaluation of the coastline from a space of production and transportation to a space of consumption and international logistics. In practical terms, it means that Shenzhen residents have been “landlocked” despite having a 162 mile (260 km) coastline. Inquiring minds want to know: how did that happen? Continue reading
On Saturday April 27, Handshake 302 led fifteen curious guests on a full-day discovery of Huaqiangbei from perspective of the historic Shangbu Industrial Park. The organization of the tour emphasized the intimate stories behind the emergence of Huaqiangbei as a global landmark. After all, Huaqiangbei did not emerge as fully formed nexus in a global network of technological innovation, but rather formed in the ongoing evolution of Shenzhen’s cultural geography. Continue reading