So these past few months, I have been busy setting up a public arts education program at the P+V Gallery (虔贞女校艺展馆) in Dalang. We’re calling this series of events, the P+V Academy (虔贞女校学堂). This name, of course, is an updated rendering of Pious Virgins Girls’ School and the project to create a space for alternative, minjian (民间) histories.
On Saturday, September 9, 2016 at 3 pm, we’re screening Shefong CHUNG’s “From Border to Border,” a documentary about the Hakka diaspora in India. The title, of course, alludes to the marginalization of the Hakka within both China and India. We are thrilled that the director will be joining us for the screening and discussion. If you’re in the neighborhood, join us.
Located in the middle of an urban village, the P+V Gallery is the only historically restored building in Shenzhen that offers public programing. It is truly worth a visit to experience both the city’s deep history as well as Dalang Street Office’s efforts to shape an alternative public culture. The “Children’s Art Sprouts” projects, which organizes a monthly arts course, including the sock puppets is part of the Academy’s offerings.
There’s much I could say about why community art programs matter, but. Sock puppets! Incredibly cute kids! Everything that matters. Here.
Off the beaten track (or at least a 15 minute bus ride from the Longhua subway station), Dalang remains one of the manufacturing centers of Shenzhen as well as one of the few spaces where it is still possible to see container trucks of various sizes trundling about. The landscape itself is a dense mix of industrial parks, proper urban villages, collectively held property, and limited public and commercial property. In other words, the area retains much of its morphology from when Longhua was officially a market town (镇, 1986-2004) and the entire area was developed through rural institutions.
Just saw this poster advertising the opportunity to purchase a house on a small Malaysian island next to Singapore. The houses are relatively large and the agent is conveniently located in Shenzhen. The appeal? One can “[R]eturn to Shenzhen ten years ago, and invest in the Special Zone of a Special Zone.”
Here’s the rub. I saw this in an apartment complex in Dalang, at least twenty minutes from the nearest subway station. Everyone wants to by a house, and even places as relatively remote as Dalang are no longer viable options for migrants, even if they have a job, and even if they have savings.
On my way from said subway station to the elevator where this advert was posted, the cabby explained that since Lift (didi) and Uber had come to Shenzhen, it was no longer profitable to drive a cab. He planned on going back home to Jiangxi. When I mentioned that it seemed more and more people were leaving the city, he agreed, saying “there noticeably less people on the street.”
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. Continue reading
I am a freckled and pinkish, slightly overweight female. I have soft hands and I play at manual labor rather than work to earn a living. However, I am increasingly aware that this body does not obey. It aches and bursts, creams desire, flinches, hungers, sweats and thirsts. This body itches and yearns, screams and wobbles, swells and grows lumpy. It grumbles and leaks and trundles forward. But, it does not obey. Fortunately my bathroom door hides the work necessary to appear as if I were an ethereal, delicate being unencumbered by the body’s needs and its (increasing) failures. I close the door, drop my pants, piss and wipe, scour away grime and smooth my eyebrows as I squint at the face in the mirror; clear eyes, small ears, heavy cheeks, and wrinkled neck. I straighten my blouse and return to the party. Continue reading
How many people actually live in Shenzhen? The numbers vary. Current Shenzhen Party Secretary Ma Xingrui says 20 million. However, the administrative population supposedly hovers at 18 million, while the city itself has never admitted to more than 15 million. Rough estimates suggest only 4 million people have Shenzhen hukou, another 8 million have permanent residency, and another 5-8 million “float” unofficially within the city
These statistics obscure how Shenzhen’s urban villages spatially organize these three administrative classes. For example, Shi’ao (石凹) Villagehas a local population of 4 to 500 people and a renter population of 20,000, making the ratio of local to renters residents 1:40. The ratio of local to renter populations in Baishizhou is an astonishing 1:77. Moreover, it is clear that renters–even floaters–aren’t actually leaving the city. Instead, they are finding newer (and often) narrower niches within the village.
Much like US American suburbs which manage inequality through distance, Shenzhen’s urban villages do the hard (and socially productive) work of managing inequality within the city. The majority of floaters and a large percentage of permanent residents live in the villages and tend to work in service and the semi- and informal economies, while hukou residents and wealthier permanent residents occupy “official” housing estates and tend to work in the formal economy.