orange tubes

This morning while touring an abandoned factory in Shekou, I encountered massive orange tubes. By themselves somewhat uninteresting, yet arranged beneath a banyan tree suddenly transformed into art. And that seems the way of it. As a new friend commented recently, “In a city, despite the buildings, ultimately the trees speak to the human soul.”

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field at hongshuwan

Plastic bags and spent firecrackers accumulate on reclaimed field at the Hongshuwan subway station.

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seaworld trashed

Went to Seaworld today. The transformation of Shekou continues – open metro, raze everything in the sunken mall in front of De Galle’s ship, insert newer, taller, bigger, more expensive stuff. Images of wreckage du jour below.

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found objects: houhai

this entry unites two of my obsessions: discarded objects and the houhai land reclamation project.


looking from old coastline toward the houhai land reclamation

in shekou, the land reclamation project continues, with new housing developments popping up like mushrooms after a spring rain, so to speak. like any good mushroom, these developments thrive in dark and fetid spaces, only to be washed up and presented as luxuries. the first step in growing a development mushroom is razing whatever came before (in the sense of shenzhen history: this entry presupposes that the rural has already been displaced). what came before is usually narrow, one-story high temporary concrete structures, which functioned as residences and small businesses (more or less from the 1980a), but also more substantial, once-upon-a-time intended for the long haul, housing (late 80s, early 90s).

step two in cultivating mushrooms is picking through the rubble, scavanging whatever might still be of use–plastic can be sold, as can metals. as i stepped through the remains, i found a small clay teapot and picked it up. one of the pickers yelled at me in a henan dialect that i didn’t understand. when i asked if she wanted the teapot, however, she said no, adding in mandarin, “it can’t be sold.” she wasn’t interested in talking with me, lugging her scavagings to a truck, where a man weighed and bought them.

pickers, like this woman, move onto the temporary rubble heaps, setting up campsites that blend into the rubble. indeed, the campsites are difficult to distinguish from the garbage. the tents are made from the same plastic the pickers are scavanging and the kitchens seem burnt piles of stuff. but looking closely (or prying as the case may be), i saw fresh vegetables, packaged foods, and soap, although no source of fresh water. at this site, there were two campsites, and each had a separate stove. lucky pickers have a bicycle to cart findings to collection stations, where they can sell them.

step three, of course, is the arrival of construction crews. images of objects found while others picked, here.

houhai monuments–found objects


temporary nursery, houhai

it’s been over six months since i last walked this particular section of houhai. the road has been laid and now traverses the entire site. they’re even planting trees as part of shenzhen’s ongoing efforts to become a garden city. i snapped away, aware that houhai has yet to disappoint me; something there always fascinates. indeed, houhai has been central to found objects. i found teapot there, brought most of the other objects there, and have retuned to photograph the unmovable objects i have stumbled upon there.

lately, i’ve been thinking about my houhai fascination and suddenly realized that i am drawn to objects and sites that seem monumental, in all sences of that word. large, of course, so large that the scale of transformation slips away from my efforts to conceptualize it. but also, evocative of time and its passage. the monument commemorates some past event, keeping particular memories at play in shared worlds. indeed, the monument holds time in place, so that we might create a shared worlds.

and yet. the objects i photograph only gain their monumentality in digitalized retrospect, although sometimes i actually print an image. but on any ordinary day, the objects come and go, without comment, changing what houhai might mean, begging the question of whether or not houhai participates in a shared world before something “permanent” is constructed. on houhai, only buildings and streets are named. the rest vanishes.

today, in addition to the trees, i’ve uploaded a few houhai monuments, from the past few years.


mound, houhai april, 2006

glass edges

most construction sites in shenzhen are provisionally gated with cement and brick walls, glass edges, and barbed wire. once the project is finished, more elegant, or perhaps less blatent walls replace the makeshift as if it were all right, expected even to keep people off a construction site, but less savory to keep one’s neighbors outside the gate. i have uploaded some glass edges in my gallery.

objectified space

two questions have prompted me to specify what i want to achieve through the found objects project.

lesley sanderson posed the first question at the cruel/loving bodies exhibition, “look at you work critically and decide what you are trying to do.”

sasha welland then asked me, “why do you pick up the objects and photograph them elsewhere? why not just photograph them in place?”

a preliminary answer to these questions. in the found objects series, i map shenzhen from the perspective of the object. in constrast, i have tended to photograph large objects in place, calling attention to the construction of shenzhen through specific objects. how might this latter project be different from simply photographing places, which i’ve done all along?

while trying to get onto the houhai land reclamation project in shekou, i took pictures of discarded objects on that walk. i also photographed baskets left on a street.