So. Today, Handshake 302 extended its reach and joined hands with the Dalang Street Office to curate the first annual Dalang Graffiti Culture Festival. It rained, so not much painting happened. Nevertheless, we had a great time with balloons, handprints, and a short “WeChat” play. I made the emoji box masks!
Impressions of event, below.
Sunshine + graffiti = joy. Thank you residents of Clarion Alley for reminding us what public art is and why we need it.
for a wonderful gallery of shenzhen grafitti, visit the western bank of the shahe river bridge at binhai road. the old new coastline has been filled in, roads laid, and the river securely cemented in place. all is in place to continue extending the park. before that happens, visit.
to get to the gallery, it’s best to go to hongshulin park and walk west until you reach the shahe river: if you follow the water, you’ll even get a nice view (on a clear day) of the western corridor bridge and one of our many connections to hong kong. you’ll also have a view of the edges of land reclamation and the remnant wooden boats that anchor at docks strapped together out of styrofoam, bamboo, and plastic string. the eastern bank of shahe is at the furthest edge of the baywalk park that hongshulin is growing into.
(yes, just last week i realized that xiasha is renovating with an eye to integrating into this extensive park and wanke has donated strange log cabin / guard stands to hongshulin.)
if you walk from the west (as i did), begin at coastal city. walk past the kapenski, shuffle across the binhai on ramp and follow the wall that says “western district land reclamation area”. at different points, you can jump onto the landfill. keep your eyes open for granite posts. these were once the safety chain links along the former coastline and proposed extension to baywalk park. pay attention to the names of the buildings – not just “coastal city”, but also “river’s edge” and “bayview”. many of these residences and shopping areas were undertaken before the coastline was redrawn. be sure to notice the motley crew of puppies that guard another patch of squatter gardens and chicken coop. bring water. the walk takes about 90 minutes and the sun is hot.
walking from coastal city, one of the large malls on the houhai landfill toward haiya, a mall built about ten years ago, i past this bit of graffiti. it does say it all.
graffiti in shenzhen: high-end, high-concept, art
today walking around the biennale grounds, i noticed a graffiti exhibition. so again, as at tianmian (and it seems that some of the same graffiti artists have been commissioned here as a there), high quality graffiti gets shown in shenzhen as art, but does not exist throughout the city, which favors overpainting everything. this version of high-concept high-art urbanism is increasingly reshaping older industrial areas in the sez (关内). it is a version of shenzhen that grows out of and confirms the priority of architecture to the city’s self-representation. it also reiterates the importance of commercial art to the kind of culture that the city sponsors at the annual china (shenzhen) international cultural industry fair . it also fits that many of the folks at the bienniale are young and hip and artistic. i’m not sure if they represent a new kind of global elite, or it’s simply the case that the young hip and artistic global elite has finally landed in shenshen. graffiti pics here
the new look of tianmian–city of design
it’s the third annual industrial arts fair in shenzhen. last year this time, fat bird did a series of improvised performances at the fair. this year, the fair came to tianmian! specifically, city of design, the ongoing project to upgrade old urban village shenzhen hosted the first three-city (guangzhou, hong kong, shenzhen) graffiti competition. a few pics, here.
now, i don’t know where or how these artists actually applied to compete; i haven’t seen any of the shenzhen artists’ work around the city. not that means anything in and of itself, much happens that i miss because i’m busy elsewhere. but. i’ve taken pictures of graffiti in the past. i’ve taken pictures of overpainting. but in over five years of walking and photographing the shenzhen, i haven’t seen any graffiti approaching the quality on display. interesting questions: where do these graffiti artists actually work? where are their other projects? will the city actually heed shenzhen t.v.’s call for more graffiti art throughout the city?
all this to call attention to the ways in which shenzhen continues its pursuit of culture in government approved forms. more specifically, its pursuit of culture as a viable economic investment. the industrial arts fair is the most obvious example. government regulation, promotion, and investment is also making dafencun into something of a brandname. this year, in tianmian graffiti art is being promoted as a happy alternative to industrial manufacturing as the livelihood of urban villages.
that said, fat bird’s most “successful” projects have been in collaboration with government entities. indeed, our next performance installation is also made possible by a government agency. we’re just paid less.
it’s not easy being a prostitute
back in shenzhen, wandering the streets of shekou, reorienting myself to newly paved roads and recently razed sites. signs of all kinds assault the eyes: graffiti (of varying quality), the ubiquitous advertizing (even garbage cans can be rented to eager merchants), and, of course, deng xiaoping’s calligraphy, which once confirmed reform and now is itself advertizing for the seaworld plaza. a selection of signs, here.