half-urban guangzhou

These past two days, I have been in Leming, a mountain village located in the northern reaches of Guangzhou. It’s a site where one confronts the unevenness of development, where artists and environmentalists are trying to do something meaningful with what remains after the most of the village’s young people have left for factories in “Guangzhou” proper. Continue reading

nanting village, guangzhou

On Friday September 9, 2016, I had the privilege of visiting Nanting Village, Guangzhou with Professor Chen Xiaoyang, from the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts. The occasion for the visit was a screening of Zhong Shifang’s film, “From Border to Border,” a documentary on the Chinese community in Tangra Calcutta. I will discuss the film in my next post. Today, I would like to contextualize the screening of the film with a brief introduction to Nanting Village. Continue reading

2012 guangzhou triennial

Yesterday, I visited The Unseen, the GZ Triennial exhibition and spent a pleasant 1/2 day engaging the works of 61 artists from China and the world, including Korea, Russia, India, and Indonesia, a diversity of representation much larger than the usual “global” expositions.

Curators JIANG Jiehong and Jonathan WATKINS have selected works in which what is seen directs the viewer’s attention to what is not. Sometimes the unseen referent is concrete, like the crank that twists a rope in XIAO Yu’s piece of twisting rope, Popularity 1. Sometimes the absent referent is more ephemeral, like the possible corpses buried beneath KAN Xuan’s Millet Mounds (大谷子堆). Sometimes, the unseen is a clever joke – Tim Johnson’s never seen flying saucers, for example. Nevertheless, as a viewer engages more works, the accumulation of unseen referents blurs the artificial division between concrete and ephemeral references, directing the viewer’s imagination instead to the illusive yet invisible worlds in which objects can come to signify relentless social pressure, cultural continuity, and comic book fantasy. So yes, it’s worth making the trip to the Guangdong Museum of Art (广州市二沙岛烟雨路38号广东美术馆) to see what else is there.

The Unseen will run until December 16. Impressions, below.

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two walks in guangzhou

Just spent three lovely days in Guangzhou, enjoying conversation at Sun Yat Sen University and visiting tourist spots, including a walk along the river and a ride on the bubble train atop the Guangzhou Tower. Very Tale of Two Cities simply because looking down is so different from looking through even though vertigo set in when I tried to walk out onto a glass bottom viewing deck. No, I didn’t leave the opaque floor and yes, strangely did not feel as afraid when I walk outside onto the viewing tower and into the bubble train. Images below:

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What’s the difference between Shenzhen and a 直辖市?

直辖市 means “directly governed city”. There are four directly governed cities in China — Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, and Chongqing. The difference between a directly governed city and a special zone (特区) like Shenzhen is political ranking. Directly governed cities have the same political rank as a province. This means that directly governed cities have access to resources and policies that other cities do not.

Shenzhen is a sub-provincial city, which means it is subordinate to Guangdong Province. As a Special Zone, Shenzhen has some economic exceptions, however, in terms of political planning and any kind of social innovation, Shenzhen must operate within the purview of Guangzhou. Consequently, the SEZ has repeatedly chosen to frame any kind of social transformation in terms of “economic” reform.

From the outside looking in, Shenzhen seems different, certainly the most neoliberal of China’s large cities. But from the inside, Shenzhen just seems nouveau riche, a better version of the country’s second tier cities, but not a first tier city like Beijing or Shanghai. Or even Guangzhou. Continue reading

2 days in guangzhou – impressions

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lecture notes – SCUT

Yesterday, I participated in a Biennale event at 华南理工大学 (South China University of Technology campus slideshow, below).  The event was organized into three sections: SZHK Biennale 2011 Main Venue; SCUT professors who had participated in SZHK Biennale 2009; and a SZHK Biennale 2011 sub venue event, the Enning Road Transformation Study Group (恩宁路改造学术关注组), an alliance of students and residents to voice concerns about Guangzhou’s plans to raze this historically important part of the city.

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Now, visiting Guangzhou, especially with Guangzhou people is pleasurable because they love their city. They also love to compare their city to Shenzhen, which is interesting for what it tells us about the different ways we create a sense of belonging to “our” cities. The conversations I had highlighted important differences between the creation of urban identities in Guangdong Province’s two most important cities. Continue reading