A few months ago, I published an essay that periodizes the development of urban villages in Shenzhen. It provides a more nuanced context of how we arrived at the public shaming of Shatou during the recent Covid outbreak. It also contextualizes Baishizhou as an important landmark in Shenzhen’s cultural geography, speculating on what the demolition of Baishizhou means and might mean for the city. Published in Made in China, Archaeologies of the Belt and Road Initiative.
Long ago, when Handshake 302 was in Baishizhou and Baishizhou was the city’s most icon urban village, we ran a residency program. The first iteration of the residency was “Village Hack.” Several years ago, I reflected on the program and what it taught us about how Shenzheners were formed (paper can be downloaded, below).Continue reading
So, here’s a photograph that confused me for way too long. It pops up on Baidu, when I search “深圳老照片”. It was not immediately apparent to me, however, when and where this landscape existed. And then I stumbled upon a map of Futian Commune and it was like, wow, I get it. Here’s the map:Continue reading
April, May and June, Handshake 302 will be leading tours through the streets and history of Futian Street Office. If you’re in Shenzhen, subscribe to our we chat account to sign-up for a tour!
So, it’s been a while since I’ve written. There are reasons and non reasons for my digital silence, but one of the more relevant to my life as a blogger has been Handshake’s move from Baishizhou to Xiasha. Even as the evictions in Baishizhou proceed, we have started a new project “Marquee (走马灯),” which explores the relationship between technology and daily life. We are curious about your first mobile phone experience, your favorite wearable device, and the products that embarrass you. Continue reading
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?
On June 22, 2019, Handshake 302’s visiting artist, Xiao An celebrated her 28th birthday by preparing a Singleton Lunch. To prepare for the meal, she shopped the nearby street market like a professional, prepared “Whole Tomato Rice,” in the rice pot, and served up eggs, potatoes, and batchoy—all in two hours. In fact, this was the first time that the food at a Singleton Lunch was ready before the guests arrived. How did the meal come together so smoothly?
“I’ve spent a lot of time in the field,” Xiao’an said as she efficiently pulled everything together.
For this conversation, Xiao’an chose the topic “A Single Woman’s Fear and Love.” Four women and one man joined Xiao’an and Mary Ann, sharing stories about how it feels to be an unmarried married woman in contemporary Shenzhen. As the conversation developed, we realized that other issues, such as hometown and generation played important roles in what participants feared and how they felt about love.
Everyone at the table had made unconventional decisions in order to create a better life for themselves. Yet, this decision to come to Shenzhen and pursue professional dreams extracts a greater cost from women than from men. After all, a traditional man is expected to meet challenges and provide for his wife and family. In contrast, many young women do not work for themselves, but work for their natal families and then, once married, they work for their new family. So we shared this story: standing up our dreams when they came into conflict with social expectations.
This contradiction between our individual dreams and social expectations meant that our most common fear was that we would loose love if we became too much ourselves. If we didn’t act like a Hakka daughter and sister and help our brothers purchase a house and get married, would our parents still love us? If we didn’t get married and have a child before we turn 30 years, would our village still accept us or would they call us “a chicken who can’t lay eggs?” If we were still unmarried at 40, would there be a place for us in society, or would people be wondering, “what’s wrong with you that no man wants you?”
Consequently, most of us experienced love in relationships where our dreams were recognized and valued. When parents accepted a daughter’s choice to earn money for herself, this was experienced as love. When a friend encouraged us to ignore cruel gossip, this was experienced as love. And when we accepted our dreams and our decisions, this too was experienced as love. In other words, the “love” we sought wasn’t a passionate affair, but shared values and dreams, where our partners saw us as individuals and not a social role.
At the end of the meal, it was clear that we had all suffered when our individual desires came into conflict with traditional expectations. We all wanted our families to understand and accept our decisions. Consequently, it also became clear that we all shared a common wish for Shenzhen; we want the city to be a place where everyone—regardless of gender, hometown, or generation—can develop themself as an individual and find life-giving forms of love.
On Thursday and Friday, June 13-14, Handshake 302 led a workshop on pursuing sustainable development goals. The bi-lingual workshop was part of mass innovation week and Shenzhen maker week. We turned to Shuiwei for our inspiration. Images from the event show the city at its best: young, smart, and willing to contribute.
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