Visiting the Honghe Vineyard in Mi Le, Yunan, I am reminded how necessary a full sense life is; yes, it is beautiful here, but even more than visual, this is a beauty of open ears, nose, and mouth. Birds sing, flowers entice, spices and herbs tempt the tongue, and the breeze lightly touches open skin. Yet, in the middle of it all, my guide points to an “urban village.” The form has been generalized, something else that we have learned from Shenzhen and Guangzhou. Can there be meaningful rural life when urban consumption of the rural has pre-empted actual villages as the presumed mode of living, even here.
The movie is 《封门诡影》 and it starts of with the fear of abandoned villages as if the reason was for villages being emptied out was supernaturally evil. Fengmen (literally closed door) Village was inexplicably abandoned. I’ve never never seen Blair Witch, but this movie seems kind of like, but with ghosts and dodgy fengshui. Our intrepid hero teaches psychology and has issues because unable to understand evil within his cognitive framework. It’s all in your mind. But not really. Cut to evil cackle.
For those who doubt that once upon a time Bao’an County was coastal, I offer images from Baguang, one of the more beautiful sections of Dapeng New District. The majority of Baguang villagers have been relocated, while land and coastline have been red-lined for environmental protection, green living and research. At the moment, Baguang shimmers at the cusp of redevelopment–not yet remade, but yet already under erasure. Boom!
Yesterday, I visited the two-day exhibition that Xu Lan (徐岚) put up in a one-bedroom apartment (2,400 / month) in Tangtou Block 6, Baishizhou. The exhibition took place over two days (Jan 8 and 9, 2017) and comprised mountain and water sketches / illustrations from a week-long stay (previous) in Baishizhou. The series itself is part of an ongoing project of travelling and documenting those travels. The inspiration for the exhibition (as narrated by Xu Lan) was random (偶然). He was thinking of the painter Qi Baishi (齐白石) and painted his own “Baishizhou” and then decided to show the works in Baishizhou, Shenzhen because he remembered having been here once.
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
It’s instructive to jump off the number 11 subway line, once its passed the airport station. In Bao’an District, the No 11 line runs parallel to Bao’an Road, which delineates the inner border between the older, historic village settlements and their industrial parks. East of Bao’an Road, one heads toward the Pearl River, land reclamation, and scattered reminders of this deeper history. West of Bao’an Road, one heads through large industrial parks toward National expressway G107, which was the road that first connected the original Special Zone to Guangzhou via Songgang (images of a 2008 walk, here). At Nantou Checkpoint, National Highway 107 becomes Shannan Road and a fast track to the inner district real estate boom. Continue reading
This past few days I’ve been in Changde, participating in the “Chance Encounter” Contemporary Arts Festival. Its the first of its kind in the city, and attempts to bridge between the city’s rich heritage of carpentry and stone-cutting with the capitalist juggernaut that has made its way to China’s so-called “third tier” cities.
Guanhu (官湖) and Shayuchong (沙渔涌) Villages are within walking distance to each other along the Dapeng coastline. Guanhu is the village that has developed Jiaochangwei. A small settlement at the mouth of a river, Shayuchong is undergoing a complete renovation that is reminiscent of the horrific universidade paint-overs. Both villages are in various stages of redevelopment. And in the details I trace Shenzhen’s complicated preservation ecologies, where beauty, kitsch desires, and too much money take strange and curious form. Impressions from today’s walk, below.
The current focus on preserving Hubei Old Village obscures just how much Special Zone history and everyday life will be demolished to make way for the new China Resources development downtown. What’s at stake are competing understandings of what makes a good life for whom and who gets to decide the form and function of the city. Continue reading