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
In “City on the Fill,” I have been tracking the transformation of the Houhai coastline. Houhai means “backwater” and Qianhai means “front water.” These are terms from over 1,700 years ago, referring to the bays behind and in front of the former yamen at Nantou. Both Houhai and Qianhai have been repurposed in Shenzhen 3.0. Houhai has transformed from being a literal backwater at the edges of Shenzhen 1.0 and upscale suburbs in Shenzhen 2.0 to the new location of the city’s upgraded electronics industry. Qianhai, of course, is the site of the Qianhai-Shekou Free Trade Zone, which has defined development in Shenzhen for about a decade and is itself proposed as the new center of 3.0. (Inquiring minds want to know: will it happen?)
A ten-year retrospective of Sui Jianguo (隋建国)’s work, System is currently on display at the OCAT Art Terminal. Across the street, Hua Museum, has showcased Miao Xiaochun (缪晓春)’s work in the solo exhibition, Simulations. Both artists have played with scale and method, calling attention to the material practice of creating in an era of digitalized mass production. However, where Sui Jianguo has interrogated the relationship between the human body, clay and its digitalized transformations, Miao Xiaochun has turned his attention to the relationships between digital simulations, imagined futures, and the resulting landscapes.
In order to talk about the ways in which urban villages are both the form and content of the emergence of Shenzhen, the mind searches for a narrative arc in the earnest hyperbole of a Sci-Fi universe where the good is still mostly good and the bad drags its slimy tale through fetid waste streams. However recycled and repurposed, we’re still talking about the contradictions that made Fritz Lang’s Metropolis so compelling. Above ground, the Metropolis boasts spires and towers for scientifically enhanced bodies that play in an Olympian stadium and pleasure gardens. These beautiful bodies can only be achieved through exploitation and guided mutation; evil is attractive. Underground, human workers endlessly labor. Unappealing and gaunt, shriveled and inert, these low-end bodies are fashioned through usefulness to the machine and dreary tenement lives.
My recent turn to Sci-Fi is (as were Mary Shelley’s and Fritz Lang’s respective turns) informed not so much by a fear of mad science, but by distress over how technology is produced, distributed and used in neoliberal cities. Technology has been central to the form and content of social polarization in Shenzhen. Urban villages are not substandard living spaces. In fact, when compared to low-income neighborhoods in other Chinese cities and abroad, Shenzhen’s villages are almost middle middle class quality. But here’s the rub. Shenzhen’s urban villages are substandard with respect to the city’s gated communities, shopping malls, and office towers–and the gap is growing.
Those who have followed Shenzhen Noted for the past twelve years know that the reclamation of Houhai Bay has been one of my ongoing obsessions. Today, I walked again and found myself momentarily confused by the current grid; previously I used Binhe Road and its constructions to locate myself. I’m trying to think through what it means that sand has become glass. It is not the case that “all that is solid melts into air,” but rather all that was liquid solidifies and congeals. Mummies and amber. Dinosaurs and fossil fuels. Anyway, photos, below:
My cellphone has changed me or rather it has changed how I experience myself, and this other me (the one that steps back and reflects on this experience) is coming to terms with someone I never imagined I would meet, let alone become. Continue reading