Mural Painting Project of the New Countryside Laboratory
Lijiang Studio, First Commune of Hainan Jixiang Village, Lashihai, Lijiang, Yunnan 674100, China
2008–2010 (book launch 19 August, 2012)
The unannounced appearance one day of a sign painter covering a Chinese villager’s wall with an advert for the state telco, China Mobile, inspired Lijiang Studio, an arts organisation located in a small farming community in the South West of China, to think about how public space was used in the village and led to the development of their Mural Painting Project as part of their “New Countryside Laboratory.”
The presence of the sign painter was one small realisation of the Chinese central government’s plans for opening new markets in the countryside, a plan that was referred to as creating the “Socialist New Countryside.” Such well-intentioned plans for national development emanating from the corridors of power in Beijing can seem distant and disconnected from the reality on the ground, Lijiang Studio’s series of investigations, of which the Mural Painting Project is part, have been looking into the impact of these governmental proposals on its subjects.
After decades of pushing for city development and encouraging the movement of people from the countryside to urban areas, in the lead-up to the 17th Party Congress in 2008 a new emphasis was placed on the countryside, termed the Socialist New Countryside, for the 11th five-year plan. “One theme in the rhetoric of the Socialist New Countryside is increasing ‘productivity’ and opening the countryside to new markets,” says Jay Brown, founder and director of Lijiang Studio. “Being in the countryside you want to know what the government plans for you – collectivisation, reform, privatisation, etc. We figured laying the rhetoric onto the reality of our village would be a starting point for discussion and action.”