China’s urban surface

Looking out of the window of my bus into central Beijing, I can see a lot of rebuilding going on. This is of course nothing new – I’ve never really seen a lull since I came to China two years ago. But there seems an added urgency now, perhaps driven by the 1 October National Day celebrations just around the corner.

Last year there was a major effort to clean up Beijing’s image in time for the Olympics. This was very much for the benefit of the visitors coming to experience China and Beijing as host for the Games. But this time, we have what an internal affair, the 60th Anniversary of the founding of the Republic, and the collective effort has in many ways been refined and expanded from last year’s dry run.

Maybe because time is running out to complete building projects, at this point there is a noticeable concentration of effort going into the borders of the building sites, the edges between the sites and the public areas, in an effort to polish the surfaces of China’s ubiquitous piles of rubble. This concentration is at its height at building sites along the main roads and gets progressively diluted according to the hierarchy of streets, becoming less intense as you move from dajie, to xiaojie, to the alleys and hutongs.

The criteria for effort seems to be dependent on what is public and private space, and is consequently redefining what is public and private. “Public” and “private” seems to be defined by visibility – if you can see it from the road, it’s public, and these “public” areas are seen as part of the State’s responsibility for its image, and are taken under the State’s wing as places which are vulnerable to tidying up.

So new walls and surfaces are being built to hide the messy bits, which through the act of redefining of public and private, become private, invisible places, inside the public, visible boundaries.

Beijing Report

Following up on the previous post, I think I should justify in some way my comments about the work I saw while in Beijing. By “justify” I mean present some kind of record and evidence for my reactions. To recap, some of the architecture, photography and sculpture appealed to me, but by and large much of this was by foreign practitioners.

Continue reading

Getting better (I think)

Made it into work today. Didn’t really want to, but there’s just too much to do at the moment. I feel better than I did yesterday, I still have the sore throat and am sneezing a lot, but at least my body doesn’t feel like it’s been beaten any more.

Got to a meeting early today, so spent the time before it started taking some shots round Cambridge (it was a nice sunny day). It was one of those nice experiences, in that when I took a look at the pics when I got home I noticed many aspects to them that I hadn’t seen when I was taking the photos. I really liked the way Garage 1, Garage 2 and Garage 4 came out after being cropped drastically – very abstracted, the colours came through really well. Garage 3 was a bit of an anomaly, but I left it in regardless.

Also the rather unreal building in the background of this shot. And this shot is just a beautiful take on a fairly common subject (at least it is in Cambridge) – the fan of punts really makes the composition. Oh, and this one with the beautiful blue of the window – I like the fact that it’s off in one corner, not the main subject, but adds so much to the overall feeling of the pic. That’s what I think, anyway.