突然，夏天…they said it suddenly became summer…
The next meeting of the Happy Friends Reading Club will take place in an uninhabited hutong near the South entrance to Nan Luoguxiang. The discussion is taken from a chapter from one of Yi-Fu Tuan‘s earliest publications, Space and place: the perspective of experience. Download the chapter “Attachment to Homeland” here [PDF, 9.5mb], and the book’s Epilogue there [PDF, 1mb].
We are meeting on the corner at the South entrance to Nan Luoguxiang on Sunday at 2:45pm and will proceed to the location from there. We will head over there, too, anyone is welcome to join, just be on time so that we can head to site. If there are any problems, please phone Mr. Eddy at 15001127304.
北京的第二场雪后的家作坊。［photo by 杨弘迅 Winson Yang］
修车师傅宋贤根穿着蓝色工服干活 ［photo by 杨弘迅 Winson Yang］
[all photos above by 高灵 GAO ling] more about the welcoming home of 1,500 bricks can be found at instant hutong. Beer and curious passersby make for a less than “silent insertion into the hutongs”, but more than one week later our mini-veranda is still standing, waiting to be taken away or re-used, maybe a new fort for the kids or just another kind of looking in and out…
21 june 2009.
On one hand, she says “cultural” outside of the ‘China vs. the World’ binaries that are so well-preserved in these parts, but on another she’s hand, let’s focus upon the “exchange” part of that phrasing rather than the “cultural”.
Okay, so naïvely, let’s broaden our minor understandings of culture:
From the Department of Social Relations, (why people act as they do)… 1. the “behavioral system” of biological needs… 2. the “personality system” of an individual’s characteristics affecting their functioning in the social world… 3. the “social system” of patterns of units of social interaction, especially social status and role… 4. the “cultural system” of norms and values that regulate social action symbolically.
If we can focus upon such exchanges with less quantitative referent to their final outcomes——e.g., commodity, your value for the money, the art product——we try to focus instead upon the cycles, flows and transmissions thereof, observation and documentation as an active process and deconstruction. I don’t know how much it is possible to tear down what we want to see. I don’t know how much it is possible to open oneself to the context, how that refers to the organisational motions toward content. What content can be put forth without specific agendas, can means without ends really be a geopolitical question (the living organisation of the city), or is it just too banal (the routine), too asocial (acommunicative)? what about adding another word to the question of context as content? “Continuity.” The minor displacements over time in Reich-ian fashion, repetition conjoined with all our failures in memory as an open-ended form of exchange. Growing up.
(small note for sportsbabel: wondering if my hesitation about ‘the gift’ has to do with that isolated ending, if “gift-ing” as a theoretical practice renders something different?)
Over a meal with QU and Xiao, Qu asks about this paper we are writing. I try to say “micropolitics” in Chinese. He asks, “How can there be politics in the hutong? There is no politics (政治 zhengzhi, in Chinese) between the people in this yard. Politics is something from above; it’s government.” So we try to find a Chinese equivalent of our English sense of the word ‘politics’. We come to ‘relations’, ‘neighbourhood interconnections’, something along these lines… In thinking about it, he recalls for us the story of two other neighbours getting into a huge dispute last year, whereby one neighbour, a 70 year-old woman, tried to build a small coal shed in front of her home, thus making the ‘public’ corridor narrower — a nuisance to the other household who would have to pass it everyday. When the woman went ahead and had workers build the shed for her, the husband of the other family took a hammer and smashed it down. She had the workers build it up again. As the workers carried out their job, the husband began a brawl with them, and the police and chengguan were finally called in to intervene. Yes, a micropolitics of interpersonal relations. A politics inevitably linked to power and space. One becomes the other. Does this serve as a screen for something? A filter for something larger or smaller? I worry about applicability, have fallen into the postmodern traps. And noticed yesterday that you have been identified as a postmodern philosopher… so tell me, under fog of screen and language, how can anything be translated anymore?
it seems ridiculous to play the 关系 game sometimes, in the sense of it’s sometimes cunning regard for strategy and alterior motivations, but on the other hand, it also seems awkward to 挖 a 关系 with someone whom you have no specific thing to ask of, without an alterior motive and only the hint that you may have certain interests in common. is it just me?
anyhow, bea, just someone i took note of… came online across a U. of Pennsylvania department of Geography doctoral student named Melissa Rock. She posted a paper that looks right up our hutong (嘿嘿 bad pun) at a conference last year, here is the abstract:
Commodification and Gentrification: Hutongs of “Old Beijing”
According to the Beijing Urban Master Plan (2005-2020), the preparatory construction for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games marks only the first wave of urban redevelopment, transforming China’s capital in to a “world-class city”. The promise and process of this transformation calls for significant de- and re-construction of Beijing’s physical landscape as well as its socio-economic, historic, and cultural configurations. China’s progressive transition towards a market economy, in conjunction with Beijing’s expedited city restructuring to host the Olympics, has triggered city-center land valuation and housing speculation. As a result, thousands of Beijing hutongs have been demolished in favor of high-rise commercial and residential buildings; former neighborhoods become spatially fragmented and former residents are displaced. The demographic splintering of these hutongs marks a simultaneous disruption to socio-spatial practice, culture, community, and identity. However, in the rush to modernize, Beijing has not overlooked the cultural and historic value of the Old City. The Beijing city government has designated at least twenty-five hutong districts as cultural heritage conservation sites. Measures regarding hutong conservation include stipulations on residential density and architectural style. Nonetheless, conflict and contradictions abound as the commodification of hutongs precipitates the gentrification of Beijing’s city-center, prompting the question: do history, culture, and identity reside in place-specific architecture or in the socio-spatial practices of the residents who inhabit and traverse it? Through analysis of Beijing’s urban redevelopment and image-making process, this paper examines how place meanings are constructed through the dynamics of representational discourses, spatial configurations, as well as socio-economic and cultural institutions.
The question of place versus practice is one familiar to you, i think, as it came up a lot in your proposal for Sichuan, and this element of practice—-the doing of daily life—-is something highly important to HomeShop. Going back to the question of context, it’s not merely a question of time and place, but situation specificity, whereby culture and identity seem to be largely determined, by “the matter at hand” and giving oneself—-when there is no real sense of security (in the State)—-to matters as they are. Perhaps a lot of Buddhist values are inscripted here, but non-action (on one hand) and utter passivity (on another) is in such a way, perhaps a very active kind of being.
HomeShop, 10 August 2008, 14:43. Liu Yang and her friend visit HomeShop after lunch to catch up and share some plum juice. Auntie’s dog comes by for a visit and pees on their bicycles. Now who’s bike is it?
9 august 2008: less than about two hours after finishing recipe for plum juice with subtle intentions for youthful, nostalgic enterprise, it is discovered that there is unbeatable competition in the form of a mobile civil servant who delivers free plum juice to the neighbourhood watch taitais everyday…
beijing, CN weather for 8 august 2008: cloudy and overcast, high 34° C – low 26° C. ［照片 photo by 任杰 Ren Jie]
unexpectedly, they gather inside as well, cliques form in enclosed spaces, are private spaces, a flipping of the image. every so often someone passes underneath the screen: let’s get some fresh air, take a picture, or another beer. ［左照片 left photo by 何新城 Neville Mars, 右照片 right photo by 逗号 Comma]
the twins stay up late with mama and papa. they’ve brought their own newspapers to sit on, and the 居民, hesitant and more wary than the crowd gathered centre front, remain leaning on bicycle, a curious periphery. ［照片 photo by 逗号 Comma]
one makes a suggestion to move the drinks closer to the crowd. they are shy to come up to the shop/screen and help themselves. it is difficult to keep the beers cold at this time of year—-a humid Beijing summer night—-but time passes, each country makes its entrance and we sweat, enthralled. ［照片 photo by 任杰 Ren Jie]
呼，胡。 Camera movements are orchestrated in an almost-precision choreography, and we all know when it is our time to come on. Or we look for that flickering moment when a head turns to realise which camera has us. Big screen watching, the view finder can be deceiving. …Konstantinos Glücksburg?［照片 photo by 任杰 Ren Jie]
she calls him 老刘 Old Liu, the literary fool who always speaks the truth. she’r teng: he thinks i either never come out or go out too much; we’ve both lived on this street for about one year now, and how come i never see you?［照片 photos by 逗号 Comma]
he wants to rouse the otherwise captivated still… they cheer for him, and the chinese-toronto crew in the back, too. ［照片 photo by 任杰 Ren Jie]
we want to see china, they want to see china, 大家都为西红柿炒鸡蛋站起来喊叫。big brother Zheng is always cool: “Nothing to shout about, we can just sit back and relax.” ［照片 photo by 任杰 Ren Jie]
17 days and counting: HomeShop is watching… 17天以下：家作坊在看… Many thanks to sportsbabel for working together, carrying, and making connections from between spaces by the shopfront tree…［照片 photo by 逗号 Comma]