过几天…… and a few days later…
过几天…… and a few days later…
The following is cross-posted from Petra JOHNSON’s original notes at 小卖部 Kiosk, first published on 9 April 2012. It is the beginning of a choreographic dialogue involving walking, gardening and “getting to know” along two parallel routes in Cologne and Beijing. You can view her route in Beijing here.
When you walk 600 strides from the North Exit of the central World Heritage Centre in both Cologne and Beijing you will find yourself at the locations shown below: The Cologne route leads diagonally over the forecourt of the main train station to the taxi rank, then it heads toward a ring road and there turns right into Marzellenstrasse. After 600 strides, you are just before a small enclave called Ursulaplatz on the opposite side of the road.
Ursulaplatz shelters one tree that hovers over a fast road and is hovered over by a railway line. The predominant sound is the droning of cars passing out of sight below, occasionally relieved by a passing train passing above.
In Beijing the route proceeds from the exit at the Northern End of the Imperial Palace just opposite Jinshang Park and turns right into the pathway along the moat. At the first junction it turns left into Jingshan West Street and runs through the small stretch of park outside the wall of Jingshan Park. Early in the morning, the predominant sound here is that of birds singing.
Elderly men have brought their pet birds contained in beautiful wooden cages for a bit if fresh air. The cages are hung on the trees and whilst the men chat amongst each other sitting on benches on the other side of the path, the birds sing in the privacy of trees, each sitting on a perch in their cage.
Last night (April, 10th) E and I compared notes. How many strides did it take to walk the respective routes? In Cologne, the route had been stretched just before I left in order to accommodate Mahira’s request to wind itself around the new mosque and the Jewish Community Centre, in Beijing the route has remained the same. I was concerned that the routes no longer matched in terms of length. Elaine had walked the Beijing route the previous night and counted 8093 strides, the Cologne route had taken me 8040 strides. There is a saying by the German writer Duerrenmatt: ‘The more careful you plan, the more opportunity you give to serendipity.” He clearly has a point. What rational explanation lies behind this surprising and pleasant discovery? I too had walked the route in Beijing and counted my strides. A quick mathematical calculation established that the ratio between our strides is 1:4.
So what seems long becomes short and the short becomes long yet everything is as it should be – as long as the planning is comprehensive and thorough. I had always thought that planning was there to prevent surprises, it turns out planning enables them.
HomeShop opened its library to the public this summer. Although its collection comprises “not-yet 10,000 items,” the moment had already arrived for questions about the content, triggering a conversation that I joined the other day in HomeShop’s front space, on the issues of inclusion and exclusion.
As the library grows mostly through donations from friends and neighbors, certain patterns gradually emerge: all the books someone couldn’t take with them, some flea market novelties, something that “might come in handy.” To host anything, or hypothetically everything, would mean all the “bad” as well. Bad in the case of a library means the superfluous, the unhelpful, maybe the hateful; from another perspective, one never knows who will value what in a public library, and cutting away the inessential means cutting away part of a potential public. The central ambiguity of any archive lies on these fissures between values. This is also dependent on the reality of passing time, by which bad qualities are outlasted as a generation shifts and becomes other to itself; however, this process is most apparent in archives proper as opposed to libraries (who, in the future, will honestly cherish all of the pulp novels as books, as opposed to documents? Or do they, even at present?). One can then imagine, as did Jorge Luis Borges, a Babylonian library comprising all that was and is, in effect re-constructing the universe in type, a disorienting and endless universe in which we all dwell.
But of course other hard realities emerge to rebut this imaginary, unlimited possibility: space and order. HomeShop’s shelves are small, but not yet full. The intention of our conversation to edit the inventory—resulting, ironically, in only one or two withdrawals—therefore compromised on a discussion of what inclusion and exclusion mean. As an independent project initiated by individuals (namely, Fotini Lazaridou-Hatzigoga and Elaine W. Ho), whose nurturing is guided by particular investments rather than indifference, the HomeShop Library recalls Walter Benjamin’s words: “But one thing should be noted: the phenomenon of collecting loses its meaning as it loses its personal owner. Even though public collections may be less objectionable socially and more useful academically than private collections, the objects get their due only in the latter.”(1) But with its simple principle of acquisition and circulation based on personal relations, the HomeShop collection becomes a living and metabolic portrait of a community, complicating the possessive fondness of Benjamin’s ideal bourgeois collector.
The ordering methodology can be recognized as not as rigid or as rigorous as that of Beijing’s National Library of China, though it shares the Chinese Library Classification system’s categorizations (starting, of course, with Marx & Mao, passing next through religion and philosophy, proceeding to the hard sciences at the bottom/base). But where the State institution speaks the language of publicness with its vast architectural spaces and purportedly unparalleled collection, the State’s very ordering protocols eliminate even the imaginary possibility of housing the universe on its shelves, where this could at least be a fantasy in HomeShop’s case. (A review of the oddities in the not unimpressive foreign languages section at the National Library is enough to wonder what is the basis for their acquisitions; recommendations are not invited, I was told.) The universe, after all, is composed of many, many small and particular things, not just the mapped planets and giant balls of gas. Even without space, attentiveness and affect define an alternative order of ordering. As the Indian archival project Pad.ma points out: “To not wait for the archive is often a practical response to the absence of archives or organized collections in many parts of the world. It also suggests that to wait for the state archive, or to otherwise wait to be archived, may not be a healthy option.”(2)
One pertinent irony of our contemporary media-saturated world is the State’s inability to accommodate the histories that make up the most intimate (ie. unofficial) parts of people’s lives, which actually make up the majority of all stories. But is the ambition of the (art) project to recover all lost histories, to pursue the exhaustion of this chaotic universe on its shelves? And do we hope that the State eventually takes up the pursuit of accounting for this breadth of experience? But isn’t it true that they already do to some extent, through the surveillance of all of our movements and stockpiling of all of our utterances? The gap exposed is therefore not the abyss of quantities, but the ground on which qualities are encouraged to develop. HomeShop’s library, emphasizing the knowledge and feeling that flow from individuals and can be borrowed—social exchanges, that is to say—hosts a potential to reflect the library as a universe despite or rather because of its modesty, its ethics-under-development. That said, at the end of our afternoon crusade of book-purging, we finally had to put off the decision of what to cut, until some other moment in the future.
The HomeShop Library is open daily for browsing and for borrowing. Please come by.
1. Walter Benjamin, “Unpacking my library” in Illuminations
2. From Pad.ma’s “10 Theses on the Archive.” Visit Pad.ma’s alternative video archive: http://pad.ma/
OPENING: Sunday, June 5th, from 14.00
featuring free distribution of project sound map and guides at HomeShop, guided tour of project sites and hidden ephemera
location：Dongcheng District, Jiaodaokou Beiertiao 8
参加艺术家 Participating Artists：打油 Gerard ALTAIÓ（西班牙 ES）、Niko de LAFAYE（法 FR）、Michael EDDY（加拿大 CA）、Alfred HARTH（德 DE）、何意达 HE Yida（中国 CN）、何颖雅 Elaine W. HO（香港/美国 HK/USA）、冯昊 FENG Hao（中国 CN）、奥拉夫·郝赫尔茨 Olaf HOCHHERZ（德 DE）、Elke MARHÖFER（德 DE）、梅志勇 MEI Zhiyong（中国 CN）、盛洁 Gogo J（中国 CN）、苏文祥 SU Wenxiang（中国 CN）、陶轶 TAO Yi（中国 CN）、徐坦 XU Tan（中国 CN）、徐喆 XU Zhe（中国 CN）、颜骏 YAN Jun（中国 CN）、殷漪 YIN Yi（中国 CN）、照骏园 CIAO Jun-y（中国 CN）、组织 ZUZHI（中国 CN）
《此地无声》是一个将要发在北京东城区的艺术活动。所有参与的艺术家，声音艺术家及声音工作者们将以“声音”作为主题并且运用“声音”作为材料完成各自的 作品。作品呈现的方式将为装置、行为与音乐表演等等。作品放置的地点是剧场、艺术空间以及一些公共空间，活动持续时间为一周。在此期间还会发生一些相关讲 座与工作坊等项目。活动组织方会制作一份地图，上面会标示出所有艺术作品放置的地点。这些作品的分布将以国子监为中心，步行20分钟即可到达的范围内。
The Sound of Nowhere is an art project to be embedded deep in the recesses of Dongcheng District, scattered in the vicinities of Andingmen and Gulou. This is an experiment with sound and geography, whereby artists and ‘sound laborers’ will for the duration of one week present workshops, lectures, installations and performances for various locations on the map—from art spaces, a theatre, restaurants to a hair salon. The projects will be traceable from a printed map that guides participants for short walks within a 20 minute radius to find and experience these works as interventions and exchanges with the surrounding public space. By working from a conceptual recognition of sound, we seek to locate and initiate certain resonances between this often overlooked sense and its relation to the noise of our daily urban environs.
5-12 June 2011
A full programme of all activities will be posted as it is available. Please stay tuned at www.soundofnowhere.info for further information.
Che Fei and CU OFFICE’s trans-community: Jin Street Model
Gentrification and the Everyday
Part 3: Everyday Life
Occupation, as I talked about in the previous part, is an expression of the Everyday and an important part of Everyday Life involves the active occupation of space, for example in the way the HomeShop has come to occupy its new site. The consequences of occupation threaten institutionalisation, which may lead to gentrification in its imposition of permanent change on an area.
On the other hand institutionalisation protects HomeShop’s work from over-ephemerality or instant dispersal. The positive side of this comes from an example of activism, as Isaac Mao points out:
“… In China, many dissidents and activists are opening up their personal information. Why? Because previously they just wanted to close it down to protect themselves without being tracked by the government. Someone might want people to know his position so he can do things secretly. But now many are opening up this information because they see the social power. Once they’ve opened up their position, home phone, and travel plans, more people in the cloud know where they are at the same time as the authorities. He is protected even as he is tracked.”
40 bags-cum-picnic-mats custom designed for the NO+CH Open Studio Camp:
开放工作营第一天 Open Studio Camp day 1: 北欧和北方人都不意识到的来自南方长洲抢包山，鲜姜蜂蜜茶，豆浆
outdoor catering southern-style (ironically, none of the participants——either Nordic or Chinese——are aware of the origins of the bun tower) with steamed stuffed buns; honey ginger tea; soybean milk
地点 location: 幸福二村的“公共广场”，十一大花篮儿前面
Xingfu’ercun “public space” with temporary floral monument in honour of National Day (two weeks earlier)
开放工作营第四天 Open Studio Camp day 4: 非传统冬菇与鸡蛋饭团，豆苗冬菇沙拉，玫瑰花茶
mushroom and egg rice balls, not in traditional form, though a relative use of resources; mushroom and sprout salad; rose tea
地点 location: 三里屯Village北区，劳力士楼上，Tony Studios理发师隔壁
Sanlitun Village North, upstairs from Rolex, next door to Tony Studios hair salon
last night：The“小保安 little bodyguard”is harmonized.
today：We harvest a lot of mushrooms, and the little bodyguard escapes from the wall!
One finds oneself laughably excusing oneself before the Security Guard wearing baggy pleated shorts. At the same moment as the question emerges from the tip of my tongue (was that indignation or hesitation): Isn’t this a public space?——those wry twinges at the back of the head (very pertinent?) know all too well that a shopping mall is not a public space. What are you doing here? she asks.
Oh, hmm…uhh…I guess standing around the square and accosting people to take their pictures are not allowed. Security Guard very easily narrates her rehearsed consumer edification statement on the nature of such a “public space” as 三里屯 Sanlitun Village in East Beijing: This is the property of 太古 Taigu (Swire), and while visitors are free to regard this as a public space we do retain certain regulations and have the right to enforce them. Also inflected: consumers must be defended at all costs from anything that deters from a total shopping/dining experience, especially annoying ones like you.
Can I take your photo?
It is the perfect balance of civilised courtesy and the scenario of firm, surveyed control. We can reach the pinnacle of sophistication in an environment where we are surrounded by bourgeouis goods (I hung around to photograph one very fashionable trio, but they stayed inside Izzue for over an hour) and earphone/walkie-talkie donning young guards wearing baggy pleated shorts. It would be easy to walk away then and continue to accost Sanlitun visitors around the corner, on the other side of the square, maybe in front of the American Apparel instead of the Nike store. But you’ve been booted already, no balls, and it’s easy to begin seeing suspicious glares in all the other baggy-pleated short wearing guards that you pass every 50 meters. Go ahead and try to make friends now!
I go to an American-Italian-esque café to have a cappuccino instead. Sigh. Like my mother when she was younger, I can sit for hours on end watching people, though I wonder if my mother ever had as much longing after strangers as I do on a day like today, when I’ve been shamed for my feeble attempts at public engagement. Back then, my mother would visit the old Kai Tak airport in Kowloon Bay, and I guess I grew up in the shopping malls. It’s introductory Augé on repeat. But if these are not public spaces, perhaps we are not publics either, and I can only justifiably play fashion police as a marketing study for what trends and consumer groups should be regarded as the main influencers. To be an influencer would only then be a question of who best shines under a control scenario, under the influence of terms like ‘regime’ and ‘privatisation’ and ‘surveillance’. Is that what I like so much about the hutong still then, where life still happens under the cuff as much as it is committee-surveyed and organized for behavioural control (i.e., “文明北京人 civilised Beijinger”) as any of our more cosmopolitan world alternatives?
Maybe things are not tested as much as they could be. It felt sheepish to receive in an e-mail today: keep pushing the threshold. Playing ballsy? What does that mean, exactly? I would have liked to have written a treatise on ballsy-ness by now, but I sit instead at an American-Italian-esque café thinking too much about people who could care less. “Beyond” could be like a Badiou-ian truth, but vectorless possibilities and ballsy-ness require some form of immanence to be pushed. And where does interior exist in a control society? Are these the parameters of ‘post-privacy‘? We are all influenced. All captured and captivated and de-humanised.