Neijiang Subway Map

The China Phenomenon: More than commerce

This explosion of contemporary art within China and from China has been referred to as The China Phenomenon’ (Britton and Huangfu 2003). Much of the interest hinges on investment possibilities of contemporary art production seen first through the rise of the European market for Chinese contemporary art and more recently the rise of a domestic market as China’s middle class grows wealthier. Although some claim that generally the China Fever’ (Maerkle 2008: 22) apparent in the West has been overplayed, it is becoming increasingly evident that China and the growing urban world are economically intertwined. Independent of these commercial considerations, it is argued here that this entwinement extends to urban consciousness and that perhaps this is the most significant aspect of the China Phenomenon’. Artistic and philosophical thinking together with political awareness play a critical part in understanding the re-imagining of city and self. Henri Lefebvre’s urban analysis and thinking was always philosophically informed and politically aware’ (Lefebvre 2004: xv) framed by the context that he thought like an artist’ (Castells, cited in Merrifield 2006: xxii). Lefebvre counted many artists amongst his closest friends, perhaps indicating his high regard for their mode of thinking. Two key creative thinkers who engage the artistic, the philosophical and the political to varying degrees in their urban analysis though practice are artist Ai Weiwei and curator Hou Hanru. Both are part of the China Phenomenon.

Born in 1957, Ai Weiwei’s life experience was impacted by the Cultural Revolution through the denouncement of his poet father, Ai Qing, in 1958 when the family was sent to a labour camp, where they remained until 1975. Later Ai Weiwei left China, as did many others, to live for the most part in New York. Again like others, he moved back to work as a professional artist in China. Hou was born in 1953 and left China in 1990 to live in Paris and more recently in San Francisco. He remains living outside of China while at the same time engaging in cultural commentary on art production and practice emerging out of contemporary China. There are differences between Hou and Ai in both practice and intention. Observation of their individual practice reveals constructed as well as unanticipated arrhythms growing out of their urban analyses through art practice. This creates not a condition of either/or but something altogether new to reveal shifts in urban consciousness and perceptions of self that reflect a process evident in China itself of reinventing of its own culture’ (Fei 2007: 1). Such a reinvention takes place within circular movements of ideas’ (Huangfu 2001: 200) and an increasing experience of transience across the urban world.

I wondered what time supper would end at my Neijiang Subway Map hotel. I had been looking forward to tempting my jaded appetite with a good dinner. Neijiang Subway Map The empty road stretched straight across the desert up into the mountains bordering Inner Mongolia. A truck came into sight but so far away that it took a long time to reach me. It passed me without stopping.

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