Just to make sure I went into the kitchen and talked Luoyang Subway Map to one of the waitresses, who led me into the private dining area. There had Luoyang Subway Map been a party of officials in town and they’d had a sumptuous banquet, with such plentiful dishes that many had been left untouched on the tables. The waitress cleared a table for me and brought over some rice and full dishes of deep fried fish, tomatoes, cucumber and wolf-berries which are sweet and juicy like cherries with a knobbly skin. And afterwards she brought me a glass of port. When it came to paying for my share of the banquet, she charged me 80 fen. What a treat.
Physical changes on the mid-ground’ can be quantified to a large degree, but moves in consciousness require different observational tools. It is argued here that one such tool is a study of art practice emerging from within China itself, not so much through an analysis of production or modes of commerce as through an understanding of practice and modes of intellect and imagination. Within this sphere are the curatorial practices of Hou Hanru and the artistic practice of Ai Weiwei. Both have emerged out of the Chinese experience while now operating globally. It is argued that a reinterpretation of Henri Lefebvre’s Rhythmanalysis applied to the practice of Hou and Ai can reveal clues as to the nature of contemporary re-imagining of city and self. Even though Lefebvre’s ideas evolved out of a twentieth-century European urban scenario, it is argued that his notion of arrhythmia is now in tune with the transience of this urban century. To begin we need to consider the concept of Rhythmanalysis and its role in understanding how the city has been imagined and is being re-imagined.
Arrhythmia: An idea born posthumously
At the end of Lefebvre’s life that spanned almost the entire twentieth century and played out far from China, his thoughts returned to the idea of the city as rhythm. Lefebvre can be thought of as an urban theorist, philosopher and creative observer. It is difficult to categorize such a thinker. Perhaps it is this difficulty in categorization that makes Lefebvre’s observations so pertinent to an analysis of today’s urban world in which departmentalization of ideas is increasingly blurred. As Lefebvre looked out of his apartment window on Rue Rambuteau across the quintessential city of twentieth-century imagination, Paris, he observed the beginnings of a re-imagining of the idea of the city not formerly experienced. He was not alone in his observations. Gaston Bachelard for one had also pondered on the city and its rhythms in his publication Poetique de t’espace/Poetics of Space (1994) but it was Lefebvre who developed the idea into a methodology, a mode of analysis to understand the changing nature of urban space. Lefebvre’s last thoughts in Elements de Rythmanalyse: Introduction a la connaissance des rhythmes (1992)/Rhythmanalysis: Space, time and everyday life (2004) were ideas destined to be born posthumously’ (Elden 2006: 185). Even after Lefebvre’s ideas on Rhythmanalysis were translated into English from the original French publication, most urban theorists did not regard the ideas as highly as those in his better-known publications in the English-speaking world, such as La production de l’espace (1974)/The Production of Space (1991). The city as lived social space has framed much contemporary thinking on cities, but it was not until more recently that concepts inherent in Rhythmanalysis have coincided with the lived experience of the twenty-first century and led to the re-thinking of how Lefebvre’s ideas might be applied to today’s urban condition (Highmore 2005; Meyer 2008). Lefebvre endeavoured to understand the city through the analytical tool of rhythm that he defined as polyrhythmia or co-existence of two or more diverse rhythms, eurhythmia or association between different rhythms and isorhythmia or equality between rhythms, implying equivalence of repetition, measure and frequency. His final work built on earlier explorations by others, including his collaboration with Katherine Regulier (Lefebvre and Regulier 1985, 1986). Their work investigated the role of rhythm in relation to individual and groups of cities already recognizing urban groupings and networks that would later expand into far more complex networked relationships. When he wrote The Urban Revolution in 1970, Lefebvre recognized that a revolution was in progress, that society had become urbanized and that it was the urban that shaped society (Lefebrve 2003), but it was not until later applications of his ideas that the significance of urban consciousness has come to the forefront.
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