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Outside the theatre
Outside the theatre

By 3.00pm the crowds have subsided due the post lunch siesta, apart from a flurry around my pear crumble demonstration. The Stalls are packed away to get ready for Harold’s festival extravaganza.

At 3.30 the children of the village had assembled to put on their costumes for the parade Harold has designed to celebrate the village stakeholder community of farmers, power station workers, foresters, tourists, animals and at 3.45 Xinghai orders the parade to start quarter of an hour early as the crowd is forming a powder keg of kiddy giddiness amongst the old folks houses in the ping fang. So on they march down and round the square and on to the park by the tower blocks where Bryan’s may pole is put to use with a wicker man soundtrack. It’s not quite Pan’s People but the pole is woven and it makes a spectacle that the village flock to see. This is the village doing something for the village and they are clearly pleased that their complex way of life is affirmed for a moment or two.

The parade moves on around the housing blocks, may pole and market stall in tow, through the village streets and on to the theatre steps for the performance and finale.
The school children sing their nature song (all pretty tree hugging twig dance territory, but done with gusto), I give a simple version of a complex problem speech accompanied by the hard nut Chinese harp player, followed by two traditional Chinese dances from the Workers’ Unions Dance Group. The first is a more trad red hanky waving affair but the second is a fantastic swooping 70’s Olympic opening ceremony number with a building and falling orchestral soundtrack. A tough act to follow but Harold in head to toe gold lame shaking his booty to Beyonce, and the Worker Union joining in, does the trick.

Finally the Scottish Country dancing takes us over the line and proves enormously popular. I think if have left anything in the village it will be the legacy of this and we have challenged them to break the world record for the longest strip the willow.

Whilst this is in a way the standard cultural car crash affair and Grizedale Staple (and has many notes of community art, contemporary cross referencing and even welfare state flag waving), the principle is that this instils confidence in the community, an idea that they can do this and more, that what they have is of value and they can control their future. Not over night, but the seed is sewn.

Later that night, after dinner, we are tired out and bit post-festival-down. But we get an invite from the Workers Union for a last supper and head down to the square where they treat us to beer and snails to say thank you for our efforts and to say farewell.

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the crowds start to gather for flap jack and ideas
the crowds start to gather for flap jack and ideas

Saturday 17 May, remember that now.

The final push of the project (Phase 1) results in a marathon of a day starting at 7.00am. We set up our stalls amidst the market, Bryan’s sino-constructivist edifice accompanied by a few more tables laid out with our ideas and samples of the projects we have been working on.

Clearly the arrival of the stall causes a stir. The convention in the market is to lay your things out on the floor or to be as inconspicuous as possible, so a tall table with a bright red modernist pagoda voguing roof is quite a statement amongst the greyness of dried mushroom and eels-in-a-bucket sellers.

There is a danger that we are seen as an invasion (God forbid an art invasion of very worst kind) but as a crowd gather it soon becomes clear that we are here with a purpose. Maria’s flapjacks do the trick from the off, as two Tupperware boxes of them disappear in a frenzied swarm of villagers. This is before we can lay out the stall with our goods, but when we do get the work out there is a serious appetite for the ideas as well.

Jay has been working with local producers to use local craft skills to rethink the packaging of their goods. She shows some of these and some films of the process, getting the stall holders to realise they can enhance and improve their product. Two gleaming Macbooks are obviously a draw, but it is the content and ideas that maintain a crowd for the whole morning and there is much discussion and excitement over the possibilities.

Similarly Bryan shows his designs for a new architectural scheme for the ping fang, or the old ‘flat’ houses district. The designs show a contemporary conversion or re-interpretation of the houses, with roof terraces, walkways and enhanced communal facilities. If you showed this in a village fayre in the UK you’d probably get lynched, but here the villagers gather round and enthuse about the idea that the Agency doesn’t have to destroy the old way of life and could re-think the ping fang. One guy, a local engineer, says he could make it at the fabrication works; in fact they could build this all themselves either in steel or wood. All very can do.

Up in one of the old ping fang we have been renting from Shu a Po (Old Lady Shu) we have dressed it up to demonstrate that you could bring new life to this district, using the houses in new ways, like shops, cafes, studios, silver surfer net station, workshops and so on. Laura has been working with a seamstress in the tower block shops to rework some APC-esque dresses in local fabrics. She has also been designing a Nanling fabric, a toile of local imagery, that can be used to promote and export the community. The ping fang house is made up in the manner of a guerrilla shop with dresses, fabric, crafts, plastic frog watering cans, Vitamin publications and brique a braques. Maria also shows the films she has made for the village – the house restaurant chicken recipe slaughter to plate, tofu making and the tourist motorcade punching through town. Shu a Po loves the Chicken killing film with its blue grass soundtrack.

Back down at the market the taste for more inter-continental cuisine is sated (you have to remember there is nothing other than local food here) as Maria hooks up with Uncle Joe’s restaurant and whips up a curry and endless chapattis – Britain’s favourite food and seemingly now Nanling’s. One of the hotel staff has to help make the flatbreads and there is now a queue stretching across the market square.

From 7.00 to 12.00 (which is strict lunchtime here) there is a sizeable crowd around us, all talking, all connecting with the ideas we are putting across.

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Now back in their studio in the UK Bryan and Laura inaugurate their electric rice cooker bought in the Five finger mountain hardware shop.

Topics: [Rice cookers]

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Back to Guangzhou for a few days.
Earthquakes are going on, more and more people are confirmed dead.
My boss, a documentary film maker, has rushed to Chengdu on 15th, hope he would be ok...hope everyone would be safe...
No Karaok, no music, no entertainment from 19th to 21th, because these 3 days are set as "National Tributes Day(?)", we are lucky enough that our "Happy Stacking " is held one day before...

Well...

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Greetings Happy Stackers. I've finally got round to posting my final blog, i shot this on our last day (18th May). Its great being here in Hong Kong, i think a stopover here should have been build into the schedule, hint for next Alistair, team building and all that. Saw Elton John last night, going to happy valley races tonight and karaoke blow out on friday,(are you up for it Jay?)

All of which gives a very different perspective on our Nanling experience. Upon my return to blighty next week i'll be posting more photos and footage from the parade. Ok, must dash got a date with some Panda's.

lots of Love
Harold

Topics: [Harold's Video Blog]

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Kids making chapatis on Happy Stacking Day
Kids making chapatis on Happy Stacking Day

Happy to be home after an intense 3 weeks barely moving outside a 200m diameter (from the hotel to the ping fang to the market).
Won't miss: the difficulty communicating with people in the village, even with a translator, as it never feels like a natural conversation.
Will miss: the very present vegetable growth in every spare pocket of soil. Those that go for walks, shopping etc in their pyjamas. The generosity and good nature of everyone we met there from the woman who offered us her ping fang house to work in, to the organic farmers who let us make a mess of their raised beds (allowing us to hack away happily at the weeds as a simple way for us to feel useful).
Happy Stacking Day was great, tiring, fun. Having stalls on the market was a good plan as people were enticed by the laptops and smell of cooking so once we were set up, the stalls were swamped till lunch and nap time. I hadn't realised how grey/brown the village was until the kids in their animal masks and flags paraded the streets spreading a bit of colour and family fun. Alistair's non-political/non-religious speech lightly explained why we were wandering around the village, looking like tourists, but not acting like them and this was followed by dancing, which never fails to get everyone going. It was a happy day followed by drinking, eating, singing and laughing with the dancing ladies (who have added Strip the Willow to their repertoire).

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If there is any future possibility of bringing Nanling to Grizedale:

Along the way I've meet some possible candidates that could benefit tremendously from time in the UK chez Grizedale and equally bring some indispensable knowledge and skills to us...
Suggestions:

Chen Yan Ping, a feisty, super smart Chinese teacher without any arsey self-important arrogance. Can crochet and gujun at the same time, seems to have fingers in pies and learns fast. Can join Grizedale local Chinese orchestra.
You Ying Qi (aka Maggie)- English teacher- improve her English because the school needs it, poss translator. Can make Chinese knots and knows dried food process. Young and desperate to see outside of Five Fingers.
Zhang Wei Jun- peanut oil producer, extremely resourceful and open minded, a really nice bloke who would instill confidence in the others
Uncle Joe..... war wound cooking, would be in his element learning and imparting knowledge, English chips for Chinese chips 50-50
Li Gui E- know how on food production, run an (honesty?) stall with her crochet skills, gain confidence to spread round others on her return
Zhang Mao Guang- a must pack traditional artist- calligrapher plus ink and brush landscape artist. Can also carve wooden stamps. Holds true to his word, brainy and helpful.
Lay Tin Yan, farmer and tea planting addict, (non PG) tips for Grizedale and paddies?

.... Xinghai/Worker's Union/the farm/family restaurant?

Topics: [Profile people]

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Post written on Sunday 18 May but didn't get a chance to post it so here it is. Now in Hong Kong and Nanling seems another world and time with earthquake coverage extensive and consumer goods in abundance.

Update: I was told on Monday by Chen that following Saturday's event and seeing the crochet works on my stall, a Scandinavian business woman based in Guanzghou has placed an order with her for a crochet style necklace and branded goods for July. They will design items together with future visits from the buyer accompanied by a translator... Zhang was present when she told me and I think it made them realise that this outcome is a promising step signalling it can all really happen.

............................................................>>>>>

Wow, yesterday was the last day and it has been whipped away in a flurry of setting up, maypoling, being mobbed by kids and speaking to a myriad of locals about the bags and videos I showed and eating a fourth supper in the evening. The stalls were bustling at many points of the day and the event from the parade and pear crumble to booty shaking was a good way to see the culmination of everyone's projects pursued here.

I spent the last week in and out of different backdrops, speaking and hands on doing with both Li Gui E (dried foodstuffs) and Zhang Wei Jun (Peanut oil) as well as niece Maggie, the calligrapher Zheng and Chen- who also played the gujun beautifully during Alistair's speech (also Chinese attempted, er, beautifully).

It's been a pretty much seamless natural progression of ideas and finishing this stage of product with Li and Zhang. Both parties were really into taking on the task of trying to to see where my proposal might help and them see their products marketed and sold differently. Each meeting has seen them taking on their own initiative on prompt of my suggestions and family and friends have joined in the sewing, carving and designing of the packaging too in quite a resourceful way. It's not that family run business owners like Li and Zhang have not thought about how to sell more before but rather about knowing how, what and where to begin.

With Li, we now have some delightful, colourful, characterful alternatives to her non-descript transparent jars and food bags for her vast range of self processed organic dried foodstuffs, which range rom kumquats to musherooms and fish. A lot of interest was generated yesterday and it resulted in the sale of three of her custom crochet bags. An impressive feat for someone who was not linking the ideas of pick n mix of products and only stuck in making circular patterns. The teacher from Guangzhou also came along and was quite surprised. We sold three bags yesterday and this I could tell from her beaming smile that Li will hold true to carrying this on in someway. Vitamin's Sue arrived yesterday and I agree with her point about some sort of exchange with locals as a system too; outlets and further development is the next step. For peanut guy Zheng, packaging for both oil and husk extract (good fodder for pigs, humans and plant growth) has incited a lot of questions from especially the older locals. He even asked me more about how his family may take on ideas such as possibility to develop tours around their small factory to inform tourists, city folk etc a little about the production process. I am not a product developer but its been pretty amazing to get this thinking triggered and I know that here people talk to each other a lot.
The two documentary style videos I have created were also attentively watched yesterday by all ages, it charts the progress of both stories from beginning to end point. It must be said that my time spent here has been linguistic gymnastics since I've tried to get by without a translator, half understanding has been supplemented by Marceau actions, but we got there.
It's quite nice to see how both projects parallel in development stages, from initial hesitation to pride in family produce to how their own witness of customer responses and what might be possible.

So, we're about to set off for Guangzhou, I am going to hunt for bizarrities in the antiques shop and say a few farewells.Not leaving China quite so fast thought, looking forward to spending time with the rels in Hong Kong and who knows maybe I learnt a thing or two from microcosmic Nanling about my gran and why she still says to eat every grain of rice in the bowl. Onwards....

Topics: [jay produce]

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Tailors shop
Tailors shop
One of those please
One of those please
Working without Jia
Working without Jia
Wuzhishen toille is slowly developing
Wuzhishen toille is slowly developing
The fashion section for Tang Baiyi, hope she doesn't think I meant the cover
The fashion section for Tang Baiyi, hope she doesn't think I meant the cover
Shopping for the clothes display
Shopping for the clothes display
Ping fang boutique-ish
Ping fang boutique-ish
Tang Baiyi, thank you
Tang Baiyi, thank you

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Right! Evens to the left, odd to the right.
Right! Evens to the left, odd to the right.

Brian leads the dancers in a Basil Fawltyesque routine in training for Saturday's big event. The children look on like Prunella Scales.

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Apart from scant conversations about the earthquake over the newspaper or TV coverage in a café, we have been remarkably removed from the horrendous scenes in Sichuan. We checked whether it was appropriate to continue with Happystacking in its current form, but the consensus seems to be that life goes on.

However this morning at 9.00am the whole village turned out for a public donation ceremony outside the theatre, on the steps where we will be performing tomorrow night. Where Harold will be pumping his Beyonce Booty Shake.

On the lower platform, which is a sort of public outdoor stage, they had placed two ballot boxes on tables. The local equivalent of Celine Dion was blasting out from the sound system stretched out from the Workers’ Union next door. There was a speech and the village listened and applauded. Then one by one the villagers walked up to the boxes to make their donation to the appeal.

In contrast to the furtiveness of English giving, this was full frontal, with each donor holding their note fully stretched and readable as they dropped it into the slot for the attendant cameras. More than this, the giver was then required to sign a sheet and state how much they gave.

Again, like the public electricity bills, not a bad thing.

We all went and we all gave 100 RMB each, that's about £7.50 each. A lot of people gave less and some gave more. It was a curiuous demostration of wealth yet a warming confirmation of community cohesion and clarity.

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[i]In voice of Terry Thomas[/i]: We go from hyear to hyear and you chaps move from hyear to hyear....
In voice of Terry Thomas: We go from hyear to hyear and you chaps move from hyear to hyear....

I have been the appointed project manager for this task. It's bad enough normally but in tropical weather and a serious language barrier, I think I'll do well to keep my cool in the board room.

I ran the parade route by the headmaster which all seems ok and there doesn't seem to be any issue around earthquake/event appropriateness.

The government agency are ok too as long as there are no politics, no religion and good safety.

Got the all clear from the ping fang old residents club too. Bring id awn![/i} they said as lthey looked at the playlist of blue grass and R&B. Well maybe not.

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Lap top charger
Lap top charger
Door stop
Door stop
White board/stool easel
White board/stool easel

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Checking the poster with the calligrapher
Checking the poster with the calligrapher

It's all very well trying to let you know what we're doing, but we've got to do what we're doing as well.

Bryan and Laura are dressing the ping fang
Harold is rehearsing with the children
Jay is editing
I'm speech writing
Jia is translating
Maria is cooking and a whole lot more then we have to scramble all th ekit together before the big day tomorrow. See you on the other side.

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happystack from top to bottom: Five finger mountain, mushroom, mobile phone, tourist camera, power station turbine, wild boar of Grizedale
happystack from top to bottom: Five finger mountain, mushroom, mobile phone, tourist camera, power station turbine, wild boar of Grizedale

Well it's done, sort of bingo hall - village hall - sturat hall. We've just found out from the neighbours that it he omitted to say we're in the market place all day, but I don't think anyone will be able to avoid us.

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美好的一天,阳光还是很灿烂,空气还是很清新~~希望持续到周六!
下午6点半,我从南岭的员工食堂偷了一碗他们吃剩的土豆丝,然后抱着这碗土豆丝,和老大去找星海谈如何让Happy Stacking不至于在地震灾后显得太不合时宜;最后决定在海报和老大的公众发言的时候,点到为止地提两句。
聊到七七八八的时候突然警醒7点半是意大利粉的筹备时间,于是从办公室往林舍赶。

橘子吧一派热火朝天。
首先要说明,橘子吧绝对是有高人指点过的,完全具备欧式厨房应有尽有的一切物料~~甚至更多!
农庄送来的“有机蔬菜”,洗洗,扔进一个大钵;用意大利葡萄醋勾兑了橄榄油做调料,这就是一份简单的沙拉。——也只有南岭的蔬菜,才能吃得这么放心。
Laura做了素淡的意粉,Bryne做了我最爱的肉酱意粉;按星海的说法,吃前者是在天堂,吃后者是在人间……
肉酱意粉,用橄榄油加蒜蓉,将两色洋葱慢火煨透,再加入熏肉,细细炒过,再将煮透的意粉放进来炒过,起锅。

菜打6分,然而环境可以再加6分:
是夜,林舍楼前庭院,排开一字长台,众人围坐,刀叉锵锵,谈笑风生;有习习凉风,远近虫鸣;半圆明月在天,星辰若隐若现;孩子手中,挣扎着过目不忘的萤火。

今天是倒计时第二天,众人手头的工作都要完结,明天就要进行最后的演练了。

又:Maria说,想要拍冯家菜馆杀鸡的镜头。星海和我都很奇怪:这么血腥,你也要拍?
答曰:在我们打不裂腚,我们和食物所有的联系都发生在超市;很多食物的包装上都会有一个标签:航行多少英里而来。像冯家菜馆,从庭院捉鸡,直接杀鸡入厨吃肉,最后剩下一地鸡毛,那是非常amazing滴~~
有趣,工业化时代,人的旅行,理论的旅行,食物的旅行。

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From left to right: Maria Benjamin, Harold Offeh, Jia Yin Tan, Alistair Hudson, kai Oi Jay Yung, Bryan Davies, Laura Davies
From left to right: Maria Benjamin, Harold Offeh, Jia Yin Tan, Alistair Hudson, kai Oi Jay Yung, Bryan Davies, Laura Davies

The group assembled for a group photograph to use on a poster for the weekend events, to say who we are and why we are here and what we are going to do, in basic words, no theory.

The main poster is too graphic for explanations, so it will have this suppement to go with it. I like the poster boards in town because they are actively read, rather than actively ignored like the pnes in the Lake District. Today the central board has every households elecricity useage up on a chart, so people know what to pay (like going to get your exam results) with the added bonus that any over-user is shamed into more ecological ways.

Bryan's new design market stall, pictured with the group, was made by the local carpenter to Bryans CAD designs and looks pretty good, and definitively beyond the post-colonial and more altermodern outsider chinoiserie.

The red roof comes off and inverts to make a seat. I am thinking of delivering my final day speech stood on it outside the theatre.

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Stacking is a contemporary term for accessing multiple media at the same time. In fact we do little of that here, being restricted to the internet and not much TV, radio or telephone.

As the horrendous story of the Sichuan earthquake unfolds, and emails from home enquire about our safety, it is clear that we are not as connected with these events as we would be back home. I follow the news on the BBC website, rather than pick up any strands here.

We didn’t feel the earthquake and whilst people talk about it and show us the newspapers, it’s not the same as experiencing the blanket coverage we would get back home.

Whether our parade could be conceived as too jovial in light of the disaster we have to gauge very carefully, but of course this is an irrelevance in face of the misery occurring over there.

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Topics: [Harold's Video Blog]

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坐在橙屋三楼的阅览室上网,日本的故友发来邮件问安,本来,大地震的事件,一直令我觉得遥远,但这封邮件却促使我去搜索了相关的地震信息,看着满目疮痍,不禁颤栗。
人在成都、家在都江堰的好友,短信发来浅浅一句:死的数以千计,跟废墟差不多。——灾难已经超乎想象,以至我们已经找不到适合的词汇来表达了。

这里的草垛还在继续,而且是“欢乐的”;星海翻译成“叠罗汉”,哈哈,这个太具象了,Stacking这个词汇本身所具有的丰富内涵,使我们一直很难找到合适的中文词汇来对应,所以我们偷懒,和子弟学校的美术老师张老师讨论海报的时候,直接把“Happy Stacking”翻译成了“快乐周末”,Alistair委屈求全地认可了,忍不住汗……

早上是Maria做的早餐培训,做薄薄的煎饼;培训完了,顺带也就完成了早餐;晚上是金童玉女Bryne夫妇一起进行意大利粉的厨艺培训,顺便也就可以带过我们的晚餐~~~今天以吃饭开始,再以吃饭结束,而且以厨艺培训为名。这次项目所来,本是为了社区发展,但是为橙屋酒店做适当的西餐入门培训,我觉得也是很有价值。(我们家大人听说我在这里学做早餐,很开心地说:放你来这里劳动改造,果然放对了……)

刚才跟Alistair以及Bryne一起去王姓的木匠师傅那里扛回(当然主要是他们扛)Bryne设计的货架,整体是原木色,顶棚确是非常喜庆的大红,配上他做的五月柱(Maypole)上,五颜六色随风飘飞的彩带,放在我们所住林舍隔壁的空台,非常有喜气。——相关的图片,大概会很快传上来,设备不便的我,就不再周折了。

灾难与欢乐在不同的时空继续。

上周见到几个吃长斋的阿婆,深信是她们的礼佛茹素护持了南岭这个地方,罗姓阿婆屋门外,水泥排水沟的罅隙处,悠悠然天然生出一树月季,深红素粉的花朵怒放朱颜,从屋檐下到水沟,落红一地。

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Look, Zhang Wei, he is working really hard.
Look, Zhang Wei, he is working really hard.

Damn I can't control it, it just came out.

Sad to see Assistant Vitamin Curator Vincent go back to the city. A bright, entertaining and intelligent young man, I'm sure he'll go far. He's back Friday though and shall be running Vince's Caff from the flat house.

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Maria, Me and the happy farmers
Maria, Me and the happy farmers

Dear Adam

I’ve decided to put an embargo on blog title puns as it’s become a tourettes syndrome condition which focuses the entire mind on the title of the blog instead of its content.

Today was a full schedule starting early with a lesson in the English Fry Up, or at least a fairly refined version with bacon, scrambled eggs and homemade bread toasted and drizzled with local homemade honey. The M&S marketing team would have been proud. Indeed, we seem to have momentarily become a training organisation for the company staff, which is semi-unsatisfactory in some ways but, the personnel get a lot out of it and it seems to spread the message of why we are here across Nanling far better than other means. And Xinghai seems delighted with the food as dialogue model, so we’ll stick with it.

I’ve been working on a poster for Saturday with the local calligrapher, not the high end moody gestural genius local calligrapher, but the Brian from Dalton tell it straight calligrapher. There has been a three day discussion with him, me, Jiaying and Xinghai over content, meaning and marketing strategy, which is all going to condense in a hand made A2 sheet of paper. There is no printer here in the village, so we are just making three with brush and ink. But the joy is that you put one up on each of the three official notice boards and everyone reads it. Apparently. After a meeting tonight where he sketched out the layout meticulously in pencil, he took it home to work on and will return with it tomorrow am.

Brian has made the maypole and the maypole looks good. It’s portable and is made out of bamboo so doesn’t look like a maypole at all really, more like a tree support in the Yu garden. Will test it out tomorrow. Welcome open discussion on the merits of trans-national folk references, post-ironic poles, the pleasure principle within public spectacle and the shelf life of such approaches.

Vincent made a great lunch for us today in the hotel bar. It was like Jamie Oliver in an eastern parallel universe. Some nice fish, some lovely noodles and some budiful tofu, well pukka. He’s been a breath of fresh air since he arrived – helpful, funny, enthusiastic, full of energy and most of all gets the project completely and helps sell it to the locals. His energy and validation of the project has given us all a boost just when we were starting to fray a little. He’s got to go back tomorrow at 6.00am but was trying to find a way to stay, he’s got to see his lecturer for his MA thesis on contemporary Chinese Art and the Spectacle and work on a new video show in Guangzhou museum but thinks our project is more interesting. He’s back Friday with Sue and more goodies. They are going to take us to a Guangzhou club when we get back to civilisation and put all those Harold Beyonce moves to good use – but maybe not as it could be too Parents at a wedding disco roadshow.

This afternoon Maria, Vincent and I went back down to the organic farm to talk some more about what they might do. We have moved away from dressing the room for the moment as actually discussing the concept and ideas was more interesting to them than making a photo shoot – that’s all detail that can come later they seem to say. We were joined by Jiaying, Xinghai and a journalist from a geography magazine who is here reporting and very interested in what we are doing. He is going to follow us roud and interview us at the weekend.
We did find a previously hidden room filled with what we think is really cool retro communist furniture, but it is clear there is a huge gulf between our idea of good furniture and theirs. Also whilst we think that ping fang 50’s stuff looks great, sort of red army Isokon, to them it just reeks of workhouse flats in the city. Black laquer is the ‘true’ county look. But I’ve yet to see any round here yet.

In the conversation we came on leaps and bounds and finally got over the hurdle of them thinking we were like the man from del Monte or that we were looking to invest, and that we were actually here out of our own interest and public good and art and to ultimately help our village etc. It took a while to work out the accurate position, neither business nor charity, but floating somewhere between. We are not in this for profit, but we don’t want to be a charity (although technically we are) handing out help for no return. Out return is the exchange of ideas and the chance to make life better back home through this exchange, to influence development in the Lake District in better ways than more bednights, more tourists and the largest cheap cheese factory in Europe (yes that’s a Cumbria Vision vision). You could see the penny start to drop and they are very enthusiastic to develop something or to work with artists, the company etc to push forward, but as long as it is for the benefit of the whole community. “Maybe you are socialists?” They are the Yew Tree Farm of Nanling, but possibly more interesting and with a wider range of products for sure.

They served us there own specially grown tea, a new product which is made from the most special tree in the region. At the moment they only have saplings but are looking to step this up. It is so special that they don’t label this tree to prevent it being stolen. The tea is said to have special powers, especially for cancer, and of course tastes like sour medicine. I’ve asked for the Latin name of the plant, but it looks like hemlock to me.

They have also just opened a dried food stall in the market yesterday, which looks exactly like all the other dried food stalls next to it. I am yet to figure this one out beyond a pre-capitalist hangover of equality. Ther stuff is great – mushrooms, peanuts, fish, dried fruit and super sweet sunblushed cherry tomatoes. The special tea he sells under the counter to his mates and he gave me a bag from the back of his van in town and I duly sloped off: well sorted for teas and whiz.

Walking back from dinner at Joes in the square, we heard music coming from a basket ball court next to the theatre. Sure enough it was the dancing girls practising for Saturday. They are taking this seriously but also enjoying it, it seems. They had wheeled out a TV and DVD into the court outside and were copying the moves on film. Quite a touching sight. They asked for a CD of Scottish Dance music to keep up the tradition after we leave – maybe you could email/yousendit some better tracks? After practice Jai, Jay and me sat inside the Workers Union with them,r a circle of cackling women and me the only male except for a giant statue of Mao looking at me from the corner. I’m hoping Jay got it on film – me and ten women talking about birth control before a giant bust of Mao.

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At the Worker's Union HQ last night, they were practicing hard for Saturday's big event. That's a few dance medals they won- they claim they're ready to take us on, you can hear the trepidation in Alistair's voice.

The Worker's Union was set up in 1958 and they meet now and then to play mah jong, dance and just hang out- not really any political intent these days. They told us that the one child policy is slightly more lenient for village folk (Five Fingers being a town) who may have a second child without any threat of penalisation. Jiaying tells me that this is for those who are registered by their parents as being born in a village at birth. This means some folk out in Guangzhou and other cities registered as villagers may have a second child without need for the snip or emptier pockets. The bust of Mao set a nice backdrop as the women showed interest in Alistair's fine Western stature and tale of his four sons- a Chinese wet dream for carrying on the lineage.

Topics: [Saturday 17th May event]

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Topics: [Harold's Video Blog]

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Found some chef's dream of cooking it English Style in the hotel bar. There was everything from margarine to custard powder and an obvious trip to Ikea. After weeks of noodles and boney fish, it was a weird pleasure to have toast and honey, a cup of tea, and bacon and scrambled eggs. I showed the hotel staff how to make it all and it was a funny strange thing to do in this really remote place. It was nice to try and find all the ingredients in the local shops and cook for everyone but I guess I would have been horrified to come here and find Full English on the menu.

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All the specimens a bit rancid, but still a joy to be in a museum
All the specimens a bit rancid, but still a joy to be in a museum

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park-a-moor, thinking space of the north in 2007
park-a-moor, thinking space of the north in 2007

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In Star Trek the new generation they had a policy of not interfering in any way in the planets they visited, thus maintaining an ethical stance. I hated the new generation start trek and it's polite approach, I remember waiting episodes for them to use their phasers, or Warf to reluctantly resort to a fist fight. This was entertainment and I didn't want a lesson in interventionist ethics from the script writers every week. I mean it obviously didn't work on the target audience's approach to foreign policy, except boosting an inflated sense of self righteousness.

This is real life not TV, but in a sense the star trek approach is kind of relevant. Is taking a photo or video of the farmers and taking it home to show/sell in a gallery an ethical thing to do? It is an intervention to some extent, and we have discussed it a little bit but not a lot. It feels kind of colonial, and exploitation is implied as we regularly term it 'farm porn', creating ultra seductive shots of terraced farmland and villagers in traditional hats.

Artists have a habit (fueled by an ultra discursive educational model) of reading into things too much and are also prone to the odd bought of self righteousness. To most people (including the farmers) this kind of soft exploitation matters not a jot, and pales into insignificance with the real injustices of the global economic sphere. Though you might have to reinvest your photo's sale profits to get yourself really off the hook.

In my own project paying the carpenter to make me a market stall is not on the same scale as setting up a ceramics factory and employing cheap labour whilst making a huge mark up at home. But in paradigmatic terms it is much the same thing, and art is often read as a metaphor for a wider meaning/philosophy. My action practically is very different in that it is on a personal level, one on one with the carpenter and we hang out and negotiate a rate ( i agree to his 100% price increases!), there is no sweat shop, and he uses only hand tools. If we ditch the do nothing just look approach of the 'Trekies' where your very presence is something you have to feel guilty about, we can get on and act in the world. My model is in-fact a paradigm of economic investment and the more work we give the carpenter the better for him and his family business. I say lets get a shipping container organised.

Instead of the traditional artist as philosophical voyeur I prefer the lets get our hands dirty approach which try's to create something such as a building that could have real effect, we can see what the complex web of implications are as it develops. I should know but secretly want to ask if this what is meant by being 'after post colonialism' ? If so, one other post-post-colonial intervention will be to buy a mouse trap and kill the little rodent living in our Pingfang house that nibbles my biscuits.

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Putting the naan in Nanling
Putting the naan in Nanling

Today Vincent, assistant curator at Vitamin, has arrived fresh from the 5hr train and bus journey from Guangzhou. He’s brought supplies for the market stall like books, bags, windmills, posters and CDs of Guandongese Hip Hop.

Immediately he is put to use as a translator, as Maria teaches the hotel staff how to make Chapattis, that bastion of happily stacked British cuisine.

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Haha, Adam remembers the story of butterflie ^_^
Have to apologize to Laura, I must have kept her wait for one hour this morning...Xinghai arranged a meeting with the head of school, so we went to talk about our whole plan related to the school, together with Alistair, Maria and Xinghai; Sometimes I hope I was the monkey King, who can have 3 heads and 6 arms...haha

And Maria, because I can't connect you for the time being, it would be great if you can read this blog in time because Xinghai told me that one of his friends would come tomorrow, hope you can give him the cooking stuff list to him this afternoon, so he can ask his friend to purchase and bring here then.
And looking forward to the breakfast cooked by you tomorrow morning, I would like to get up early to help~~

Vincent is coming soon, he can share some of my work for a short time, so happy~

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Animal Mask for Children's Parade
Animal Mask for Children's Parade

Apologies, I've not been keeping up with my blog entries. I'm developing the children's parade with a grade 5 class at the local school. The parade will represent different aspects of the community, animals, plants and people. Here's an image of some of the animal masks the kids are making.

Expect a new video blog, with footage from the latest dance lesson, tonight. I'm doing hip-hop moves (i use term very loosely) with some of the locals.

Harold xx

Topics: [Harold's Video Blog]

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A few maps with cute details
A few maps with cute details

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Dear Maria,
thanks for all the updates. it sounds like you all have become very busy there preparing for the festival, which sounds like a nice thing to do.I still can't really work out what you are doing there and what the village is like but I do get a sense of different stages as the project progresses, from arriving to thinking about work - and actually how quickly ideas develop when time and space are condensed. does it feel like you have landed a bit, it certainly seem that there is a lot going now. it sounded really good that you set up a workspace in the village and I like the sound of the map making project, do you have any pictures of it? nice pun that you are doing a guestroom. does is sometimes feel like being a creative business consultant though?
I was interested in what adam was saying in one of his entries that in general all plants are useful and hardly ever decorative - although arguably there is a usefulness to things having no use and being immeasurable - but it kind of illustrates a different understanding of organising social and productive space perhaps more concerned with maintaining equilibrium - in which all aspects feed back into the community or the understanding thereof.
in a translated, sense-making sort of way as I trying to relate things I read back to the context here (and I dont really feel qualified to comment on what is going on there as so much is to do with the interaction of people and places and in a way that being the point that you cant theorize things from a distance unless you reduced them down to ideas ) - it made me think about the appropriation of city space in things like guerilla gardening, a somewhat reversed image of the above in creating or integrating use and usefulness. I have been observing a particular spot in munich near where I grew up - it is an area next to a disused railroad track hidden from plain sight that has been developed into a fully productive vegetable garden by a group of anonymous women. I like it particularly because it isnt fashionable liftestyle gesture but a 'real' undertaking.
I like the idea of a collection or 'selection' drawn form different, disparate places (even perhaps inaccessible to one another) that has no physical home as such existing through simultaneity. so this is the direction i was thinking about when digging out these pictures...
hope your well,
Ruth

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Nanling Community is called "wuzhishan" by local people,which means "Five-finger-mountain".
Well there is a famous story about "wuzhishan" in Western Parade, one excellent classic novel in china; but Nanling Wuzhishan mustn't the mentioned Wuzhishan in tale...

Anyway here I tell you the whole story(maybe a little too long):

“Why has the Jade Emperor troubled you two sages to come here?” asked the Buddha.

“A monkey,” they reported, “who was born on the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit, has used his magic powers to unite all the monkeys and throw the world into confusion. The Jade Emperor sent down an edict of amnesty and appointed him Protector of the Horses, but this was not good enough for him, so he left Heaven again. When heavenly King Li and Prince Nezha were unsuccessful in their attempt to capture him the Jade Emperor sent down another amnesty with his appointment as a 'Great Sage Equaling Heaven'. At first this appointment was purely nominal, but later he was told to look after the Peach Orchard. But he stole the peaches and then went to the Jade Pool where he stole the delicacies and the liquor and wrecked the banquet. In his drunkenness he staggered into the Tushita Palace, stole Lord Lao Zi's pills of immortality, and left Heaven again. The Jade Emperor sent a hundred thousand heavenly troops, but they were still unable to subdue him. Then Guanyin recommended the True Lord Erlang and his sworn brothers to go after the monkey, and he used many a transformation until he was finally able to capture the monkey after the Lord Lao Zi hit him with his Diamond Jade. The monkey was then taken to the imperial presence, and the order for his execution was given. But although he was hacked at with sabres, chopped at with axes, burned with fire, and struck with thunder, none of this did him any damage; so Lord Lao Zi requested permission to take him away and refine him with fire. But when the cauldron was opened after forty-nine days he jumped out of the Eight Trigrams Furnace, routed the heavenly troops, and went straight to the Hall of Universal Brightness in front of the Hall of Miraculous Mist. Here he has been stopped and engaged in fierce combat by the Kingly Spirit Officer, the lieutenant of the Helpful Sage and True Lord Erlang, thunder generals have been sent there to encircle him; but no one has been able to get close to him. In this crisis the Jade Emperor makes a special appeal to you, the Tathagata, to save his throne.”

On hearing this the Tathagata said to the assembled Bodhisattvas, “You stay here quietly in this dharma hall and behave yourselves in your seats of meditation while I go to deal with the demon and save the throne.”

Telling the Venerable Ananda and the Venerable Kasyapa to accompany him, the Tathagata left the Thunder Monastery and went straight to the gate of the Hall of Miraculous Mist, where his ears were shaken by the sound of shouting as the thirty-six thunder generals surrounded the Great Sage. The Buddha issued a decree that ran: “Tell the thunder generals to stop fighting, open up their camp, and call on that Great Sage to come out, so that I may ask him what divine powers he has.”

The generals then withdrew, whereupon the Great Sage put away his magic appearance and came forward in his own body. He was in a raging temper as he asked, “Where are you from? You are a good man. You've got nerve, stopping the fighting and questioning me!”

“I am the Venerable Sakyamuni from the Western Land of Perfect Bliss,” replied the Buddha with a smile. “I have heard of your wild and boorish behavior, and of your repeated rebellions against Heaven, and I would like to know where you were born, when you found the Way, and why you have been so ferocious.”

“I am,” the Great Sage said,

“A miracle-working Immortal born of Heaven and Earth,

An old ape from the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit.

My home is in the Water Curtain Cave,

I sought friends and teachers, and became aware of the Great Mystery.

“I have practiced many a method for obtaining eternal life,

Infinite are the transformations I have learned.

That is why I found the mortal world too cramped,

And decided to live in the Jade Heaven.

“None can reign forever in the Hall of Miraculous Mist;

Kings throughout history have had to pass on their power.

The strong should be honoured—he should give way to me:

This is the only reason I wage my heroic fight.”

The Buddha laughed mockingly.

“You wretch! You are only a monkey spirit and you have the effrontery to want to grab the throne of the Jade Emperor. He has trained himself since childhood, and suffered hardship for one thousand, seven hundred and fifty kalpas. Each kalpa is 129,600 years, so you can work out for yourself how long it has taken him to be able to enjoy this great and infinite Way. But you are a beast who has only just become a man for the first time. How dare you talk so big? You're not human, not even human! I'll shorten your life-span. Accept my teaching at once and stop talking such nonsense! Otherwise you'll be in for trouble and your life will very shortly be over; and that will be so much the worse for your original form too.”

“Although he has trained himself for a long time, ever since he was a child, he still has no right to occupy this place for ever,” the Great Sage said. “As the saying goes, 'Emperors are made by turn; next year it may be me.' If he can be persuaded to move out and make Heaven over to me, that'll be fine. But if he doesn't abdicate in my favour I'll most certainly make things hot for him, and he'll never know peace and quiet again.”

“What have you got, besides immortality and the ability to transform yourself, that gives you the nerve to try to seize the Heavenly Palace?” the Buddha asked.

“I can do many tricks indeed,” the Great Sage replied. “I can perform seventy-two transformations, and I can preserve my youth for ten thousand kalpas. I can ride a somersault cloud that takes me thirty-six thousand miles at a single jump. So why shouldn't I sit on the throne of Heaven?”

“I'll have a wager with you then,” said the Buddha. “If you're clever enough to get out of my right hand with a single somersault, you will be the winner, and there will be no more need for weapons or fighting: I shall invite the Jade Emperor to come and live in the West and abdicate the Heavenly Palace to you. But if you can't get out of the palm of my hand you will have to go down to the world below as a devil and train yourself for several more kalpas before coming to argue about it again.”

When he heard this offer the Great Sage smiled to himself and thought, “This Buddha is a complete idiot. I can cover thirty-six thousand miles with a somersault, so how could I fail to jump out of the palm of his hand, which is less than a foot across?”

With this in his mind he asked eagerly, “Do you guarantee that yourself?”

“Yes, yes,” the Buddha replied, and he stretched out his right hand, which seemed to be about the size of a lotus leaf. Putting away his As-You-Will cudgel, the Great Sage summoned up all his divine powers, jumped into the palm of the Buddha's hand, and said, “I'm off.” Watch him as he goes like a streak of light and disappears completely. The Buddha, who was watching him with his wise eyes, saw the Monkey King whirling forward like a windmill and not stopping until he saw five flesh-pink pillars topped by dark vapours.

“This is the end of the road,” he said, “so now I'll go back. The Buddha will be witness, and the Hall of Miraculous Mist will be mine.” Then he thought again, “Wait a moment. I'll leave my mark here to prove my case when I talk to the Buddha.” He pulled out a hair, breathed on it with his magic breath, and shouted “Change.” It turned into a writing brush dipped in ink, and with it he wrote THE GREAT SAGE EQUALING HEAVEN WAS HERE in big letters on the middle pillar. When that was done he put the hair back on, and, not standing on his dignity, made a pool of monkey piss at the foot of the pillar. Then he turned his somersault round and went back to where he had started from.

“I went, and now I'm back. Tell the Jade Emperor to hand the Heavenly Palace over to me,” he said, standing in the Buddha's palm.

“I've got you, you piss-spirit of a monkey,” roared the Buddha at him. “You never left the palm of my hand.”

“You're wrong there,” the Great Sage replied. “I went to the farthest point of Heaven, where I saw five flesh-pink pillars topped by dark vapours. I left my mark there: do you dare come and see it with me?”

“There's no need to go. Just look down.” The Great Sage looked down with his fire eyes with golden pupils to see the words “The Great Sage Equaling Heaven Was Here” written on the middle finger of the Buddha's right hand. The stink of monkey-piss rose from the fold at the bottom of the finger.

“What a thing to happen,” exclaimed the Great Sage in astonishment. “I wrote this on one of the pillars supporting the sky, so how can it be on his finger now? He must have used divination to know what I was going to do. I don't believe it. I refuse to believe it! I'll go there and come back again.”

The dear Great Sage hurriedly braced himself to jump, but the Buddha turned his hand over and pushed the Monkey King out through the Western Gate of Heaven. He turned his five fingers into a mountain chain belonging to the elements Metal, Wood, Water, Fire, and Earth, renamed them the Five Elements Mountain, and gently held him down.

All the thunder gods and the disciples Ananda and Kasyapa put their hands together to praise the Buddha: “Wonderful, wonderful,
An egg learned to be a man,
Cultivated his conduct, and achieved the Way.
Heaven had been undisturbed for the thousand kalpas,
Until one day the spirits and gods were scattered.

The rebel against Heaven, wanting high position,
Insulted Immortals, stole the pills, and destroyed morality.
Today his terrible sins are being punished,
Who knows when he will be able to rise again?”

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After before but certainly before after.
After before but certainly before after.

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Things we'd rather not see...
Things we'd rather not see...

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OK, so it's a kind of porn....
OK, so it's a kind of porn....

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Happy Stacking Hoedown
Happy Stacking Hoedown

Today we got down and dirty on the organic farm just outside the village. The family who run this farm are forward looking and keen to work with the company on developing new ideas. They already have a deal with the company that they produce only organic food, mostly vegetables, tea, eggs, chickens, pigs etc, and supply the hotel restaurant. The company hope that the farm will be an example to all the other farmers in the valley to increase the quality – and added value – of their product.

In exchange for lunch we offer to work in the fields or help them on the farm as is needed. The idea is sown that this can become a working farm hotel, whereby guests work on the land in return for room and food. Whether they pay for such a privilege is up for discussion, but the principle is that you start to diversify the tourist offer, as its known in the trade (or the tourist offal as its known in the Lake District), and create a more complex and rewarding relationship with the visitor. Two way respect and all that.

Set to work in the fields, we help the female workers weed a field, which is like a paddy but with no water in it. These fields on the farm, only small, say 10m square each, are filled with immaculate rows of raised soil, like raised beds without the walls. This field we are in is full of weeds, but their system is straightforward, if slightly a fine art to be mastered:

Scrape the weeds and the top layer of soil back to one end of the bed, into a pile of loose soil and weeds.

Dig a 30cm deep trench at one end, across the narrow end.

Dig trench wall back moving the soil along, filling the trench with the scraped weeds as you go (putting the nutrients back into the soil)

Tidy up broken soil bed until it is as perfect as any corporation flower bed.

It takes a bit of mastery, but once in your stride it’s very therapeutic and relaxing even in searing heat.

Lunch is cooked on a giant wok in a back room kitchen over a wood fire. We have dofou, parsnips, mushrooms, choi, rice, radish leaves, something like sugar beet soup and soya milk all home made and all organic (including organic human waste compost of course). It tastes great and we feel super healthy until we are told its all been sprinkled with MSG. I think they can miss that bit out in the new plan.

After lunch Maria and I dress one of the rooms to show how it could look to attract their new city tired, rural craving, free range organic seeking customer base. Well, Maria dresses the room and I remove the giant spiders, bugs and weevils. We do our best with limited resources, but sort of admit defeat when it is clear that the furniture is so grotesque that it makes Stollers of Barrow look like http://www.poliformuk.com/

We arrange to return on Tuesday armed with a few more tricks, but the idea is launched and this relationship will continue, no doubt with a few awkward conversations about why poverty chic furniture is so sought after.

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Had fun last night discovering the pleasures of the local free gym with Harold, looks like a park facing the riverfront but much more fun with brightly colored rowing machines and back massages and even an ad hoc running machine.

Yesterday was a good day with brill progress from the dry food stall seller (Li Gui E) and characterful peanut oil guy (Gern) I have been working with. I have met with them several times, in terms of Li Gui together with her niece and neighbour we have been thinking up different designs and ways in which she can use her basic crochet skills to fashion her dried produce into a much more personalised, informative and attractive manner for tourists and also locals alike. We are considering the branding name of her product and have settled on Ling Nan Ling (the introversion of Nanling followed by her surname, ingenious- it's a starting point at least and also good to get her thinking about how to make her food produce less homogenous in comparison to the five other stalls that sit next to hers). Her more experienced neighbour friend (who might be up for performing the horizantle harp gujun on the 17th) I think it should go down a treat and would be great to have on the honesty stall back at Grizedale perhaps. We are thinking about different designs and also how they may cater for the different products and buyers. Already theirs a sparkle in her eyes- she says she intends to develop and try to pursue this, making use of the quiet times at the stall and thinking it will help make her produce special.

Li Gui E also has taken up the packaging task with lots of enthusiasm and careful consideration. I visited his factory stall before tea to find him sat with a plastic bottle half filled with cold water and a hairdryer, trying to fashion a peanut shape out of the bottle. He had clearly been thinking hard about the night of previous discussion with the caligrapher, Mao (who might be able to help us with our posters and banners) and Maggie, the English teacher. I prompted suggestions and also suggested we collect a variety of bottles, then took them on a hunt round the shop attached to his small factory on the look out for different materials that might initiate ideas and textures for a suitable bottle other than his usual non-descript white plastic fare which come in three sizes. We are thinking about a very initial stage protocol for a peanut oil bottle for Nanling of the future.... its great to see him so engaged and an injection of energy into looking at what he has been producing day in and out for over a decade.
At some point I will go along with Mao and find a stone to see if a stamp can be made...I knew the dried up river would come in handy.

Topics: [production]

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Emails from Maria in China to Ruth in London

9th May
Hi,
Sorry I haven't written in a bit. How is everything thing there? Things here have moved on quite quickly since I last wrote. I guess the first 10 days were about trying to understand the place, at least a little, to then be able to think about doing something with a vague confidence that it's not totally the wrong thing to be doing. I was teaching the dance group and some locals Scottish Country Dancing the other night in the theatre after a refresher session with Adam and the others before he left. It was really good fun. We are planning an event next Saturday. I will do a bit of cooking and show some films as well as take part in the dancing later in the day. Don't quite know what to make yet as resources are limited. Have been taking lots of romantic rural pictures of farms at Adam's suggestion, which I didn't really want to do but secretly enjoyed and have just ordered more film. I hope they can be used in some way. I have so many of these kinds of pictures that have been impossible to do anything with. Am going to a farm next week to help make a guestroom and have been editing a few short films. Wakpe asked me to send a postcard from the village but they don't sell them so I'll get the kids to make them at school. We have all been helping out the English teachers in the primary school. The kids are lovely but the teaching is dire. It's all just repetitive shouting out of words and phrases from a book and then 15 minutes spent at the tape deck re-winding and fast-forwarding to get to some crappy song like Home on the Ranch.
Today I had a Fry-Off with our favourite restaurant cook in the market (Uncle Joe). I made fish and chips and he made banana fritters, chips with a special flour coating and a sweet thing using the stuck bits of rice from the bottom of the pan fried in oil and sugar. Everyone felt sick afterwards and had to lie down but we drew a bit of a crowd and gave out lots of samples which no one spat out.
talk soon,
maria xx

10th May
Hi Ruth,
How are things there? Everything is OK here but there seems to be a bit of a slump, even though we are all really busy and happy to be working on this event for next week, I think everyone is missing home a bit. I am anyway, maybe everyone else is fine and I'm just projecting. I just want to lie on the sofa and watch telly, on my own. Today I was invited to film in a tofu 'factory', which turned out to be some guys kitchen. I think it was something the Development Company organised and I'm not sure the tofu man or his wife were that keen on me being there, but probably felt obliged because the Company. Who knows. It was fun to film but a bit awkward. I seem to be suddenly doing a ton of different bitty projects and am feeling a bit all over the place today. As soon as I get back we have so much to do as well so it seems scarily endless....
x

11th May
Hi,
Not heard from you in a few days. What's happening there? Are things stressful? Got up at 6 this morning to take some pictures at the market but felt really self conscious with that giant camera. It's the best time to go though, it's totally dead by 8 o'clock. Got some jam and cream donuts for our breakfast so it was worth it! Went to the farm after breakfast and worked on one of their fields then tried to sort out a spare room they have for this farm retreat idea. The furniture was horrible mismatched moulded wood-effect pieces like in the Dalston furniture shops. There's no way you could make it look farmhouse chic, though we did try with a bunch of dry twigs on the bedside table but they suddenly looked like an old fashioned sex toy. Would be good to try to get the carpenter to make some simple furniture but don't think we will have time. Might have to borrow some stuff to do a nice photo shoot to start the process. Just discovered that there is some great cooking facilities in the hotel so can make some nice things for the stall on Saturday.
m

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Email conversation between Adam (UK) and Alistair (China):

Hi Adam

Farming today was great, everyone really enjoyed it. Re the rest:-

re proposal
is there going to be a problem with the house and numbers of people, especially the kids starting from there? maybe an olympic torch style single child bearing an ice cream cone might work better, joining/leading a parade later

We going to do a trial to work things out and may well take up your excellent ice cream torch idea. But we think it's also good to make quite a comotion in the hutong streets to draw attention to them, depends really on how the ladies in the street feel about it. We'll work on this some more.

May pole any reason? seems a bit arbitary, what does it mean? seems to have little meaning in UK history, signal for a party in olden times, paganism, phalic symbol. according to wikkipedia the dancing round bit may have been a Ruskin idea/influence emanating from the 19th century and being a version of Italian renaissance dance

Xinghai was pretty adamant that the parade went to the tower blocks and the green outside where there is a circular feature where people congregate. The parallels with bringing this place back into a village green were cited - drawing the tourists in the part of the village where the real living takes place, and where its got a fell quite different from the market place. There is also an idea with the pole of fertility and hope of abundance for the growing season which relates to the ambitions of the town, a sort of Maypole of Tourism.

is the banner still happening?

Not sure, Vincent coming tomorrow, to discuss.

re stall, if it is a success maybe commission several more, be nice to leave somthing useful for the village as a gift

Yes absolutely and fits into Brians market place designs. we thought we might let other market traders try it out on Sat and Sunday have lots of ideas for the cabinet maker as an industry - although he doubled his price yesterday! Typical.

re performance, is it worth getting the video projector out and showing some films made in the village? just shooting the parade and then showing it back is a nice visual and everyone will be in it -

Tried this one, but its a bit tricky as we'll be outside and it won't be dark yet. They are unhappy to take the one down from the library ceiling would have to get one brought from Guangzhou. Iwas keen to show images as part of my speech, so would like this to happen.

re the house - you arent going to have any time to get it back to normal, also make sure the ld lady gets paid, might be best beforehand, maybe about 500rmb or see what Xinghai thinks

We can get it back in shape on Sunday am. Will talk to Xinghai, but i think 500 is fair

re visits back to uk, be good to have some idea of how might come, i guess an event in guanzhou would be a good start to identify people, ask Xinghai if he thinks it would be possible for people like joe and the farmers, woodworker etc

I certainly think the organic farm people as they are very keen on the work holiday farm hotel idea and generally have an apetite for ideas and learning, also Xinghai and maybe someone from the Forest Agency, seeing as they seem set to screw up the whole thing (like buldozing the old town) unless someone gives them some ideas. Possible others include Uncle Joe or his daughter in law, house restaurant, peanut oil guy and maggie the young teacher. Building a list.

Also just found an oven, a bread maker, a toaster, olive oil, basamlic vinegar, custard and bacon. Even baked beans - you could have had beans on toast. Xinghai very excited about cooking potential in square on Saturday. Very excited. English cook off he thinks will be a big hit, talk of it seems to travel round the village and works liek a reverseof the Japan restaurant in Coniston.

All further thoughts welcome

Speak soon

Alistair

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Nanling Gurning Champion
Nanling Gurning Champion

We had an expensive and scary dinner of Cat fish and toad. Everyone is getting a bit grumpy.

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Xinghai in conversation
Xinghai in conversation

Xinghai from the company has been very helpful and engaged in our plans. We all know roughly what we've got to do know but we have to clear this with the Government Agency, so Xinghai asks me to put it in writing for official approval. It's not easy to condense and say in simple to translate language but it helps focus the mind on the run in:

Take with a pinch of pre official consideration salt:

Happy Stacking

The Idea
Happy Stacking is a project by the artists of Grizedale Arts in collaboration with Vitamin Creative Space and the Zhongheng Ecotourism Development Company, China.
Grizedale is a small rural community in the beautiful Lake District region of England which is very similar to Wuzhishen, with a long history of mining, industry, farming and tourism.
Bringing their experience of this history, the seven artists have been looking into ways that they can help Wuzhishen move forward and develop a sustainable, balanced culture that will attract more visitors and investment.
In turn the artists hope to take back inspiration and ideas from Nanling to the Lake District which will help the development of their own community.
The artists would like this project to continue beyond this three week visit and build a long term relationship between the communities and other similar rural communities around the world. It is hoped that the artists will return to continue the relationship with the village and also invite some of the people of Wuzhishen to England next year.

The Schedule

On Saturday 17 May 2008 the artists would like to hold a special festival in the village to suggest ideas of how this future might be shaped.

The schedule of the day is planned as follows:

7.00am -
3.30pm
A newly designed market stall in the market to show how village product and the market could be made more appealing to visitors and more useful to the community

7.00am – 3.30pm
To use no.37 ping fang to show the artists ideas and demonstrate how the old houses might be improved to make a better living and visitor experience. This will include serving food to the public.

4.00pm
A parade with the children of the school will leave 37 ping fang to go through the market place and onto the green beside the apartment blocks where they will dance a traditional May Pole dance, with a May Pole erected in the park.

The parade will then progress to the steps outside the theatre where a public performance will be held for the entertainment of Wuzhishen and its visitors.

The order of the performance:

1. A song by the children of the school
2. A welcome speech by Alistair Hudson
3. A traditional Chinese dance by the Wuzhishen Dance Group
4. A dance performance by Harold Offeh
5. Scottish Country Dancing by Artists and Dance Group
6. Scottish Dancing with all

Refreshments will be served

6.00pm
Finish

The Artists’ Projects

Maria Benjamin is working on a few projects:

1) Making short films and high quality photographs that can be used to promote the rich variety of culture of Wuzhishen. The films will be shown in the ping fang but can be used in the future to promote the diverse social ecology of the region.

2) Working with the school children to create a map of Nanling

3) Working with the children to create postcards, some of which will be sent to a village community school in Holland.

4) Developing the company organic farm to advise them on how to attract a new kind of visitor who would stay and work on the farm as a unique experience.

5) Developing food ideas with one of the restaurants in the market

Bryan Davies has designed a new market stall which will improve the visual impact of both village products and the market itself.

He has worked up architectural proposals for the old ping fang houses district and the market place. These proposals suggest improved community and visitor experience and quality of life.

Laura Davies is designing a new fabric specially for Wuzhishen based up on the interior design of the old houses. She has had a local seamstress make up model dresses which could be sold commercially in the wider world. This is to encourage the idea that the village should look to make product to export out, as well as bringing in visitors, ensuring a balanced social and economic ecology.

Harold Offeh is working with the children of the village to create a parade which celebrates the diverse ecology of Nanling, not just the natural ecology, but the social ecology too.

He has also been teaching the people of the village to dance.

Kai Oi Jay Yung is working with local producers (a peanut oil producer and dried food producer) to enhance the packaging of their products and making promotional films to appeal to a wider market beyond their established client base – increasing the value of their product.

Alistair Hudson and Adam Sutherland are co-ordinating the group and directing activities

....lets hope it works.....

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The first item is finished, a sort of work dress made from a sketch and photos and it is a pretty good interpretation of the original. The gather detail on the pockets is particularly impressive. Either the colour lilac or the thick cotton is giving it some cleaning lady chic so I'm working on a more delicate scenic pattern of the Pingfang terraced houses. Note for the next items: ask for buttons rather than press-studs...

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Spend a penny and see everyone else's loose change
Spend a penny and see everyone else's loose change

There is an idea that Nanling Forest Park should have a sculpture trail, but I think it might already have one. We found the market’s public toilet to be an ingenious re-interpretation of Donald Judd, with the addition of trough and sluice. If something needs regenerating for the middle class tourists they should do well to start here.

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Probably the largest camellia in the world
Probably the largest camellia in the world

In contrast to the rough and ready aesthetic of the market place and narrow streets, the landscaping around the housing blocks next to the river is pleasant taste of urbania. The parkland has been lawned, a shocking contrast to the vegetable plot domination of every patch of earth elsewhere, and contains some clever tables and chairs made from river boulders and a decent childrens’ park with all-weather ping pong and badminton.

Best of all though is what must be the biggest camellia in the world, as good as 12 metres high. It is supported by bamboo scaffolding and sits within a high brick-walled bed. This is a familiar site for those accustomed to seeing cherished trees supported into old age, until you find out that someone stole this brute from the village to sell to landscape developers in Guangzhou for a fortune. Luckily the tree was retrieved and now stands well fortified (in both senses of the word) in the centre of the park. There is also now a barrier at the road entrance to the village to protect further tree theft – a sizeable criminal industry here.

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The Green Man sending pictures home to base
The Green Man sending pictures home to base

Nanling is also being visited by a tall man from the Green Commune in another province I can’t remember the name of. He is researching Nanling in order to develop a similar model back home which will incorporate a yoga retreat, organic farming, volunteer labour and wildlife conservation. We’ve made good friends with him and he comes by every night to use our email to send his pictures back to his colleagues.

It all sounds very interesting and similar then we get to the website. It’s worthwhile looking at the blog for the entertainment the poetry provides and to lay down a marker that this is clearly Aztec track-pant territory. The other night he declined to watch The Wicker Man with us in the hotel lounge. “It doesn’t interest me” he says in his semi-English. I think it might.

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Joe runs a restaurant in the market square which to an untrained or unbespectacled eye could resemble a mechanics garage. Joe however is the Heston Blumenthal of Wuzhishen and talks with great passion about food and that were it not for his culinary training he would be on the street. Jo has become a great friend to us and regularly cooks up for us an impressive array of dishes with beer for a tenner or less.

He is fascinated to hear of the tales of Chinese takeaways in the UK like Jay’s parents run. It’s the established route of employment for 1st generation émigrés, maybe less so these days, but traditionally if you were a brain surgeon all you could do was get the wok on as soon as you arrived in Britain. Imagine how depressing it would be to move the other side of the world with six phds and be serving chips to tanked up scally being sick on your floor. My wife’s parents ran a restaurant when they first came to the UK from Shanghai via Hong Kong (the first in Manchester as it happens) and we hear that the chef from the Orange House Hotel has gone to the UK too to set up a restaurant business.

Maria too has done bird in a Glasgow chippy, and so we offer to make fish and chips at Joes on Friday lunchtime. Maria makes the batter and I peel the spuds from the market and Joe supplies some minnows from the river, in the absence of any cod. The chips are double fried and it takes a while to get the right oil temp for in the wok for the fish, but the crispy battered cartoon-of-a-fish-shaped mini-fish look pretty special. The restaurant next door comes out with a bottle of tomato ketchup.

Quite a crowd is gathered and we share the fish and chips around the market. A little too little salt they say but otherwise not bad. It seems the main problem with our efforts to appease the taste buds of the village is that flour + fry = bad chi, makes the blood to hot as they say. In the absence of an oven we may struggle to really make our mark. My wife’s family go crazy for Yorkshire puddings, making literally hundreds of them with their Christmas dinner. So the hunt for an oven continues.

After Marias gallant efforts Joe pulls out a bowl of his recipe chips he’s bend working on earlier, infact marinading in fruit scented stock since ten that morning. Dusted in a secret flour receipe he pan fries them up to produce what may come to be known as the Wuzhishen Aramotic Chip TM. By 3pm we are surrounded by banana fritters and sweet fried nam fan and it has turned into a full blown fry off. Joe wins hands down.

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After working several days with the ever helpful Xinghai from the development company we finally get it:

Nanling is the name of the forest park

Nanling is not a village it’s a town and Nanling is not called Nanling its called Wuzhishen.

Wuzhishen means five fingers, on account of the fact that from the air the five mountains that surround the village look like a cupped hand, with fingers pointing up skyward.

NB Our director may point to the unfortunate referral to the act of cupping, but this may have it’s relevance.

Wuzhishen is located in the area known as Ruyuan.

Our rented house in the old town is not a Hutong, the traditional narrow street of courtyard based dwelling houses found in old Beijing etc but is in fact a Pingfang (sic) which is a terraced house with living and cooking/washing rooms separated by a narrow communal street.

This much we now know. But if it changes again you’ll be the first to know.

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Ah yes
Ah yes

Pack your bag and go get your Mamiya Maria, we’re going to shoot some farm porn and sure enough we do. Adam emails that he wants some juicy hi-def large format shots of rural life, real rural life. Filthy. Down the road at the organic farm we get stuck in with the farmers who welcome our suggestion with open arms. They are really keen on our suggestion to let out their spare rooms for Green Gym tourism or at least guests who might do more than gawp at the landscape and might get involved, take an interest and have a decent, civilised relationship with the place.

The farm is a Hugh Fearnley Oliver wet dream, immaculate rows of organic veg, happy chickens and a completely efficient, self sufficient system even down the gas from the human compost being used to power the wok burner. Prince Charles would love this. Duchy Originals Methane?

They give us tea and feed us nuts and then move on to Mie Ju or winey sweet rice with a fried egg. Which is rather nice. Having plied us with booze-rice, they offer us dinner, which we don’t have time for and instead agree for us to return for dinner next week on the condition that we work on the farm for the day. Additionally we offer to dress one of their spare rooms in a way that will attract Sino-Jamie Oliver fans or the like, which she is delighted about.

But the purpose of the farm shots will to help sell this idea, but there is a tinge of panic that we may be sending them down the road of Lakeland Tourist Misery. I try to explain this one through which is hard in the face of such enthusiasm for new ideas, but hopefully we’ll be able steer them more towards Ruskinian mind gym than shit farmhouse b&b. Let’s take them to Cumbria as a warning.

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Tomorrow I will go and see the market stall in process and talk to the carpenter. Today Alistair and I discussed the old village houses where we have our outpost with the companies community development officer, he seems to be on the same page as us about the need to locate our activities on the other side of the river to the hotel (the locals call the hotel side Hong Kong as it is posher).
The old peoples houses we are interested in, and working in, are being demolished soon it seems, or at least partially demolished, so i hope to output a suggestion for their realistic reinvention (with some fancy more eye catching bits) rather than destruction. I guess it will boil down to a proposal for one house, rather than a whole street or section. One small step at a time. On one level we have a lack of resources like printers, materials, making us have to work in certain slower ways, on the other to create effective change and sustainable development involving real people will take ages.

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Sad to say goodbye to everyone and just as things seem to be coming together. I have to be back in the UK to look at the pile of stones that was Lawson Park and to fight about access to the Love Shack, a build about to go on site that suddenly has ‘access issues’. But most importantly I have to plant, the spring was delayed in Britain so we did ‘nt get so much in before leaving for China, seeing all the planting and growth in Nanling made me eager to get going with the new paddy fields – all ready and waiting for planting.

As I drive out of Nanling I am struck by all the things I didn’t notice on the way in – mostly to do with the farms and villages. Through the village all the front gardens have been given over to vegetable gardens, I love that about the village, that all the plants are productive, so the elegant avenue of trees leading up to No 37 the Hutong (our house) is in fact lined with fruitful figs and persimmons (dried these taste amazing, like sweet and sour chocolate). I think I understood that a previous art project and had rather unfortunately galvanized the children of the village to plant the most revolting red lilies throughout the village, they are quite interesting as they show you which people are popular with the children – our landlady’s house is surrounded by them. They are the same lilys which are formally planted in the hotel (not so bad when formal). These are almost the only purely decorative plants in the village, not sure what the artist idea was. It does make you think a bit about meddling, upsetting the balance and irresponsible intervention, a warning to us - the Cane Toad syndrome. I recall a similar intervention on the remote Western Isles of Scotland where a doctor mobilsed the unemployed to plant daffodils - some government employment scheme rather than art – it may not have caused any damage but it sure puts anyone off visiting the island in the spring unless you require the weird site of avenues of multi form daffodils cutting through the utterly flat and arguably dismal landscape of North Uist. Bar the houses they are the tallest things on the island and that includes the people.

The further down the Nanling valley you get the more developed the farming becomes, tabbaco becomes a significant crop, taking over from the rather more useful peanuts and soya beans. Plastic membrane/mulch starts to dominate and the crops are clearly benefiting from chemical fertilisers, as evidenced by the uniformity and density of planting and that they are way ahead of the plants further up the valley.

On the drive to Guangzhou I again marvel at the motorways lined with hand clipped single trees, this really is a rod to beat yourself with. The labour expended must be astronomical, and not a productive tree in there, although not sure who would want to buy motorway fruit. I suspect in a few years all this topiary will be removed, maybe it's market gardening and they will sell the individual plants to ornamental gardens, boy would that make some money.

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guestroom artists books and fanzine collection
guestroom artists books and fanzine collection
coniston museum
coniston museum
coniston museum
coniston museum
grizedale collection
grizedale collection
grizedale collection
grizedale collection
ruskin archive, coniston
ruskin archive, coniston
ruskin archive, coniston
ruskin archive, coniston
grizedale collection
grizedale collection

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Say no more
Say no more

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The Market
The Market

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Bryan’s architecture masterplan for the village gets underway with a design for a new market stall for the village and for us to use on our event on the 17th. Being Brian of course he has designed it as part Nanling house-style country pine, part Russian Constructivist. The top modelled on the tower block finials comes off and makes a seat and the bottom part is just a sedan chair table top. East End meets Far East if you like. It can be used in the market just as a stall of course but is designed to fit into the houton living room as an exhibition stand or TV stand or convert the house into a shop. In a blazing art reference connection moment, the measurements relate to significant years in cultural history – 1949, 58, 68, 89….

We show it to a forest worker whose facial expression does not change. So we take it to a local carpenter who gets it straight away it seems and they are particularly amused by the drawing Bryan has done of stereotyped Chinese carrying it. He can make it in three days for 15 quid. Bryan offers to help make it but the carpenter laughs. I think he’s worked with artists before.

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Technique Anglaise
Technique Anglaise

Today Harold and I did the first of a series of English Lessons at the school with an English Teacher whose English is not that good, has a voice problem and reminds me a little of a 1970 childrens tv character. The class arrive in a riot of noise jumping around us and pointing at my big nose but snap into silence as soon as the lesson begins. We have to say our names and they think I'm called Alison. Our teaching involves us asking if we should go by plane or taxi to Beijing in a clear well ennunciated English voice. Which is fine, but then she runs out of ideas from text book and goes off piste asking us to sing the wheels on the bus...then err...just say something funny she says....that's bad enough to deal with in a normal situation but with 30 Chinese eight year olds that's a tall order. So Harold and I sing old Macdonald which brings the house down. The bell rings and they disperse into a riot outside. Phew.

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Our house in the middle of our street
Our house in the middle of our street


Farewell Adam. Who left us this morning to get back to England to build his own Shangri-La and keep and eye on the ever-changing Shangi-lite of Lawson Park farm as it turns from ancient vision of rural past to supercontemporary vison of future rural, see http://www.lawsonpark.org/

It certainly marked a moment of transition in the project, not just a half way point as the managerial baton was passed on to me, but also a sense that the initial research phase is ending and the second stage of the project is to materialise in some form that will declare our serious intent to work with the village for a long term future.

There is a general atmosphere among the group that this is possible albeit daunting, possibky foolish, particularly as we understand the need to make a mark in the next 10 days before we all go back.

The difficulty here is in keeping an eye on the long term vision for the village whilst making sure we actually do something this week that the villagers will see as different from the previous art projects that have left so little legacy and on the whole have not delivered the social gain they promised. It’s interesting that the one project that did go down well in the village was the TWIG project a (from an artland perspective) excruciating manifestation of social-development-through-the-medium-of-dance school. For some choice physical dance theatre comedy have a look at http://www.travelblog.org/Bloggers/TWIG-project--Together-We-Integrate-Growth/

Whilst hilarious to the semi-educated smug like myself, these forms of unfashionable community art to have their value and in particular incarnations have a good effect within the short term, or in the long term as part of sustained programme of action. The children in Nanling clearly enjoyed these dance workshops and remember them well.

So we do find ourselves pulling out some of the old communidy art tricks where they can demonstrate a certain intent, whilst we plot a longer strategy that will hopefully be more useful in a bigger way. We are never going to sort out a great deal out in this limited time, but we can begin a process that will hopefully get the village to start to think about how it might control, or at least have a say in what lies ahead.

Harold’s proposed parade involves the children of the school making costumes that represent the stakeholders in the village, such as loggers, power plant workers, tourists, etc and will dance through the streets to link the two ideologies of the town, split by the river: Tourist world on one bank, old worker village on the other. The parade will also join two events: a typical car crash culture Grizedale performance of complex village life at one end and a proposal of future ideas at the other. This future world is presented at a market stall in the market square and a museum to houton life in an old house, tucked away from the main tourist schlep. Whilst the stall may or may not sell, it will encourage the idea that the village can present itself in new ways through product and re-presentation to the outside and itself. This also links in with the general projects of Grizedale and Vitamin to use traditional, lo-fi market place techniques to disseminate cultural material, but through an internationally connected network.

It should be noted that this idea of new emerging networks and activity outside the conventional frameworks of modernity (the museum, the city, the consensual mainstream etc) is now emerging as the new thing. Nicholas Bourriaud is coming on trend with his forthcoming book/concept on the Altermodern (see http://www.tate.org.uk/britain/exhibitions/tatetriennial/default.shtm) and the Guangzhou Triennial this September will be looking beyond the Post Colonial to presumably new paradigms of communication and representation, although it could be said the only way to go post-post colonial is to return to the colonial, which is maybe not so far from what is going on in China now as the earth’s cultural and economic polarity shifts away from the old west.

Worryingly we hear today form a houton (old village house) resident that the Forestry Commission plan to re-house the people who live in these older, traditional dwellings in new apartment blocks in a couple of years and bulldoze the these ramshackle homes. Whilst the new apartments are good, clean and spacious, even the younger inhabitants seem to prefer the communal life these open houses create. Not to mention that is this architecture that gives the village its character, and more importantly from a social and tourist potential point of view, it’s diversity. To us the maintenance of this culture and its architecture is key to any ecological approach, but it seems not here, not yet. If there is one thing we can influence, perhaps it is this.

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Ladies work coat
Ladies work coat

I have been to see one of the female tailors here. She makes mostly trousers and jackets in dark suit fabric, but also bedspreads, so she has a good line in vivid florals. I'm thinking about a longer term project to design a Nanling fabric that could be made up into clothes or bags or even fore-arm covers (which are very popular here), that could be sold elsewhere, and here. On a previous visit I noticed some nice details on a jacket and decided to show her some dresses from the APC website (one of my favorites). She didn't have the right machine for some of the details, but was interested to have a more fashionable request for a change. She told me most people here are short and a little fat so they wouldn't look good in these styles. To make something similar will take her 3-4 hours, for a cost of 50/60 Yuan (£4). I'm going to go ahead with it as I'm keen to see her interpretation from a quick look on my laptop.

Back at the hotel, others are thinking about getting jackets made for the performance event. Here's a good worker's jacket from the 1965 10 Yuan note that Harold and Bryan might like, in a super bright for Harold and a historical replica for Bryan.

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Mantlepiece
Mantlepiece

I am beginning to settle into Nanling and village way of life and time suddenly seems to be slipping away. The people are the real charm of this village and it’s impossible not to warm to the generosity and openness of the folk here.

I am meeting many locals who are helping me to get to know Nanling and how to best make use of myself here, getting amongst it you could say is a real pleasure. Their stories are making a clearing for this initially seemingly impenetrable diverse and disparate new town jigsaw. They will help me weave my video footage into a history that could sit in the larger scheme of destination museum in the future; for locals to connect with a certain identity of Nanling and for visitors to consume something of the heart of the locality other than largest waterfall. An interchange on both parts is necessary if tourism is to work here and Nanling is to begin to recognise moves needed to offer a little more than unvocalised aspirations. An updated powerpoint is necessary.

My mid term thinking is to develop relationships with a few people I think I may be able to work along side and introduce one villager to the other, today I brought a farmer and peanut oil worker together in discussion and they both took time to consider the ideas being raised. I am relating my thoughts about packaging and personalising their produce to add value and try to go beyond the level of pure need to thinking further about teaming with others skills and crafts that may help their sales (wish no 1; more money) and also impart quite literally themselves through the exterior ostentation/subtlety of product packaging for something quite other than plastic fantastic. Despite being devoid of any traditional craft in these parts due to pre-fab short history, I am beginning to see scope and connections possible between certain people and trades I am encountering. I also intend to follow a more personal path with one or two perhaps who could really help me and me them.

Long term I am testing the water with what I would consider as quite an all encompassing reciprocal chess move for someone who has never left the province for a parallel Grizedale on the other side of the world. What a chance that could offer! Soundings out are necessary in terms of pragmatics and cultural cold feet.

Yesterday I could not find my savant/'hello welcome!' dotty man but instead spent an afternoon with his neighbour- a 73 year old female ex-logger who following tangerines and tea proceeded to accompany me and introduce at slipper pace to five of her friends. One was a doubled over 86 year old who had a stalwart memory and fiery voice, showing me her leg which had suffered from an explosion in the 60’s during her past as a miner here(a lot of gesturing going on). She was unhappy with how she had not received any medical attention for a while despite her services and loyalty. After, she chaperoned me to the other half of the abode opposite (kitchen/lounge) where mah jong regulars appeared to chew the fat over daily meanderings. I then enjoyed some sticky rice Buddhist style with her pensioner friends who sat fixated watching a karaoke style Buddhist song on VCD. Between singing each word they tell me that there are seven of them in Nanling who are vegan and adhere to the way. I am looking at the central wall play of a Mao poster as the son of the near amputee explains how I am not to show footage of him showing me a red identity cover with a photo of his father who passed away recently after working may years in the steel industry. It’s not difficult to want to call everyone your family here despite their different jobs and physical corners of the village, it’s the way your embraced with open arms and you try and munch on the preserved dry fruit tucked into your hand.
Your rooted though quite quickly by co-ordination hieroglyphics of Scottish dancing practice on the grounds of the Orange hotel and a fond farewell to Adam as he faces his travels back to Blighty. I better get my body clock in sync soon though, it’s 3am and I am still getting used to late meals and a lots of irresistible food.

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Today we met with the people from the women’s dance group who were also the leaders of the workers union and were also the government birth control officers for the village. Obviously I showed then the pictures of my four children and despite the cooing that ensued over the 20 month old twins, they were keen to emphasise that should I procreate so actively over here I would be fined 100,000 Yuan and loose my job.

We’re keen to involve them in our proposed mini festival for the village on the 17th, so have agreed to meet up with them on Thursday night to show us their dance moves, on the condition that Harold shows them some hip hop moves and we teach them a morsel or two of Scottish country dancing.

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Foods of Nanling
Foods of Nanling
Native wild animals
Native wild animals
The best job in Nanling
The best job in Nanling

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5th May
I have been following the blog to get a feel for what you are doing and seeing there and have been trying to figure out what could be worth adding from a sedentary london position - partly I find it difficult because the internet diary format isnt something i feel very familiar with if even slightly wary of and partly because 'experience from a distance' doesn't even come close and feels too abstract, also Im sure you are discussing everything within the group over and over and there must be a point where you just want to get on with it - having said that I have been enjoying reading everybody's voices coming together and forming, slowly but surely something of a picture. it sounds like there is a new wave of optimism in this second lot of posts too, which is encouraging.

I agree, to install a 'model provincial museum' would be pointless - i think (whatever it will be) will have to be an open structure, maybe more something like a lab or workshop with different outcomes, which at a later stage can maybe develop an idea of archive that can link back to lawson park and/or london, not something that is inserted there?
any project I would think will have to start from a common denominator as a starting point hopefully with the result of something unknown to all 'positions'. i think all these ideas about being useful to something or someone have to start with your own curiosity, enthusiasm or interest (which normally brings with it the benefit of a certain 'expertise' anyway) not through a moral imperative of figuring out what is good for someone, which easily traps one in a missionary role and perpetuates a certain binary structure and pidgeon-holing on both sides or conformity of ideas - i think this is true for anywhere or any situation that involves communities that you enter as an outsider. partly, i think it is important to recognize difference with the aim of understanding it and not feed the myth of a globalized cohesive understanding which is often one-way anyway in terms of who is being interpreted.
cooking and food seems to be one such possible starting point from what you are saying market stalls and farming in relation to lawson park - on one level, certainly at this stage about enjoying the place and people and what and how they do things, where we can see parallels, what fascinates us and find out more about it, in what way a different structure or understanding of community is reflected in the everyday that can inspire us. part of this I guess is also to be honest about our own motives and why we were interested in taking part in the project - in some ways quite similar to working at/with lawson park/grizedale despite the obvious geo-political differences.

I would love to see more images and documents of Nanling, some non-verbal communication and mapping that I can respond to from this context. that would make it easier from me to get involved other than just bla-ing on abstractly from distance, which I suspect is completely irrelevant anyway and is doing my head in a little. (maybe we have to do the 'kingdom-thing' as in reporting from different places, but with real places to start establish some connections between ourselves and in line with how we normally approach things - maybe you shouldn't worry about a museum just yet - how and where would this be built anyway, and maybe a judgement on usefulness comes at a much later stage). one interesting thing to think about maybe - how do we go about thinking of archives/library/museums etc without relying on language, the local of which we don't speak.

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Bryan bought a hammer for no discernable reason. Everyone is a bit itching to get on with something practical - enough discussion of the complexities - simple working.

We have arranged to rent a house in the old Hutong style bit of the village, somewhere we can work, exhibit projects in progress, cook and generally enjoy the village a bit more.

Everyone has formulated approaches:

Bryan is building something, possibly a giant bread oven, a conceptual project in that he wants to buy the materials from B&Q and make pizza.

Maria is developing ideas about a folk museum and taking glossy photos of the house restaurant for a possible real eco holiday brochure

Harrold is working on a schools project working with the kids on a small performance

Laura is looking at marketing, making a stall - re presentation of the village products

Jay is developing narratives with locals and thinking about the longer term exchange possibilities as well as a packaging project

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On my way over I bought The Guardian to while away the hours and what do you know but villages are the new beach.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2008/may/03/mexico.community.tourism

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Dear All

I've arrived in Guangzhou and sat in the marvellous Movie Star Hotel round the corner from Vitmamin. It has a giant Oscar statue behind the desk, which I think should go the best Nanling YouTube entgry.

I played the bus card which got me here too early so I had to hang around at the bus stop whilst I waited for Vincent, talking to a hotel rep guy about eco tourism and the history of the entente cordiale.

Now I'm in the hotel room I'm doing the obligatory tv surf and it's very hard to escape from the endless shots of Chinese countryside on every other channel and people working in pastoral bliss (and the odd game show and pop video), so the likes of Nanling are clearly deep in the roots of a lot of people in China, far more than the english fantasy of bucolic village greens, there is an attachment or longing for the countryside which underlines all of the country's breakneck modernisation.

Tomorrow I'm meeting Mr Chen at 1000 am at Vitamin so I'll relay all the stuff you've brought up.

Do think about the triennial and what we could do as part of that in the Autumn. There is particulary acute relationship between what seems to be going on in the village and the theme of the triennial which is Beyond the Post-colonial. If somewhere was ever this is would be Nanling.

Well see you tomorrow I guess and looking forward to seeing you all.

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Its raining again. I went to get paper and pencils for the teaching class, but ended up having delicious fish and spinach with the restaurant owner Uncle Joe (not his real name) in the square, he also plied me with a kind of whiskey rice wine which was delicious. Joe has an amazing energy, a natural entrepreneur, small dynamic and super charismatic - he creates a magnetic atmosphere around his stall like a low-fi celebrity chef.

I cant help feeling a tourist park in 21st century China needs even more than the one boutique hotel and the scenery, I therefor intend to come up with the most outrageous large scale ideas my small brain can generate and try to get the developers to buy into them. I'm all for helping the villagers on an every day level but China will 'be' the next century and this place could do with a little more flamboyant optimism and destination archi-art, I mean even towns in sleepy Austria have more seductive buildings at the moment and that hasn't been a super-power since the Hapsburgs. Perhaps being weaned on a diet of the extrovert Leeds economic boom has affected my neurons in this direction, and proposing such an idea will generate an interesting conversation anyhow. Probably I will have to downsize to a plan B, and make my utopian/distopian idea as something smaller but useful - maybe an architectural model/communal bread oven for the market square? a kind of folly producing that much needed commodity - pizza. If so I think I'll get all the materials from one of the 53 B&Q DIY warehouses in China: http://www.bnq.com.cn/.

Pic: Zaha Hadid Ski Jump Insbrook, Austria

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Keith Farquhar jumper work
Keith Farquhar jumper work
Mary Portas
Mary Portas
flower arrangement
flower arrangement
broom
broom
House restaurant
House restaurant

**Marcus Coates' shaman performance in Japan -
Q. How do we make our rice more profitable?
A. You have to value your rice more
Villagers started to package and sell 10% of their rice rather than dropping it off at the cooperative. They got 10 times the price for selling it themselves. Here there are dried mushrooms, not sure if they're from here, some handmade brooms, paper origami and flower arrangements.

**Mary Portals, retail strategist, writes a shop review column for the Telegraph Magazine.
She talks about 'invisible packaging', a trade term for the way mannequins are dressed, window displays, lighting, shop layout etc all the things that inspire shoppers. Nanling fresh food market is quite enticing, if a little scruffy, but at the shops (for hardware, packaged food/drinks, clothes, shoes, gifts) it's hard to see what is for sale, even from the inside, because the stuff is still in piles of cardboard boxes. The villager's approach to life, fresh food and health seems to marry up with the tourists' desire for clean air and good fresh food, but the displays, products and setting don't get this message across. I think Mary Portas would try to get people to seduce and capture the imagination of the tourists with the story of village lifestyle as well as extending the products.

**The House Restaurant
All the restaurants we've tried serve great food but you wouldn't know if from their appearance, except the house restaurant (for tourists). Adam calls this a destination restaurant, you sit overlooking the kitchen garden, chicken pen and fish pond, clearly relating the produce growing to your tasty lunch. We saw a large group of tourists choose 3 live chickens, which were promptly killed and plucked and cooked for lunch.

**Keith Farquhar jumper displays

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May Holiday
May Holiday

3rd May
Hi Ruth,
We have had the last couple of days off, taking it easy a bit which has been nice because it's been quite intense so far. There's a May public holiday for 3 or 4 days so we weren't able to have meetings with anyone or get any plans in place so we took a holiday too. Loads of tourists (from other bits of China) have come to the village in big flashy cars. Almost all of them drive past the main village without stopping to look at the market or buy something to eat and just come up to the posh hotel (hotel also has a restaurant but is 10 times the price of the market restaurants). Yesterday we had an adventure walk through the river (almost completely dried up because of the hydro-electric power station). It was very beautiful though. Today we went into the National Park which was expensive (relatively). There were loads of tourists there and despite the forest being pretty devastated by a winter storm, it was still pretty nice but nothing particularly overwhelming. Still, couldn't help myself and took a lot of cliched photos. There have been a gang of school kids handing around us the last few days. One of the girls invited us to her home to talk with her mum but it was obvious that the mother didn't know anything about it. There was a motorbike in the living area. It was quite run down. I think the family were more well off then some of the retired people and farmers but the house looked rougher and not so cared for. As soon as we got there the loud girl was really quiet and just put on the TV. I asked quite a few questions because it felt so awkward being there but it wasn't particularly fruitful. I asked if she or any of her friends would be interested in any evening classes and she said no. Anyway, we are having a big power-breakfast tomorrow to talk about the project so will email you after that.

4th May
Hi,
We had a long, drawn out meeting today about short-term plans, intermediate and longer-term plans. There were lots of tangents and tentative criticism of most of our ideas, basically because it's all talk and no action and we're being very cautious not to leave a trail of art devastation behind us. Eventually after going round in quite a few circles we made some concrete plans to start-getting-on-with-it. Tomorrow we are going to the primary school to talk about doing some after school English classes. Harold will be leading this and will work towards a small performance which we will film. In the afternoon me, Laura and Adam and the interpreter (Jai) will go to this really nice restaurant (House Restaurant, it's a company restaurant). We will interview them about their business. We have been talking a bit about setting up some kind of museum in the village but having talked about similar initiatives that got it so wrong, again we're being a bit careful about what it could be. Talked a bit about maybe trying to set-up some kind of new restaurant/ornamental farm/museum as food seems to be the thing that interests people the most. Will probably cook in the restaurant in the square that we always go to with Adam on Monday/Tuesday without much fuss, just do it, hand out samples, increase our presence in the village. We are looking for a space to set-up a work area in the village as we can't or aren't doing much work in the hotel and we are too separate from the local people. Laura wants to go back to the woman farmer we first met and ask more specific questions geared towards ideas for a museum so I will probably go with her to film.
Off for dinner, will give you more detail later...

Hi,
The food here has been consistently really good and we eat tons of it! Thinking about the museum, I'd hate it to be some sort of typical provincial museum with sun-bleached (laminated) photos representing the people and land, local industry equipment and boring captions. The Company are in the process of making a museum anyway which will probably house some of the above so I think it would be good to think of a specialised museum that would be a resource or have some aspect to it that local people are interested in. Would hate to make something that they don't feel is interesting or would feel alienated from and that would only be a stop off point for coach tours.
Let me know your thoughts...
m x

Topics: [May Holiday]

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Don't know which way to turn
Don't know which way to turn

The village is divided by a river, the west bank is where the company hotel is situated
We are living at the back of the boutique style Orange hotel, which is very nice but does distance us from the community, just staying on the west side does.

We get a lot of feed back about the art programme and how unsuccessful people found that to be, everyone we meet says it would be good if we did something useful.
There is a lot of resentment that the company had supported art works that were of no value. What was perhaps a bit shocking about the art works previously made here, in 2004 is that the artists took the work away with them, and left nothing but the experience of helping the artist make the stuff. One of the artists is remembered for his ability to make friends with the village square drunks, through the use of body language, which is I think a universal language of drunks, verbal communication being incomprehensible shouting. Bryan and I left Maria and Laura in an embroidery class and tried to get a beer in the village square, we were immediately surrounded by very drunk men and women, and accidentally ordered a bowl of noodles and a tea, but no beer. Bryan manfully struggled with the art form of body language, which appeared to result in him being nicknamed pussy pussy, (we later found out this meant no, (actually Bussy bussy)); clearly they did not enjoy Bryan’s body language any more than the rest of us.
The teachers of the embroidery class were engaged in a very Ruskinian endeavour, to develop a local and idiosyncratic lace as a local craft industry. The class was full of interested women, all keenly making doilies.

With further meetings and discussion we begin to draw some conclusions about the issues facing the village and eventually Jay has a conversation with a power worker who explains succinctly the very things we have been thinking

There is no attraction in the forest to draw visitors
There is no attraction in the village to support the forest and connect the visitors with the village
There is not enough accommodation and what there is is too expensive (needs a range)
The quality of the built environment and the restaurants is not good enough (much as we love eating in the square at Uncle Joe’s)
The transport system is not adequate
And finally to Bryan’s delight he said the walkways needed improving

So the improvement of the tourism industry in a way that benefits the village communities and supports and develops the existing rural industries. In short good tourism, participatory, engaged, a learning/development experience on both sides

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Learning something new in Coniston Institute
Learning something new in Coniston Institute

Back here in blighty Lisa and I are getting worried that you're getting worried that you've sudenly got to put the world right before you get back. Maybe this has something to do, even in such an offcentre location, that the artist is going to help or be helpful, or, it seems as tourists. On the other hand if you were just folk from another village come to see how they do it.

It looks as if the contrast between old and new is ever more hightended than when we first visited two years ago - is there another hotel as well as the Orange House? You've used the word 'poor' a few times in relation to the village, which is quite a shock, both in relation to our new ideas of China and also from what I remember of the last village trip, when I never thought of the village that way, only that they were happy enough but looking to be happioer still. Whether that's clouded by Shangri-La, the slow food movemet and proto-post-colonial theory or the promises of mass tourism have sewn a promiscuous seed I'll let you tell me; but I always thought it might be that we can learn much from Nanling about what is important back home. With regard to the heroism of labour and the pleasure of leisure do we have to rethink our ideas on tourism.

I was thinking that maybe it is worth thinking about the library or a version of it. Coniston library in the village (part of the old Ruskin founded Institute) is to be cut free from being council run and will somehow have to re-invent what it does and how it does it. Perhaps this could tie in with the new Lawson Park library and even a similar thing for Nanling - eduaction/remote English/folk musuem/ and so on, like a educational honesty stall network. There has been recent success in China (at least from an economic view) of the franchised British School, so maybe it would be possible to create a grass roots version of this in villages - like the idea of the super night classes for Coniston we talked of, where Nicholas Bourriaud and Stephen Hawking come to deliver the odd art and physics classes. If Nanling became such a rich place then could it then offer a new kind of tourismwhere you went to learn and teach. Ecobrain tourism.Then again they might just want to be left alone.

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Notes on ideas development discussion drawn from various discussions and ideas floating around

series of projects to ‘get to know’

5 minute power point, originally suggested at 40 mins but this was thought to be far to long – so brief presentation for people we have already talked to – there is little interest in us or who we are. Feel it would be good to demonstrate that there is some commonality, we have experience of tourism and have worked in this context before and successfully. There is a need to demonstrate that we have something to give and that we are not looking to do a standard art project
Grizedale tourism history
community projects
farm projects

evening classes – to offer maybe 2 evenings a week led by 2 or 3 of the artists, discussion as to what we could offer and what would be wanted included
computer skills – photoshop, video editing etc, concerned as to whether people would use this or had computers, would only be of benefit to the more wealthy villagers, people who already had good jobs
craft skills – pottery - printing – slight concern as to whether this was coals to Newcastle, what long term benefit could there be, instituting a crafts business to feed from the tourist industry, replicating the high volume craft production of the sweat shops.
Ruskin’s ideas about starting crafts businesses in Coniston get discussed, is intense poorly paid labour a good thing, is there some quality work idea in craft, benefiting the crafts person
Languages – teaching English seemed to be the most likely and popular idea, to do this in a creative way, making it a fun interaction with us. Certainly of what we have to offer English would be the most desirable
Cookery – teaching some international reciepies, this was really popular with the Japanese village. The use of local product, there are lots of potatoes at the moment and lets face it we in the west have many ways with a potato. Problem with this is we don’t have a kitchen, maybe it would be better to show some recipies to the stall holders, cook with them

Market stall possible to make/develop a stall
artist products, craft product, a repackaging of local product for a tourist market or just to accentuate the value of the local product. Discussion was again to what end, would this just make a better connection to tourism, could there be other benefits.

Breakfast stall – to work on one of the market village stalls a couple of artists cooking breakfasts each morning for a local population – maybe a good get to know, possibly of little longer term benefit
English breakfasts American breakfasts
Alternative uses of local produce

Bread oven – tried in Japan, bread being relatively unknown in the village, could this be a part of the social life would people use it, discussed with no conclusion, further research as to where, use etc

Clean up day – initiate a day or two picking up litter, maybe to clear the river, maybe to include the village, how would this be read, could be seen as an insult, further research

Performance film showing food expo evening – considered inappropriate as an introduction, maybe do some sort of end of project party in the theatre, show material and cook

Strategy – a more general discussion on how to evolve and deliver a major project. Adam pushed ideas around using art tropes, developing a programme that utilizes art forms that are fit for purpose. A programme that is an amalgam of disparate ways of working. Falling into different types of art so ‘Stunt art’ is used for marketing the project, getting media attention, creating a media friendly image that will be published across the media not just in art press.

Stunt art
to market the destination – pr friendly art. Discussion around ideas like colouring all the boulders in the dry river bed, light installations in the forest/mountains, and other similar things. Need a cheap and effective solution, discussion around the fact that everyone hates this sort of art – but perhaps if it has a purpose it is ok, ie it’s the marketing

Destination art – work that people will visit i.e you have to experience it - Turrell etc.
Discussion around architecture – Bryan’s favorite term artitechture. Needs to be experience dependant, ie lightning field etc

Engaged practice/community art
engagement with the community, community development, useful art
Suggestions for developing eco farm holidays, web site to book etc. Developing an ornamental village farm/garden, based on the farms but accentuating the design and decorative elements using edible plants to help the garden to be maintained and of value

Village museum – local curiosity folk museum
To develop the folk elements maybe linking to the formal museum, tourist selections from local environment t give locals an idea of how people see them and what they value. Could be centred around the reclaimed Camilia tree, open structure

Connection to academic institutions – Bryan raised the idea of trying to develop links with academic institutions, using academics and research as the visitor industry low volume, high income.

Posters – Local signwriter poster production, style is very sloganeering, maybe not appropriate however much we might like them.

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Hello.

Here's my first video blog entry, expect more in the coming days.

H xx

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Today I accidentally fell in the river. Laura was there with the camera to take a photo.

The last and possibly only other member of my family to swim in a Chinese river was my Grandfather. Above is a picture of the moment, showing him in the water with some of his fellow inmates when the Chinese occupied North Korea during the Korean war:

The photo was from a newspaper my grandmother received on whilst living on Canvey Island during the Korean war in the 1950's, she had heard her husband had gone missing as one of the Gloucestershire regiment during the battle of the Imjin River (1951) and did not know for a year or so if he was dead or alive. This photo told her that he was in fact still alive and in a Chinese prison of war camp. After this incarceration my Grandfather was communist for the rest of his life, describing it like going to university, he had an unshakable respect for the Chinese people. Thankfully to get my river swimming experience I did not have to undergo 48 hours of solid fighting on top of a hill against human wave tactics, followed by a route march on starvation rations for hundreds of miles. Don't you just love international peace.

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Regulars
Regulars
Guangzhou
Guangzhou
Next generation
Next generation
Log river
Log river
Friends of the earth
Friends of the earth

It’s a national bank holiday today and the village market has come alive with the activity and bustle of chickens, natter to family from elderly folk with babies in arms and the clanging of woks.

It’s the busiest it’s been so far here, in this hotch-potch assemblage of farmland, dried up riverbed and ex-pat resort meets medieval China. The stunning national park and hydroelectric power station although not completely out of sight (odd tube up mountain slope may be spotted), they seem remote and distant. This hints at the dynamics of this supposed eco-tourist village destination. After quite an arduous journey from Hong Kong by bus via a short stay at the Home Inn, Guangzhou-the capital of industrial Guangdong capital- I have returned.

We still haven’t met the illustrious Mr Chen, the visionary behind the ‘eco’ development of Nanling- we’re awaiting a visit for his own words. In the meantime, we’re cobbling meetings with various corners of the village as best we can to try and understand the make-up here–from a farm owner, director of the plush Orange Hotel manager (at which we are staying), Forest Bureau Director, and soon a local school teacher and hopefully local savant, a man in his eighties who ran out of his tiled house to “hello, welcome!” me. I think he had been waiting fifty years to belt out his joyous practice of textbook English. Of course there was the international art programme two years ago that left the inhabitants and development company dubious of future hope of art practice and it’s positive impact through engagement with surroundings and people. I am not sure how much a pair of curtains and overly designed tree houses can really address the complexity of the issues rubix-cubed together here.

On simplistic terms, the village can be divided into two halves; the development company who are pushing for a tourism that benefits the villagers and village itself are on separate banks. I am sat currently on the east on a balcony with my wi-fi and guilt knowing that on the East there’s a lot of poverty tourism for which it would all be too easy to develop a Cannibal tour. Indeed it has been cringeworthy at times when the English lot have gasped at the chicken heads beady eye, or questioned toilet positions, I know them and yet am so far from fluent in language and manner that I feel all the more at odds, especially when local begins to converse and I am happy to know that my imaginative tones and tweaks of Cantonese can get me by in Mandarin. To be expected. Indeed, the canyon separating the haves and nots can all too easily lead us to dehumanise the Development agency as the puppeteer. The ‘selected’ restaurants-10 x the yuan of village eaterie- we have a regular scar faced chef superieur at about two quid a feast- and accommodation endorsed by them are outwardly and behaviourally apart. Few villagers come this way, shoulderbag is here not bag on stick, as well as literacy and computer skill- but speaking to hotel manager and forest bureau suggest a more altruistic loss of breadcrumb rather than any dark red motive which would be so much easier to jump to.

Supported by the area’s Development agency we are told that general hierarchy here is running order of agriculture, village and people; to stay in the village with a farmer would have been unfathomable. That might be why farming methods seem efficiently at a standstill but the drive to make this an eco-tourist site is proving tenuous… only 10 percent of income here is generated by tourism and 70% by the hydroelectric power stations nearby.

Also, how about linking what to see with the community here and perhaps a little tidying up. Accessibility, financing, tradition … everything interlinks and the component question suddenly spider webs into the vast span of the history, politics and sociology of China. So what do we apply and how do we translate community engaging practice into a useful, non-self assuming imposition of the better way without resorting to imbalanced social work from Brits with distant generational or genetic links that appear to have come in handy? (Bryan please stop humming that anthem since your implications are heavy, or maybe I should lighten up and get the stunt head on??) This is exemplified also by our head stretching discussions yesterday, at points I found myself at the stalemate… but they already invented that dynasties ago? Through this though we are starting to edge towards a longer term strategy for Nanling. The roll out of a cleaning project for the village is my line of thinking but there’s a long march ahead- for day three, English lessons is perhaps not such a useless way to begin afterall.

Last winter there was also a devastating snow storm which evidently demolished many of the trees protected in this area with natural deforestation, not the best tourist postcard. However, the journalists we met yesterday indicated interest in this area for that very reason. Yesterday I arranged to find out more about the forest manager’s role, and followed him and his three work colleagues up into the mountains. Vertigo and rapid ascendance and descent up hair-raisingly narrow steps and steep drops aside, it was conservation in action and heart warming to see surveillance and hands on care for the forest in action.

There are a lot of parallels to be drawn physiologically with the Lake District as well Grizedale's ambitions with Lower Parkamoors and Lawson Park. For now I am within untypical Chinese Nanling version and with the others am finding my way.

Topics: [Nanling Village Ecotourism Resort]

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28th April from Maria to Ruth
Wow, finally arrived in the village about an hour ago. It's an epic trip to get here, basically 2 days door to door. The village doesn't look anything like it does on the website. It's really poor here and apart from one hotel it doesn't seem to be set up for tourism. We are staying in the posh hotel which is nice in a way because there is internet access and it's peaceful but not a very good place to start engaging with the Local Community I expect. The group is getting along fine so far so it's all very pleasant. Will email you tomorrow about what the plan is for this project as I think we will be discussing what we might do later.
Hope all is well there.
What has been happening?
Talk soon,
m xx

28th April from Ruth to Maria
hello, good to hear from you and that you arrived safely. I guess reality is always different to the postcard and in terms of the project maybe it's good in that it is not some sort of 'show off' village which represents more of an island than rural reality... it must be absurd too staying in the hotel on the edge of the village - are going to move to the village later in the week?
all has been ok here, went to studio voltaire yesterday and then soho for a rare outing in the westend, which was nice.
say hi to everyone and keep me posted, curious to hear what you will be doing

29th April Maria to Ruth
Hi, 
This morning we all descended on a farmer and asked her lots of questions about her work and her history and she showed us around the farm. This afternoon we met someone from the Forestry Commission and asked him lots of questions about what he did and what might be useful for us to do here and tonight we will see an embroidery group and hopefully take part. It has been a bit depressing as no one is that interested in artists being here as they have had some bad experiences in the past and there seems to be little time for leisure or art activities I don't think anyone is particularly enthusiastic about our presence here. Their immediate problem is poverty. It's quite depressing but at least we won't be doing any razzmatazz performance to cheer them up.
Anyway, more later....
m xxx

29th April Ruth to Maria
Hmm sounds all quite difficult - I guess we already talked about this before you left, the problems with being useful and who benefits from what- but you never know what might develop there that can be mutually beneficial, I guess it takes time to build up trust and to get to know the place so that it is not just a superficial reading of what can be good to do there. if the project can develop something good it is probably better that it doesn't sit too comfortably with everybody otherwise you just end up serving clichés too. anyway, you must write in more detail what is going on!
x ruth

29th April Maria to Ruth
Today was our first full day in the village. We had breakfast in the square. Someone selling fish on a tarpaulin on the ground, someone else selling a couple of handfuls of potatoes. Other stalls as well, dried mushrooms, meat etc. It's all good local produce but it's no Islington Farmer's Market. Nothing is displayed nicely, no fancy packaging etc. all the stupid things you realise you love. I changed £150 thinking that would be enough money to last for three weeks but when there is nothing really to buy and the price for breakfast for 8 of us this morning in an outside restaurant was £2 (not each, for everyone and there was tons left over), I'll come back with £149.00. The guy who cooks and serves in this outside restaurant works from 6am till 1am, a siesta in the middle of the day but 7 days a week. When we asked people how they would like the village to change they just said more money or more tourist, which would bring more money. When we asked if bringing more money would mean they could work less and do more leisure activities they said no, that's not what they want. I think the work ethic is extreme here and it seems you would never even admit to wanting something other than working. I guess when you are living on the edge of poverty and are just making enough to live and send your kids to school, it's impossible to think beyond that. However, this evening when I went to the crochet class run by two art tutors from the city, the women who came (about 15) were really enthusiastic and had done a lot of homework and had made some really lovely crochet things. So, even though people are saying that there is no interest in art here, actually there is. The Development Company took over a lot of the buildings and the running of the town from the Red Army and they are the ones setting up these meetings and accompanying us everywhere. I think we have been asking some sensitive questions and maybe they are not being translated correctly because of etiquette, I don't know. I have been recording a lot of this so I would really like to get some of the material translated accurately as I am sure the questions posed are often not the questions  actually being asked as the translated answers we get back, often don't relate to the questions. We are thinking of doing a bit of work on this woman's farm (which I'm happy to do as long as we are useful and not just getting in her way). There's an idea to work with the restaurant guy and cook some breakfasts, of which he will get the money and we will be able to connect a bit with the local people. Maybe do some craft workshops. Make some films in the village, about the village and what they produce and show these in the local theatre (which is closed most of the year, only open for events during public holidays). I like the idea of the films because we are so used to understanding our own representations and inflated sense of self worth but here you get the impression they don't see themselves and how they live from any other perspective than internally. I think they would be interested in the things about them and what they do that we find interesting and inspiring, like at the farm we went to they have a fantastic fertiliser system making human manure, an off-shoot of which is methane gas which is piped into the house to the cooker. It's so self-sufficient but not in a London life-style choice way, where everyone is super-aware and smug about it. The communist thing is strange, you forget they can't vote and all this China-Now!, progressive 21st century China stuff we are bombarded with in the UK means nothing here. 
m xx

30th April Ruth to Maria
I can imagine what you mean or think that I can although obviously i am not there to witness what you see - and given how difficult real and urgent the situation you describe sounds I find it hard to make meaningful comments that can add anything to what you experience. 
I guess you are confronted with in a in some sense very simple and straightforward need situation where like you say all preconception, lifestyle choice ideas/tends fly out of the window quick smart as does your own idea of purpose and role in the context and you are having to start from scratch. approaching the village must be tricky given that by the sound of things you are employed by the local enterpreneur and that you cannot rely on communication through a translator. does jay not speak some cantonese or is it a different dialect? 
your interest in filming them, their inventions and creative solutions as encouragement sounds good, and maybe on the craft side things can be developed for selling to the tourists as another form of income? I don't know. it is obviously a long-term process where a couple of weeks are only the start of making a meaningful contribution or the beginning of conversations. maybe at this stage it is about getting to know each other and the place, listening and taking in rather than instantly responding. 
how was your day today and what has been happening, how do you feel about being there and being there in a group, are you thinking of all working together or is everybody doing their own thing?

i was wondering that maybe rather then just writing a dialogue blog there is a little project we could do, something maybe more visual and research based? maybe i can help practically with what you are doing in china, gathering information or research depending of course on your ideas - it would feel less 'constructed' perhaps than staging a debate and also more useful for our (your) engagement with the place. i find the creativity in solution buildling very interesting (like you mentioned the recycling method) - where the creative process is a necessary component and not merely an aesthetic pastime. what are you thinking? 

30th April Maria to Ruth
Yes, I think for you this is pretty frustrating to only be responding to the things I am telling you so we can try and think of something you can do over there that can feed into the project. Today we met another guy from the Forestry Commission and bombarded him with questions so we are getting more of an insight into the place. Somehow I'm not feeling very optimistic for the long term tourist dream of the Development Company as they seem to have lost motivation and direction. They keep talking about increasing tourism like it's the only way to 'develop' the village but we haven't heard of many current or exciting enterprises/projects. We talked a lot about the possibilities for increasing the financial benefit of tourism, how the farmers and market traders could be empowered and engaged with the changes that are taking place in the village. They don't really have a voice (or seem to even want one), however, we're not here to motivate social reform through instigating an uprising using engaged art practice, though at times we get a bit carried away with all the ideas for things we could do. There is a lot of pressure to make this project work where previous attempts have failed but actually I think this will make us tread a bit more lightly and concientiously. We talked about small interventions during this research period to build up a trusting relationship with people here. Some of the options are: over a couple of days make breakfasts with one of the restaurant owners, new things to cook from UK using the ingredients that they would be able to buy locally so they could add them to their menu if they liked. Maybe also do a cookery class. We met a school teacher today with some of her students and they are really keen for us to come in and teach them English. Another idea is some craft workshops, like printmaking and pottery (Chinese in origin anyway but not sure how many people her have these skills or are interested in learning them). These are really research devices devices for longer term projects so it's not too much of a 'but what does it mean in an art context?' worry.
anyway, will write more later,
m xx

Later...
Jay has been able to translate which has been really helpful for the group, a total asset overall but it makes the rest of us a little bit lazy in terms of trying to communicate. I think the translator is working really hard but we are bombarding her with unsubtle questions that she has to fire at these people. Of course if we spoke the language we would be spending 20 minutes skirting round the issues and trying to ask difficult things an a round about way but because she is our filter we're as blunt as you like.
The idea of the craft workshops in a way could be developed into something sellable but really I think it's a small way to suggest that there are options and choices which is ultimately empowering. I don't think it's about teaching them an industry, though of course it would be good if some people took it further.
It's been ok so far working in a group, especially in this research stage, but we will see how things progress. I presume people will start having ideas about individual projects that relate to their own practice but it seems like a opportunity to pull resources and work collectively. Though, might be interesting for us to film a farm in the Lake District. Contrast 2 ideas of organic/eco farming?
m xx

Topics: [First Few Days]

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The current figure is 80,000 tourists per year coming to Nanling. This is quite suprising as the facilities are small scale - the hotel, 3 tourist restaurants (supported by the development company), and the village, with small farms, a food market, 4 street restaurants and hardware/food shops. Tourism is the chosen strategy of the development company with ambitions for visitor numbers to grow to 300,000 in 10 years.

We are based in the only hotel here giving us the chance to observe the comings and goings of this emerging economic force. Two professors from Gwangzhou have come to run a monthly embroidery night class at the library. Two young journalists also from Gwangzhou are here writing a report on the regeneration of the forest after a devastating freak winter snowstorm, a tragedy that snapped nearly every tree. Today is May Day and a public holiday, which brought a new intake of city families last night. I spotted one group wondering rather nervously around the square, looking unsure of what was there for them whilst wearing England rugby shirts.

If it is to succeed as a tourist destination the village will have to change. The sophisticated hotel, smarter restaurants and city visitors juxtaposed with the rough poverty is an awkward combination for both sides, feeling the injustice of inequality looking you right in the eye. Perhaps the trouble here is it feels like the villagers, farmers, store holders and restaurateurs don't really benefit from the visitors. Can they afford to make changes to their businesses so that they attract the visiting middle classes? But more, where would they gain a savvy retailer insight when everything seems to be created out of necessity rather than choice or design or lifestyle.

The group talks through various successful models of tourism. Farm-work/stay visits, unique accommodation, extreme sports set in beautiful landscapes and 'packaging'. I feel like we've ¬become business consultants. Adam conveys his experience of tourism and the Lake District to various people we meet. Their eyes light up at the visitor numbers, but it is hard to make any meaningful expression of the other side of things, the dark side of tourism that may bring an end to the wonderful things here.

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