Mittwoch, 12. Mai 2010
Huang Rui über Abriss von Kunstvierteln in Beijing
Per E-Mail hat auch mich jetzt der Mitte Februar verschickte Artikel von Huang Rui 黄锐 (Mitglied der Gruppe Neue Sterne von 1979 und einer der Gründer von 798) erreicht. Recht lang, aber ich habe ihn im Netz noch nicht vollständig gefunden.

A City that Abandoned Artists

Winter in Beijing is Especially Cold

After the 2008 “New Beijing, New Olympics,” in July 2009, Chaoyang District in the city of Beijing held the Chaoyang District Work Mobilization Conference to Promote Land Reserves and the Unification of Urban and Rural Areas. The conference resolved to promote the unification of the city and the countryside by reclaiming 26.2 square kilometers of countryside for the city land reserve. This area included seven villages in Dongba, Cuigezhuang, Sunhe, and Jinzhan. Regardless of whether these areas were pastures, fields, residential areas, or construction sites, they were all incorporated into the new urban expansion plan. Since the beginning of winter, any structure on this land has been demolished or is scheduled to be demolished; this single area includes nearly twenty art districts.

This year, winter in Beijing was especially cold. Following the largest blizzard in fifty years, many art districts faced forced evictions and the loss of electricity, water, and heat.

Chaoyang District is using the same kinds of methods as local governments nationwide; it has resorted to making money with land. The larger policy of economic development is meant to expand government interests. There is no need for further discussion of our doubt about and criticism of these basic policies. However, because Chaoyang District's current policy of demolishing buildings and moving residents involves nearly twenty art districts and more than one thousand artists, it is hurting a primary artery of cultural life in Beijing. Chaoyang District is also endangering the interests of the entirety of Chinese contemporary art, and so it has become a problem that urgently needs a solution.

These economic justifications are inadequate because China’s development drives the development of urban economies and culture. After the legal issues related to the 798 Art District were resolved by the Beijing municipal government, art districts such as the Liquor Factory, Huantie, Dongying, Zhengyang, 008, Caochangdi, and No. 1 Artbase all publicly responded to the local government’s land development plans. Residents of the districts personally invested in their construction. This expanded Beijing’s 798, this newly-established art district that had the halo of “21st century urban business card.”[1]

As for the impact of this decision, what recourse did the over one thousand artists who lost their livelihoods and their work spaces have? The response from the district government was simply a series of perfunctory and evasive phrases like “urban development program” and “complying with land law.”

Continuously Dissimilating Land

It is strange that while the art districts were being demolished, some called into question the legality of art districts, but no one over questioned the legality of the government’s decision. When the government demolition teams were invading the art districts with all their equipment, the artists all thought they had been tricked by the developers. Therefore, in public opinion, the government’s decrees became a substitute for what is lawful. Though this is a tragic situation, artists would rather deal with the government; it is the profit-seeking nature of developers that overturns the legitimacy of the space. But, if you only see the big heading “Chaoyang District Work Mobilization Conference to Promote Land Reserves and the Unification of Urban and Rural Areas,” then you know only part of the story. This heading is a government trick to transform the nature of land. In the past, the areas where the city and countryside met were not worth anything, but in the last thirty years, the majority of these areas have undergone the following stages of development. What started as farmland became green spaces to meet green targets for the City of Beijing. As a result, the value of this land increased slightly. Next, the land doubled as a green space and as a place for small-scale production or even recycling, and so it once again increased in value. Until after the neighborhood around the 798 became an urban phenomenon, many art districts appeared to the east and the north of 798. Around this time, the trend for land income to be changed to real estate income began. As before, these areas were collectively operated, they were not included in actions by the city. Therefore, the city did not benefit and government officials did not have achievements to report. Presently, collective ownership under the original policy in which land was divided by family has been changed to public ownership, which is defined in the constitution as “city land is state-owned.” In development plans for urban expansion, cities can turn what was originally farmland into public or commercial land to be sold at auction. Farmers on collective land all became city residents and accepted compensation at 21st century levels. In this Chaoyang District land conversion movement, nearly 110,000 farmers have traded a standard one-time payment for land that could earn them money year-round. You can see their calm and reserve as they quietly accept the
facts, like winter snowflakes falling to earth.

Art Space is Unreal

So why do artists continue to stay in the grey areas called art districts? They stay because of the unique nature of the artists’ profession. Art itself does not produce reality; artworks are the reappearance of the combination of skills and materials, intended to construct an idealized scene for the viewer. In fact, the distance created between artworks and reality or the opening of a new path has become the charm of artworks. It is exactly for this reason that artists are not interested in well-regulated space, such as one would find in a normal residential area; the atmosphere of the space could pull artistic creation back to reality.

China’s present conditions still have not created a true art market. Quantities of artworks, the tastes of collectors, estimations of value, and the shortcomings of the critical world are all impediments to the normal operation of an art market. To satisfy the ferocious appetite of speculators, artists continuously produce large works. Only large works can be exhibited in large spaces and retain the imposing “Made in China” air. This production method also determines that artists will favor large spaces like factories or warehouses. These kinds of spaces are easy to manage, because works can enter and leave freely, light is plentiful, and the surroundings have few of the impediments of common life. Why do artists all like to gather together to work? This is also due to the unique characteristics of urban society. First, space is scarce in cities, and there are only a few kinds of space from which to choose. Second, there is pressure from the neighborhood or the street. Generally, organized neighborhoods are not tolerant of different people and special circumstances. Third, there are legal issues. Artists are scattered individuals, but in reality they are a group that requires support in areas of legal and institutional uncertainty, and so artists think that the individual is powerless. They often make decisions based on the surface-level and inessential aspects of things, or they rely on the judgments of friends as a reference. Artists in many art districts may be from the same school or hometown.

However, artists’ lack of pragmatism about the law does not prove the soundness and rationality of the law and reality.

“We Don’t Need Artists Here! Get Out!”

This slogan was written in white on a wall along the road in the 798 Art District. It is especially eye-catching, hasty, and powerfully authentic, because it was placed across from several pledges by artists to protect their space in the art district. Things like this really do happen. This sentence, “We don’t need artists here” came from innocent emotion, which makes us think of the slogans from the 1960s and 1970s. “Purify the ranks of the proletariat!” Workers and farmers with revolutionary consciousness but no education were the primary motivation behind the Cultural Revolution. Perhaps this was true at that time, so we cannot help but rub our eyes and re-identify the present era. It is hard to believe that this state of affairs is real. We are once again clearly differentiating social identities. “We don’t need artists here!” Please do not doubt that this is currently happening. A large group of artists was chased into the wilderness during the coldest of times. They call out as they run. During the Warm Winter Art Program, they became the rogue proletariat. Mao Zedong once said that they were the class most unworthy of trust. “Once bought, they will become the enemies of the revolution.” We can compare these two governments which have produced different eras and these two movements, both of which consider artists garbage to be swept out the door. The former did it for the revolution; the latter has done it for capital. Because it is popular with the masses, the threat of capital is just as Walter Benjamin described movies, “All of the interest that the masses show in films is an interest in the recognition of the self and one’s class; which all suffer from a degenerative distortion.”[2]

Polish workers during the Cold War, disgusted with student demonstrations requesting freedom, had their own slogan “We want freedom, but we want bread more.” In the mid-1980s, under the guidance of the United Trade Union, they changed the slogan to “We want bread, but we want freedom more.”

Development has been swift, and Beijing, the capital of what was thirty years ago an agricultural nation, had already entered a period of rapid urbanization, a period of commodity circulation and information culture. And this Beijing is “the model for several hundred Chinese large and medium-sized cities, but in the future there will be more than one thousand of these cities.”[3] In response to the requirements of the new age, artists and all creators, including the presenters of creation, should increasingly become the masters of this new scene. We believe that we need only to strengthen the ranks of artists to make China better. Artists are distant from quality, standards, roles, judgment. They are the closest to illusion. We might as well start now, using the palette of glorious color and light of a harmonious society to affirm that artists are an advanced “class” with the time for advanced “productivity.”

Destruction in the Name of Success

Last year the People’s Republic of China held its 60th anniversary celebration, and I saw a familiar scene. I became a Young Pioneer or a Red Guard being inspected who had seen the leader Mao Zedong four times with my own eyes. As before, he stood, centered atop the Tian’anmen Gate, watching the fully equipped masses. What is amazing is that the revolutionary miracle that Mao had achieved was covered by another miracle that year; China had already become the world’s second most powerful economic force, and it will become the first before long. On this day, perhaps it was the dream of Mao as victor on Tian’anmen Gate.

However, if the miracles brought by creation and production are amazing, the power of destruction has also been uniquely successful. Because of the example of Mao Zedong’s era, we know that the success of Mao Zedong’s revolution brought about a disastrous destruction of productivity. He once said, “There is no construction without destruction. Destroy first, and construction will follow.” Mao and the political system that Mao founded more than thirty years ago are identical in their pursuit of success and victory. Even if they have different ideals, are all oriented towards one thing, success.

Those who believe in the cyclicality of history should once again refer to facts that can only be seen briefly. Taking Beijing as an example, the urbanization movements of the 1950s and 1960s not only tore down the Ming and Qing Dynasty city walls that had been criticized by the people, they also demolished a Yuan Dynasty temple that was more than 500 years old.[4] The religion, culture, and art transmitted by the temple were certainly the essence of Chinese civilization. It was this cultural ecology that made Beijing preeminent, but it no longer exists. In the thirty years since Reform and Opening, Chinese industrial civilization has made tremendous advances, and the people have started to experience unprecedented happiness and material comfort. But the reality behind the cultural structure of old Beijing then opened into the period of architectural foundations for the “New Beijing, New Olympics.” All kinds of inconveniences appeared in society, and very seldom were there people to challenge or to mention the destruction of this cultural ecology. In the media you often see “the destruction of the natural ecology,” likewise the natural and cultural ecologies formed in the course of history supports the spiritual ecology of city residents. All ecologies are mutually linked, complementing each other. In the Dao De Jing, Lao Zi says, “Misfortune depends on fortune. Fortune conceals misfortune.” The price of this new round of urban expansion is certainly a new round of environmental disasters.

Whose Cultural Ecology?

Our city has become an even more complex organization of skin and blood vessels. There are countless categories and systems of materials, production, products, circulation, order, emotion, exchange, belief, individual, family, organization, and society. But the manager of every field is a single thought, which is related to the value system of capital markets; the pure numbers of every field have an exchange value. Thus, the standards for sustainable ecology are like the ethical standards for justice, they cannot be produced by the market. The market's only formula is unit price (number) x efficiency x scale, while the calculations for ecological standards are completely the opposite. Perhaps these ecological relationships are still cannot be calculated by one or two clearly understood formulas, so we must wait for the inventions of researchers. But I believe that if emotions, organisms, and rationality are interwoven in urban life for a long period of time, you will certainly feel its presence, like the scene in the movie Avatar where life is summoned back. Ecological research, as a synthetic, interdisciplinary, newly established branch of learning, is still maturing. Whitman said in a poem, “Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord, / A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropt, / Bearing the owner’s name someway in the corners, that we / may see and remark, and say Whose?”[5]

“It Takes a Decade to Grow a Tree; It Takes a Century to Cultivate a Talented Person”

It has taken Caochangdi ten years to develop to its present state. The eventual rise of the 798 can be traced back to the temporary movement of CAFA’s sculpture department in 1995. As the Chinese saying goes, “It takes a decade to grow a tree; it takes a century to cultivate a talented person.” The ecology gradually formed in Chaoyang district by the 798, Caochangdi, and more than twenty other art districts is the pride of the area; it is an opportunity for history to bestow favor upon the City of Beijing. These chance opportunities involve extremely rational natural factors; is this not the “timeliness, favorable geography, and popularity” on the lips of the influential figures in these important demolition movements? Now, are the ecologies formed outside their plans not the cultural vegetation of Chaoyang District, the City of Beijing, and China as a whole? Please look at the disorderly construction of bare neighboring cities that have no cultural vegetation. Please look the places that have been abandoned by artists. Regardless of whether you look at Tianjin, Shijiazhuang, Baoding, Hubei, Sichuan, or Yunnan, just notice the population ratios between these areas and Beijing and the ratios between population and GDP and you will understand. Even if an area is fanatical about administration, the lack of cultural vegetation is a state of desolation akin to Huoyan Mountain. The linking of economic powers also needs the protection of cultural vegetation. Naturally formed cultural conditions can have a rational structure. The more intrinsic this structure and the more haphazardly it is created, the stronger its objective appeal. The majority of artists have said goodbye to their hometowns and come to this new land to live. And now, a drastic decision has cut their lifelines, using bulldozers to crush art spaces to and causing artists to move out into the cold streets and become a nomadic group. Is this an ordinary occurrence in our harmonious society? Can our city afford to abandon such a large number of artists?

If we can use economic capacity to build a forest of cement and glass walls and if we can use modern green methods to gloss over the ecology of “growing a tree in a decade” (and there are even doubts about our ability to do this), then can our local governments create the conditions to nurture talented people? The government can easily seek applicants for more than a thousand positions in construction or policing, but what about the thousands of artists who have gathered together in pursuit of human ideals? Please look; they do not have any administrative support. The construction of art spaces driven by economic gain is completely different from the surrounding environment. If you look at the intact Caochangdi Art District, you will understand what can be called life or subsistence; you will understand the difference between quality and quantity, vitality and chaos, development and sustainable development. The Caochangdi Art District has already provided a nearly standard solution.

I invite those planners who are advocates of demolition to walk in the art district on a clear morning; just go see the art spaces, you do not need any specialized knowledge of art.

Building Standards in Caochangdi

From a planning and design perspective, the local government in Beijing inevitably seeks the support of scientific data, and building standards are the most important of these data. To use the architecture in Caochangdi as an example, the majority of the spaces were constructed according to the standards of advanced international cities. As such, these buildings can be used for more than fifty years, and the level of planning far exceeds the Chaoyang District average. Of course, with the current speed of development, there will always be a ten year difference. The majority of the residential areas in Chaoyang District were built in the 1980s and 1990s, and many were built in the 1960s and 1970s. Disregarding the possibility and effectiveness of Caochangdi Art District as support for Beijing in its quest to become a
world city, if we only look at construction standards, why the government insists on demolishing what is progress and leaving what is backward is truly a mystery.

The majority of the buildings in the Caochangdi Art District were designed by Ai Weiwei. As a result, a variety of opinions have been expressed regarding the style, utility, and legal rationality of these buildings. But if you look at these buildings, Wangjing Park, and 798 Art District in sequence, you will think them beautiful and that they increase the richness of the scenery. The flow of the construction styles also has a natural order. From the 1950s Bauhaus-style architecture of the 798 to the 1980s architecture of the Panasonic TV factory, to Caochangdi, which was obviously built after 2000. This period of urbanization proves that you can see the transition in architecture with the passage of time. Why have many galleries chosen to move from the 798 to Caochangdi? This can be explained by the relationship between the changes of time and the production of space, creating a balance amidst adjustment.

Cherishing the urban ecology that we already have, especially these architectural ecologies which have already been evaluated and debated, causes positive growth in the life of a city. Protecting limited life does not imply that, through fighting for a certain life, one can understand the meaning of life and existence. In this era of peace and “harmony” people must believe in the basic structures of existence and nature to be able to consolidate a sustainable meaning for urban space.

From the 798 to Caochangdi

The municipal government working conference convened in January of this year proposed to build Beijing as a world city; comparative targets were metropolises in Westernized and industrialized powers, such as New York, Tokyo, and London. The government report said, “There are three steps to building a world city. First, we must build the basic framework of a modern international city. Second, this modern, international city will be completed by 2020. Third, by 2050, Beijing will have become a world city.” These lines say this, but museums are one of our city’s most important public cultural spaces; how many are there? From the explanation given by a senior member of staff at one museum, Beijing does not have even half the number of museums that Seoul has. I think that it does no harm to give a suggestion here. To complement the future planning of the capital, could we not plan new art and history museums from the 798 to Caochangdi, along a line east to Huantie? Is this not feasible?

It is advantageous for city planners to think twice about the current cultural environment. Establishing some new art or history museums shows off the charms of a world city. Public space for fruitful exchange between urban people will join organically with urban service industries. Elements such as crowds, recognition, and transportation must certainly be considered, as they must adapt to the environment. In recent years, these areas seem to have already involuntarily completed this refitting.

As a result, I suggest that the Panasonic factory building be transformed into an area for art and design. Also, two or three public museums or libraries should be established in Wangjing Park, using the existing natural surroundings to create a scenic area for visitors. Lastly, the area of Caochangdi to the east of the China National Film Museum should be considered for the establishment of at least three to five private art museums or one large art center. When added to the extant 798 and Caochangdi gallery areas, this region could become Beijing’s most concentrated public art area. This area would have an extremely rich urban cultural ecology, and become the capital's most magnificent scene for contemporary culture.

The Criterion for a World City

Beijing has decided to become a world city. On the Beijing map, Chaoyang District, extending to the north and east, has become a leader in terms of geography, the arts and sciences, and thought. Thus, Chaoyang District should have a greater respect for culture and art. When planning the future, the District should invite artists to enter a habitable city that provides a positive environment; this is the criterion for a world city. If you continue to drive away artists and demolish art districts, then in about ten years, what was once naturally vital will become an uninhabited wasteland and the hope of becoming a world city will never truly be realized. Thus, the future and present of Beijing will be no different; it will be a world-class city under construction.

The price we pay for the increased rationality of the city is not just a future cost. We hope that the Chaoyang District government will immediately stop the forced demolition of art districts. We further hope that the government will meet with artists’ representatives and the developers of these art districts, so that all three parties can sit and calmly talk about this issue. But first, we hope to see flexible thinking and a respectful attitude from a local government that is frighteningly paving the way for a world city.

February 12, 2010

[1] At the end of 2004, America’s Newsweek placed Beijing on their World Cities List as a result of the 798.

[2] Walter Benjamin, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, 1939.

[3] Neville Mars and Adrian Hornsby, The Chinese Dream, 2008.

[4] See the Bei Ping Street Map printed by Japanese publisher Heibonsha in 1939.

[5] Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself Part 6,” Leaves of Grass, 1855.

Tags für diesen Beitrag 这本文章的标记: Künstler 艺术家, Beijing 北京, Gegenwart 当代

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