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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Topics: [Harold's Video Blog]

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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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