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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