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

Topics: [Harold's Video Blog]

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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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I have been super stressed for days from the pre horror of travelling. Mostly based on the thought of being in close proximity to people I don’t know and can’t control, and sure as hens have teeth I find my self sitting on a bus, superheated, super packed, stinking of sweets, like children’s sweets, a sense that the whole interior is slightly sticky and hairy. I am forced to sit tight up to a string teen yoof, trackies tucked into white socks - hot or not? He - as is common amongst male teens - needs to vibrate vigorously for the entire journey. I think this is a bit of an animal thing, Guinea pigs do it; it suggests they are ready to mate. I think teens do it through learnt behaviour rather than the sheer pressure of semen seeking an exit. It is however extremely annoying. My own sex drive has diminished from what was probably a rather low level anyway – even as a teen I could only just tolerate annoying girls on the off chance of a shag – a sex drive does help a lot with tolerating other people. Anyway nowadays I have the libido of a eunuch in an old peoples home, which does greatly adds to my lack of tolerance. My tension over travelling is akin to a visit to the dentist for a double route canal. I am actively nervous before hand, my stomach turns over, it’s not a fear of flying - although there is that, it is really just the thought of unavoidable human interaction and my fear of that – in the unknown, will there be a wailing baby, a mobile screamer, a jigger, a laugher, a smeller, a bulimic, a talker, a incontinent, a leaner, a drinker, an agitated mover, an American, a movie watcher that laughs unfeasibly loudly, a farter, a snogger, a scouser, an eater, a drinker. I once advertised a room in my house as suitable for a small quiet oriental, a 21 stone Corstophine Scot moved in.

The train service has it seems really given up operating on a weekend, the station is deserted, and travel is by bus, I finally get a train in Preston and after having my seat in an empty carriage entirely taken over my Americans, who then proceed to clean the entire environs with wet wipes, well of course I moved as the fist wet wipe was eased from its wet reeking socket.

I attain a kind of peace. I have those sound block headphones which make you look like Phil Spector and probably feel like him too – anyway in the shooting models department. I did once sit next to a super model on an airplane - a story I have told many times, it was that German one who married an Magician. And boy was she annoying, I did eventually spill a gin and tonic into her bag as some consolation for the incessant chatter about health and wealth – obviously my libido had already dropped away at his point in my life.

The flight to Hong Kong was uneventful despite the plane being full packed; it was virgin like the train but definitely more bearable. The principle downside was a man behind me that spoke excitedly to his companion for the entire trip, and this irritation was tempered by empathy for the companion, I was tempted 10 hours into the flight to ask the man if he would allow a reply to his monologue? Just a faint word, just a whisper, a mumble from the silent companion.

Whoever suggested flying into Hong Kong and getting a bus to Guangzhou clearly had not attempted the trip in some time. 5 hours later and after multiple checks and double checks, through ‘no lingering’ areas, accompanied by the sound of Chinese pop, instrumental versions which Brian found wholly to his liking. He later asked our companions if they recognised the song - signing it to them – turned out to be ‘The East is Red’ a song Brian’s dad sang every morning.

Monday Morning we spent in Vitamin space and we had a nice lunch with Sue and Vincent and then a long drive to the village.

The programme was of course immediately punishing, a sense that no one was exactly pleased to see us pervaded. We met with people from the Eco development company and had dinner in the company restaurant. Followed by a meeting lasting a couple of hours. The most interesting bit of information was that the ambition for the village and the park was to become a centre for ‘silent Tourism’. An idea I have a great deal of sympathy for – I think they meant peace as a destination, rather than silent tourists – of which there is little sign in China. After a universally sleepless night we were up early for breakfast in the market place feeling a bit universally pole axed. The market was all local produce including fish, vegetables and a rather disappointing sign saying ‘it is forbidden to buy or sell wild animals’. We had warm liver porridge, very nice, Pork chow mien, super nice, rice noodles and leak broth, very nice, all washed down with warm Soya milk, very nice – there was the odd slightly anxious face in the group.

First visit of the day was to a farm. All laid out in perfect order, the complex watering systems each field draining into the next and raised beds within each paddy. Brian took special interest in the humanure composting system which also supplies gas for the cooker. Its basically 2 holes in the ground and a chute to take new waste to the base of the first chamber. We got a diagram drawn up for future reference. So this little plant provides cooking and fertiliser for the abundant crops and avoids the necessity of a complex sewage system. Not sure what the drawbacks are – I guess you have to move some smelly shits around.

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Stuck in
Stuck in
Farewell
Farewell
On our way
On our way

Stack:
# A large, usually conical pile of straw or fodder arranged for outdoor storage.
# An orderly pile, especially one arranged in layers. See Synonyms at heap.
# Computer Science A section of memory and its associated registers used for temporary storage of information in which the item most recently stored is the first to be retrieved.
(Dictionary.com)

I am currently sat in a cafe in Liverpool called FACT eating up the wi-fi and there is a large amount of stacking going on. A plate on which my shared carrot cake sat has just been whisked away and piled on top of ten others, plus I've just filed away a word doc into a bulging folder detailing arrangements for a project out to California in June before leaving for China tomorrow.

All this data entry will hopefully be retained but moreover sifted through the fresh air I can't wait to breath out in the national reserve of Nanling... actually the book I was looking at last night (Co-evolution) seems to suggest that the air in China might not be so fresh... and perhaps also I should not have watched that Panorama program and its focus on the danger of jet fuel fumes escaping into passenger carriageways.

It's ok, I will purchase some anti-varicose tights to wrap around my head and I am sure that the stomach churning brew cholera vaccination I glugged back does more than what it says on the bottle.

I wonder how Nanling will reflect aspects of those sweeping stats of Co-evolution's pages into real experience on government policies about sanitation to transport..(e.g China's urban population growth by 2030 estimated at 70%)... anyhow, what is this co-evolution?

It's good to start stacking and arranging layers.

Here I will begin with an interview I have just conducted with Grizedale towards an article I am writing for A-N magazine (www.a-n.co.uk/) on a Scottish artist and project in Sri Lanka. This I intend to destack whilst I am out in Hong Kong but sharing of all this is hopefully useful to all.

Laptop world means you could be everywhere or nowhere...

Stackables:

Grizedale Pre-Nanling Questions
About Grizedale
JY : Grizedale describes itself as an international research and development agency, how does the organisation structure itself differently from a traditional organisation in providing opportunities for artists?

Grizedale: On several levels
Residencies are more like long term relationships and are more akin to commercial sector artists – gallery relationships, ie there is a stable of artists that is drawn from for different projects
Most projects are group or communal activities a sum of their parts rather than offering stand alone presentations. Artists within projects are often there to represent a position within the overall message
The programme is directed, the organisation has an agenda into which artists projects fit. There is considerable freedom for the artist but if the work doesn’t function within the programme and the artist doesn’t respond and work with the ambitions it is likely the period of residency will be short
65% of the turnover of the organisation goes into artists commissions, fees and production costs – in comparison to 5% or less for most gallery orientated organisations
The organisation works across a wide spectrum of activity from Agriculture to the web, on a very micro small community level to international projects and world themes
The organisation is dependent on networks for the dissemination of the programme, there is no gallery, the only public access space is the website. The website offers more access than most organisations give with public space ie blog, documentary and general openness of thinking and discussion
The organisations approach to the artist is in many ways a challenge, to work in this context, to engage with a diverse range of cultures, many outside of the confines of contemporary art style, to contribute usefully to the organisation, the communities engaged by the organisation

JY : Due to the democratic, process led nature of your projects that merges boundaries of customarily defined roles, to what extent does the term curator or director become defunct or take on a different meaning?
Grizedale: I think there is a challenge again to the artist to be relevant, to be creative, the organisation takes an active role in projects, often producing components of the programme, usually minor in terms of art product but often significant in terms or how the programme is articulated, the blogs and web material is subjective, critical, the organisation will often provoke artists by developing and delivering ideas, certainly contributing to the end product in significant ways.
I have never really understood a definition between curator, director or artist. All these roles are engaged with the organisation of material, and the presentation of it to generate some meaning/message/idea. There are often variable craft skills across these titles, and differences in terms of scale and types of material used – from people to ideas to paint
These terms are often misunderstood, in cliché terms the curator is someone that chooses material, the director someone that manages, the artist someone that creates, in reality we all do all these things probably for different reasons and maybe in different percentages. The curator director in the UK has traditionally had quite a passive role, I think drawing a blueprint from the commercial sector and the museum sector. Public sector curation should be a far more directed, political and cultural in its ambitions, a contributor to how society understand and develops. This is much more the model in Europe.

JY : What is the importance of fashioning a programme that actively engages with the complexities of the rural situation- what is this situation and how does the strategy tie into the local community? Please exemplify
Grizedale: Rural and local are merely a set of conditions like any other environment. I find them interesting, complex, rich and misunderstood. I think that in this micro format we have a valuable model for thinking and experimenting, understanding how culture works and evolves, how we find ways to work more usefully. There is in the rural a more direct relationship to the natural world and within small communities a different way of living as a community. Both these ‘differences’ could be considered as the building blocks of contemporary society and I believe give us clues into how we have changed and how we might more successfully live and work. However this is not to say that the rural offers a shinning example, far from it, possibly more of a dire warning.
In light of a general shift in the way we think about the world, the rural is coming in from the margins to the centre ground of contemporary debate, evident in new phenomena such as green thinking, slow food, environmentalism, technology opening up the remote etc.

About Happy Stacking
JY : Who are the different parties involved in setting up the project and in what way would you describe this as an artist-initiated project conducted in association with organizations?
Grizedale: The project was initiated by an invitation from Vitamin and Zhang Wei, from a link via Gavin Wade, then taken up and pushed forward by Grizedale and in particular Alistair Hudson. The potential for the project linked strongly with the Grizedale project 7 samurai and had many parallel themes and issues shared by the Lake district situation. I wouldn’t call the evolution of the programme particularly artist led, certainly the Grizedale working methodology is centred around discussion with artists but I think the programme is often pushed away from what many of the artist would actually like, i.e. gallery exhibitions, critical reviews, commercial product and connections to the market. The programme is a result of a number of forces, curator, artist, community, commissioner all working for slightly different goals but having enough in common for it to be a worthwhile endeavor
JY : Who are the artists and what skill sets or defining factors led to the selection of those specific artists?
Grizedale: On a very practical level artists that could communicate well, would be able to talk to people, listen, would get along as a group. In this project we did not look for particularly differing positions, more artists that we thought would link into aspect or possibilities we saw in the project. So architecture, community engagement, performance, political ideas, evolving identity, the web, constructed communities/utopias, cross cultural relationships. We were also interested in the group representing a vision of the diversity of contemporary UK, an idea about diversity and identity
JY : In what way do you intend Happy Stacking, a project in the rural setting of a remote eco tourist village in Nanling, to offer artists a real and meaningful context in which to place their practice? How does this draw a parallel with developments at Lawson Park and Parkamoor?
Grizedale: I think the context is real and meaningful whether it is a good place to place your practice is less certain. The previous project Vitamin evolved in Nanling and which they were unhappy with gave artists the run of the village culture and the opportunity to create work. What Vitamin were unhappy with was that the artists made work that though engaging with the village had at its core the ambition to be a product for the western commercial art world.
Grizedale is not really looking for artists to place their practice in these places but to react to and contribute to these places and communities. Most of the artists take something away that is transferable, does contribute to their practice and gives them a slightly different take than many of their peers. There is a certain tension in this approach and it doesn’t work for everyone however if you look at the Grizedale history the vast majority of the artists that have worked with us have continued to work and have in very many cases had a lot of success. There is a popular notion of artist development amongst arts organizations. I think Grizedale is one of the few that really has a record that proves that ambition. Big organizations like the Serpentine or Whitechapel do develop artists very successfully but inadvertently. Most of the prominent contemporary artists have worked as a technician in one of these institutions and have often made work as a reaction to them, they usually hate them.
JY : The seven will encounter new communities in a different global region. How do you intend this to promote connections between the artists and the contemporary realities in which they live if this is so far removed from their own culture?
Grizedale: At this stage this is a research led project. However from Grizedale point of view the divisions are not that great, a village is a village where ever it is, an agricultural lifestyle is pretty universal, the weather, the seasons, the rotation of crops informs how you live.
The group will to some extent decide how they integrate, if they do. In Japan the group lived as the village lived, working alongside and in the same cycle. The village responded by working alongside the group for the presentations and performances
JY : What input do you intend the artists into the framework, subject or direction of Happy Stacking? What role do you play in the facilitation of the project?
Grizedale: In Japan the ambition of the project was established prior to going and the premise was to ‘solve’ a problem that the village had identified. In this project we are not at that stage, the issues are more complicated and the relationships equally more complex. In this instance Grizedale felt the project should spend more time in research. However I do have a few thoughts about how things might progress and I will be ‘trying them out’ /using them to provoke debate and ideas development
JY : How do you think the ‘community’ may respond to our presence? In what way do you hope they will benefit?
Grizedale: Well there are several communities; the company has a significant presence, about 30 people living in the old red army part of the village. The village is mainly made up of old people and young children. There is another community of people that work in the cities and return to see their families and children.
The issue for the village is that the company want to make them part of the attraction, they think this will be fun, I think we might be there to help them make it so or find another way to become part of modern China. These are issues that we all have to deal with
Many of the issues for these communities are analogous with our own situations. I expect there to be mutual benefit, exchange, from very simple things like food to bigger more complex issues like migration, the shift from 3rd to 1st world, in a way embodied in the village, generational relationships, etc. I imagine that there will be a follow through from the project and that might include return visits, and other opportunities to work together. In Japan the artists and the village ran a farmers market to promote the village rice. In that instance both parties got what they wanted from the same event.
There is also implicit in this question the supposition of viewer and viewed, or an element of intrusion which is central to older models of both tourism and art. It would be good to look at moving on to more complex and evolved ways of making relationships with people.
JY : Taking into account Seven Samurai, were there any learning points which you can bring to this project before our journey to China? What were those failings and what social condoms can we use this time round?
Grizedale: Being polite and considerate, respectful and interested. Living the same life as the village, ie getting up at 5.30 eating at the same time etc. Simple stuff same as you would do if you were staying with someone. Learning a few words of Chinese, smoking heavily and giving them gifts. Doing something useful that makes sense for the village community, not making the kind of art that works in Europe in a gallery, using your art skills in a relevant way.
JY : How is funding facilitated?
Grizedale: ACE and British Council, Support from the development company and Vitamin
JY : How is Grizedale hoping to develop and grow from this project?
Grizedale: Much of this is mentioned above. We are interested in the conditions and how they relate to us and how artists work in small communities how that can benefit them. The development of a web presence, making the project process accessible and interesting (ongoing issue)
JY : In the context of the global cultural change the villagers are undergoing, how can artist’s understanding of technology be useful in helping in this process of change? E.g. the blog/non-physical production/ a more dialogical approach
Grizedale: It is uncertain at the moment how teched-up up the village are. They might teach us a thing or two. There is a lot of work going on around the value of the anecdote and knowledge resources which this taps into. In another way there is quite a bit of work to be done in persuading some folk that the web is more than just an art gallery brochure and is in fact a very useful tool. For us here in traditionally remote corners of the world, it opens things up so we can take part in a general cultural dialogue which was previously impossible.
JY : What possible involvement could this residency have with the triennial and how does Grizedale view Happy Stacking as a project within the context of ‘Farewell to Post-Colonialism’?
Grizedale: It would certainly be good to do something in relation to the triennial given its themes and the dynamics within the curatorial steering group. One version of post-colonial is not necessarily the same as the next, but it is clear that the emerging voices from previously non-urbanised zones play a key role in the debate which we must elaborate on over the coming weeks over the project. Sarat Maharaj certainly has some interesting views on this and he asked me to speak at the last triennial symposium on this so maybe we can draw him in to the discussion. Similarly Nicholas Bourriaud is revving up his next book (which undoubtedly will be avidly read by every art student like Relational Aesthetics was) on the Altermodern which links in tidily or at least tengentially to what is going on here.
JY : What is your understanding of the term ‘social entrepreneur” and does this term apply to this Nanling?
Grizedale: Maybe.

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A project for Nanling Village and Eco Park, Guangdong Province China

Background
In November 2005 Grizedale Arts’ Deputy Director, Alistair Hudson, was invited on a British Council curatorial research trip to Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou to network with Chinese artists and organisations, with a view to developing future projects.

On this trip Alistair saw a wide range of commercially operating galleries but was introduced to Zhang Wei, director of Vitamin, who had heard of Grizedale Arts work through Gavin Wade. Vitamin came across as a markedly different kind of arts organisation, which whilst (by necessity as they are no public galleries in China) a commercial operation, demonstrated parallel and related interests to Grizedale in the changing role of art and artists.

Initial conversations centred on a series of projects, co-ordinated by Vitamin, for the mountain village of Nanling, 80 miles to the north of Guangzhou. This village was being developed as a forest park eco tourist destination, by an altruistic property development company. Whilst it was building luxury hotels and investing in tourist infrastructure, it was also striving to maintain and improve the socio-cultural life of the village, through artists commissions and a sympathetic treatment of the natural and social environment.

On the back of these discussions, Zhang Wei invited Grizedale out to Guangzhou and Nanling in March 2006. The visit was organised and led by Zhang Wei and included meetings with the Zhongheng Ecotourism Development Company.

The Zhongheng Ecotourism Development Co. Ltd. is a company owned by Chinese Nationals and it is their goal to develop the first ecotourism destination in China in the forests of the Nankun Shan Mountain Reserve, Guangdong Province, S. China. The development team is implementing an innovative approach, which is holistic in nature, employing a quadruple bottom line strategy:
• not only protect the existing forest biodiversity, but enhance it;
• not only involve the local people but also help them benefit from the development;
• not only inject much needed capital into the local economy but also make a profit;
• not only respect the spirit of the place but enrich it through thoughtful, sensitive sustainable planning and design.
In a country where uncontrolled development is causing untold damage and displacing millions of people, Nankun Shan Mountain Nature Reserve is an exemplary study in environmental, social, economic and spiritual consciousness.
Nankun Shan Mountain Nature Reserve is located in Central Guangdong and 80 miles from Guangzhou. The reserve was established in 1984, and its major objective is to protect the subtropical evergreen broadleaf forest. The nature reserve lies within the boundaries of the Nankun Shan Forest Park, which covers an area of 260 sq. kms. There are over 1,300 plants to be found in the park with over 30 sq. kms of Bamboo. There are over 74 bird species in the reserve and nationally protected species include the Mountain Scopes Owl, Grey-Headed Woodpecker and Orange-Bellied Leafbird. There are over 176 species of butterflies, with four of them considered near-threatened.
Over 5,000 people live in the Nature Reserve and the main income generating activity of the local people is the harvesting of bamboo for use in scaffolding in Guangzhou and Hong Kong.
Vitamin had previously hosted an arts programme in the village as ‘Fools Move Mountains’ curated with Hou Hanrou, with the artists Mathieu Briand, Shen Yuan, Sylvie Blocher and Marc Boucherot. The project laid the foundation for contemporary artists to work with the development company and the village community. Whilst the development company and the village wish to continue working with artists and artist groups, Vitamin had some reservations about the success of these previous projects and so invited Grizedale Arts to develop an arts project for the village, which would offer a more complex, beneficial and engaged approach.

For Grizedale the opportunity fits well with their current ambitions and development in the Lake District at their HQ at Lawson Park farm, a project that aims to consider differing ways of using land and landscapes and working with the communities that use or inhabit them.

Grizedale, like Nanling, is a rural yet highly complex place, a place which is now at the forefront of contemporary debate on cultural development and sociology. From it’s traditionally ‘remote’ location Grizedale is conducting a highly influential and timely programme of ‘active’ contemporary art.

Further discussions were held with Vitamin in March 2007 when Alistair Hudson was asked to speak at a symposium as part of a Connections Through China Curatorial trip and at the recent Far West Conference at Arnolfini, Bristol.

The themes were further elaborated at the symposium Restarting from Asia as part of the preparations for the Guangzhou Triennial this September, when Alistair was asked to speak on the relations between contemporary rural issues and the move away from post-colonial attitudes.
See http://interview.artron.net/zb_index.php?inter_id=80

The proposal
The overall aim of the project in development is for Grizedale Arts to establish a series of projects for the village of Nanling. These projects will come out of an initial residence by seven artists and curators and will seek to help the village in it’s transformation from 20th century rural industrial village to 21st century eco-tourist destination. Following on from Grizedale’s Seven Samurai project in the Japanese village of Toge www.sevensamurai.jp the ultimate aim is to be helpful, to make art and artists effective an the emerging supra-geographic situation.

The initial residence of 3 weeks will set up the relationship with the village and research what the resident population need help with. The projects will then unfold and develop over time throughout 2008 and 2009 in partnership with Vitamin Creative Space and the Zhongheng Ecotourism Development Company Limited.

The intention is that these projects will also have a manifestation at the Guangzhou Triennial in 2008 and are given a platform on an active and dedicated website www.happystacking.tv. The site will be maintained not only as as the primary interface for the project between participants and observers, but also as a knowledge resource for the future.

Grizedale Arts have been in discussion with Tate about future involvement with the projects.

Research and development
Grizedale Arts are taking group of 5 artists to live and work in the village of Nanling for a period of one month. The group are to be provided with accommodation in the village by the Development Company with further assistance from Vitamin. Vitamin have supplied a translator and facilitator for the duration of the R&D phase. The period of time will be largely used to discuss and research potential projects but may also include small scale projects and outputs, for example a group blog, recordings of local histories, music, performance, horticulture etc and generally being useful to the villagers, even in the simplest of ways.
The ambitions of the Nanling project will centre on working with the Development Company and their relationship with the village. Looking at how the village will relate to the ambitions of a post-capitalist business model in relation to traditional life and cultural change. The company have a - for the UK -unique approach to this development. The artist projects are seen as a way to engage the community in decision making and change. There is a desire from the company to maintain and encourage many of the qualities inherent in the village and traditional way of life and to this end the company have established a team of quasi social workers with a brief to assist the in the village communications and development.

The artists and villagers will be looking together to find new ways in development and how the ‘rural’ is represented and participates in wider society. This issue is at the forefront of critical thinking and why this project resonates with current developments in China and the UK.

Grizedale Arts will be looking to relate its experiences of the English Lake District, tourism, cultural development and social practice with those of Nanling, through a sustained and meaningful relationship.

Guangzhou Triennial
On the back of it’s pioneering work in social practice, Alistair Hudson has been invited to participate in the symposium for the Guangzhou triennial in November 2007. We have been in discussion with Vitamin and Triennial curators Sarat Maharaj and Johnson Chang about how this project can feed in to the GZ Triennial, as it picks up on many of the subjects in play.

Longer term ambitions
Grizedale wish to develop a longer term project that draws on the material generated by the R&D residency that would have a constructive effect on the development of the village and feed back into the home context - the Lakes. There are clear similarities with the ambitions and challenges of the Nanling context that offer potential alternatives and inspiration to both sites. China has a different approach and is at a very different stage of development, at once far behind and way ahead of what is happening in the UK. Grizedale envisage an exchange programme centred on agriculture/horticulture/economy and new ideas about the visitor experience. There is also considerable potential to develop architectural projects, in particular ecologically related building and land use.

Grizedale are currently in discussion with the curators of the 3rd Guangzhou Triennial to have a manifestation of the project in the Art Triennial in autumn 2008, which will provide a significant public platform for the project and enable the village to have a voice in the wider progression of China’s development.

Beyond this the aim is to bring villagers from Nanling to the Lake District in a return visit, to bring new ideas to Grizedale’s rural community.

Links and partnerships are also currently in discussion with The Royal Society of Arts, Tate, British Council and the Cultural Olympiad.

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the briefing of the seven
the briefing of the seven

Dear All

It seems that Adam may at last have his visa so it looks like we are off. Please find attached all the relevant material I can think of. There are still some things to be confirmed but hope to have these to you before the end of tomorrow.

Do let me know if you have any questions no matter how trivial.

Adam has all the tickets for you.

Remember your passports.

Can you all make sure that you have your own travel insurance in place and that you all bring the technical equipement you need to work and make sure that you have money to get by on before you get to Nanling - with at LHR KK or in Guangzhou (cash points seem to work ok)

I am going to put edited versions of this online so let me know if this is a problem. The more we can convey online the better. Please send the website to your freinds and tell them to watch and comment.

I think it would be nice if you could take a gift with you to the village - like Yorkshire biscuits, homemade jam or something (customs permitting?) they seemed to love tins of sweets etc when I was last there.

If I've forgotten anything let me know.

Keep in touch and good luck.

Alistair

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