Here is a video that introduces my proposed architectural changes to the Pingfang houses. I'm afraid the voice over was necessary to get the ideas across (especially on low res you-tube). Thank-you to Maria's beautifully made vids posted earlier for the musical inspiration, which makes it just about bearable, also giving some atmosphere despite the vector models.

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

Topics: [Rice cookers]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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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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