Open landscape surgery
Updated: Aug 24, 2020
Redefine, redesign, reconstruct 2019 series
My 2018 November Monthly Musings blog featured a little visit I made to Beijing, China. Coming into land at Capital airport you could see all these vast swathes of land covered with green mesh fabric, which instantly formed visual connections to urban decay, a kind of building graveyard but without the buildings. On the ground and from the vantage point of the Chaoyang district, I got to see these areas close up and found they were areas designated for new urban spaces; so I took about 350 photos of the green mesh canvas, the remains of buildings and the forgotten remnants of belongings from the departed inhabitants. These initial photographs have grown into photo collages, a three stage creative process, for my almost completed Refine, redesign and reconstruct 2019 series.
There’s a kind of transformative beauty to these landscapes, a visual feast, akin to the land undergoing surgery, the green mesh fabric resembling the “scrubs” worn by medical surgeons during an operation performance. And thus the Beijing landscape and China as a whole is undergoing a kind of major surgery at an incredible breathtaking transformative speed which is an astonishing achievement by Western standards. The speed of transformation is enormous; the scale of it is enormous. Again I mention the speed, and Beijing has declared that they plan to be a fully socialist economy by the year 2050, and that fully socialist economy will be characterized by equality, by democracy, by a benign relationship to nature and by a cultural world of beauty and excellence.
Part of this undergoing cultural change is the continuing movement of people to the cities and the development towards a new way of living. Now there are hundreds of cities which have more than a million inhabitants and something like 300 million people have actually moved from the countryside into urban spaces over the last 10 or 15 years.
So this is the Chinese model in transformative motion. It is very fast, it is very quick, backed by government, mixed with strong government interventions, but it's also highly entrepreneurial in spirit, a kind of gladiator economy, in a Chinese context.
Yet in contrast to this accelerated speed of change, there’s a placid tranquility to be found in the flattened green mesh landscapes I photographed combined with a feeling of anticipation as to what will replace them.
Soon to come are some woodcuts developed from sketches that’ll complete this 2019 series.