Department of Ephemera: May 2010 Archives

Below are another group of gouache paintings from the BPL-004 Experimental Outsourcing Mission To China.  There are a few more to post but these along with the previously posted images represent the bulk of them: (for scale, the longest ones are 11" wide and the smallest is 3.5" wide.  I'll add their dimensions when the jetlag recedes)004-12Xinxheng.jpg

The May Day holiday was a three day weekend.  However, it seems that people who are called 'workers' did not have the holiday off, so all the technical activities were still possible and we were able to continue our projects.  The weather here was fine and there were more explosions than usual.  People were out with their kids in the park  and the outdoor food stands were packed.


The other day I was walking along the river, taking note of all the sewers that drain into it.  It is always difficult to ascertain the significance and function of infrastructure in urban environments, but effluent running down a spillway into a river and around a toilet paper island 40 yards long is fairly comprehensible.  While at first this looks like pollution with a special kind of impunity, it makes me think about the importance of 'visibility' when it comes to human impact on the environment.  There are fields full of food crops abutting the river, just inches from these waste pipes.  Shifting my position by two feet could result in either a picture of 'environmental disaster', or an idyllic vision of 'locally grown organic produce', to use the American nomenclature.

Later I was walking through a narrow maze of small concrete roads lined with brick buildings.  They seemed like houses but every now and then there would be a car repair shop, indicated by a roll down gate and a sign with automotive imagery.  Also in the middle of this maze was some kind of factory, with large pipes connecting buildings and running elevated above the road, which occasionally turned to dirt, and then back into concrete.  The strange thing is that in this neighborhood there was not one person that I could detect.  China is reputed to be full of people, but I have noticed that there are lots of places that seem to be totally devoid of humanity.  The atmosphere was turning gray, maybe implying rain, and as the buildings drew closer together I felt uneasy.  At the entrance to a house I saw a wallet.  It was lying perfectly centered on a path that led from an open gate around a corner to what I figured was a doorway.  I picked up the wallet.  It was black and shiny and oddly unused looking.  Inside were hundreds of Yuan, credit cards, and some keys.  Already feeling apprehensive, I thought about what I should do with this situation.  I thought at first that the wallet must belong to someone inside the building, and that it would be a fun 'China adventure' to traipse up to the door and proffer the recovered item, after which I would be invited in for a celebratory stew or fireworks display.  Then I considered my profound lack of language skills, and the possibility that a lao wai trespassing with a handful of someone else's property could lead to decidedly non-celebratory events.  I hesitated, thinking that it was actually a lot of money, and that around here someone would sorely miss it if it disappeared.  I put it back down, but farther along the path toward the door, trying to shield it from view from the street.  This is something I would never do back in New York, of course.  But I won't say here what I would do back in New York.  Later I regretted not having the gumption to traipse.

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This page is a archive of recent memos in May 2010.

Department of Ephemera: April 2010 is the previous archive.

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