This incarnation of Visions of Modernity examines the "harmonious" transformation of Beijing by recreating propaganda banners espousing “modern” and “civilized” lifestyles. Unfortunately such optimistic rhetoric does not always reflect the current state of urban planning. Megablocks dominate infrastructure surrounding Beijing's medieval core. Huge swaths of land are handed over to developers and fashioned into towering residential high-rises interwoven with retail and public spaces. The photographs on the tarps depict some of the largest developments in the city. Once constructed, megablocks form distinct urban islands, bounded by grand avenues and further hemmed in by ring roads. Any sense of fluidity within the urban fabric is lost. Entire districts are laid out and rebuilt in such a fashion - like cogs in a machine switched out for newer parts.
As the imposing and monotonous facades of megablocks become the norm, they also reshape the manner in which people live and consume by encouraging social atomization in Western-style apartments. Global commerce immediately took notice of this elaborate transformation of cultural identity. With an increasingly materialistic China in its sights, Ikea opened in Beijing what was at the time its single largest outlet in the world. The compartmentalized lifestyles Ikea put on sale catalyzed a new range of communal practices that are represented in the photographic dioramas attached to the tarps. These Ikea showroom interiors perfectly fit the megablock mold even when unsustainable in nature if implemented throughout the rest of China. There is now a substantial gap between the "modern" and "civilized" vision of Beijing found on banners plastered around the city and how it is actually manifesting in daily practice. Any sense of harmony remains elusive in the midst of this developmental explosion.
For this installation I strung together tarps measuring up to ten meters in length to create photographic corridors of urban landscapes emblazoned with actual propaganda messages used by the Beijing municipal government. Small holes are then cut into particular buildings on the tarps that reveal photographic dioramas of Ikea lit by a single bulb. The size of the installation can be adapted to fit almost any space. In the future I would like it to cover entire buildings.
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