My First TV explored memories of first experiences with televisions, as told by several generations of Beijing residents. It appeared as a booklet commissioned for “Time Capsule” by Croquis, Issue 6, April 2013.

 

published June 17, 2015

 

concrete-flux3

Concrete Flux is an online and printed journal based out of Beijing, focusing on urban issues, specifically in the Chinese context.

Michael Eddy has made two contributions:

Issue 1: Beijing

Issue 3: Escapism

 

published May 16, 2015

 

For Lorna, 2015.
This text appeared in the artist publication for Lorna Bauer’s solo exhibition Soleil at Modern Fuel.

—-

senza titolo

It was winter, and that meant that Seiji Takuma had some time on his hands. He was bored, and also happened to be an artist, but most likely this was immaterial to his being selected as one of the three subjects for the experiment. He was paid for his time (and the pay was “not bad”). Nonetheless three months is a long time to stay in an enclosed facility under a controlled regime, with very dim lighting. Seiji would stand directly beneath the niggardly lamp and squint to read the old newspapers brought in for him, held close under his nose.

Every day Seiji slept at 24:00 and woke at 8:00, to the same light. There was not a single window on any wall. It is probably no surprise that food was incredibly important to the subjects’ routines. Breakfast was simple fare prepared by staff, with lunch and dinner initially consisting of lunch boxes assembled by a catering company, delivered in their tepid plastic packaging. However, subjects felt these lunch boxes were so horrible that they protested and this arrangement was changed. Throughout the entire duration of his stay in the facility, Seiji was fitted with a rectal thermometer logging his temperature, and was constantly monitored with infrared cameras by facility staff. Excepting, of course, shower and toilet time. Blood and brain wave tests were administered intermittently, and an occasional interview over televideo took place with a psychologist. He had no other contact aside from his brushes with the other two subjects, one of whom already had a psychological condition and backed out after a month, the other being a stereotypical otaku; needless to say interpersonal relations were perhaps the most awkward part of the whole experience.

There was no dearth of activity. A typical day (and every day was typical) consisted of flat knitting, spool knitting, bead threading, puzzle solving, origami folding, mathematics calculation, Lego “brainstorming,” an hour of stationary bicycle for cardio-vascular exercise, and other simple tests, etc. Staff surreptitiously removed the completed output from Seiji’s quarters (the excruciating aroma of coffee informing of their existence, though neither caffeine nor egghead were ever encountered). Subjects were allowed to select one or two items to bring with them into the facilities, but no means of communication, and no electronic devices. Seiji was allowed to wear his own clothes but they took his shoes and shoelaces. He elected to keep some pencils and a 2-kg hunk of oil clay nearby to work his hands on a semi-daily basis during free time in the evenings. His desk became a shadowy atelier. He sculpted fungi, a compact disk, a curved pencil, a water puddle, a 4-dimensional pocket; in all, fifty shapes to be destroyed and reconstituted again. Before Seiji left, a researcher inquired about commissioning a bronze version of one of these clay sculptures, a human figure, but Seiji turned him down. He was too lazy.

When he finally departed the facility after the 90 days, it was still winter. It wasn’t snowing, and the city lights and the cars’ headlamps passing in the clear cold night were intolerably bright.

As told by SEIJI Takuma

Postscript:

Fifteen years later the convergence of an unprecedented superstorm and a solar wind shockwave knocked out the world’s telecommunications networks and pretty much all other electronic devices. It was very, very dark, particularly at night. Huge milling clouds kilometres thick churned against the earth’s curving limits, blocking the sun’s rays like ancient herds of bison in the sky. It was the type of misery that doesn’t like company, even though we all shared it—meaning we each experienced it separately. Many things ceased to function.

What remained from those prior times, when our ecstatic workaday worlds had been fed on the excesses of the sun and the subterranean, weaving the new crystalline monuments from vibrations sped on transparency, when frequencies irradiated thickest flesh and hottest equatorial mud? Math cults called it a reckoning, a flattening of pluses and minuses, whose sum was a protracted situation of stasis. People twiddled their thumbs like blind processors stuck on some numerical palindrome. People whispered in the dark, where history turns inward. People hovered like bees had done, in the throes of their extinction, when cellular signals had fatally overcome them en masse; except with people, the signals had been cut.

Circumstances did not descend into a zombie movie, however. The CEOs had their hard numbers, and most of them knew this was coming. It turned out they had indeed been preparing for the long term after all, but it just happened to be the long hereafter. Through the fog of inactivity, of uneconomy, the long low waves were penetrating. The manic necessary buzzing of latter days were in the past, buffeted by catastrophe, giving onto the quiet clarity of darkness. Humans would re-emerge on the other side—it had been scientifically demonstrated!

 

published May 10, 2015

 

tpp-museum-auction

www.tppmuseum.com

This link takes you to the website of a 2014 residency project realized by Michael Eddy and Emi Uemura at Sapporo Tenjinyama Art Studios, as a special project of the Sapporo International Art Festival.

The project, “TPP Museum,” sought to imagine the effects of the concurrently developing Trans-Pacific Partnership on the local situation of Hokkaido, Japan. It featured research, workshops, events and publication, brought together as a bodiless museum. Explore the site for more.

 

published March 22, 2015

 

Installation views from:
“Just as people whom nothing moves or touches are taught to cry again”
2-person show by Michael Eddy and Mikio Saito

Exhibition flyer

Exhibition map

27.August – 1.September, 2014
13:00 – 22:30

Gallery Inukai
Toyohira 3 -1-1-12, Toyohira-ku, Sapporo
http://galleryinukai.com/

日時/
2014年8月27日(水)~9月1日(月)
13:00 – 22:30

会場/
ギャラリー犬養(2F)
札幌市豊平区豊平三条一丁目1-12

 

published September 4, 2014

 

Mashipo  馬屎埔

It was a surprisingly cool mid-afternoon as our group finally reached what had once been the Mashipo wetlands, which used to cover the area from the river to well beyond the Fanling metro station. We lingered on the sidewalk looking over the densely grown bushes and jerry-rigged assemblages forming the boundary fencing of individual plots. On first inspection, it looked like a vital place: there was a hand-painted sign indicating an organic farmers market near a sheltered post-box unit, and an intermittent flow of pedestrians and cyclists of various ages maneuvered down the concrete paths that strayed into the lush interior, where well-kept houses of corrugated metal were guarded by zealous dogs. Finally our guide, a 60-something year old retired land surveyor (“Not for the developers!”) named Raymond, came out on one of these paths to meet us, and swiftly led us in along toward his land. It was late February but the plants we passed appeared to be in mid-growth (perhaps only notable if you consider the several months until the soil in Beijing takes on the appearance of anything but desiccated silt). Raymond halted briefly at a series of several quadrants where the ground was fastened with tiles and concrete. Here had once stood shacks housing families. Henderson, one of the largest real estate companies in Hong Kong, had been buying up such properties, piece by piece, and either flattening them or smashing them out like gaping lifeless examples in order to unsettle those who still remained.  Raymond’s eyes sparkled as he explained his plan (in perfect English, for my sake): to occupy one yard with festival tents or other makeshift shelters, and refuse to leave until the real estate company took them to court to force removal; then—gesturing gingerly with his arms—he would move the entire occupation a few meters over to the yard “next-door,” repeating the process whenever they received a new notice, and then start all over, therefore dragging any possible removal into some indeterminate future. I asked him whether he had tried this tactic before, and he smiled and said, not yet, but I think it should work.

Moving along, we stopped near an area of turned earth that had been sprinkled with a white powder. Raymond indicated that this would be where they would grow yellow ginger to sell at cost to the pregnant mothers of Hong Kong; without a profit, he stressed, so that the people will understand what our purpose is. And this was just the beginning of the plans for the lengthy strip of land on which we were standing. Raymond’s father-in-law had occupied this government-owned land as tenant in 1960, which was then, ironically, licensed to him by the government in 1970, when it was zoned for agriculture. In the last few years, as was mentioned above, the land has been leased (land can only be leased from the government in Hong Kong, as in PRC) in portions to Henderson to develop apartment high rises. Even if the area we were standing on did not itself become a construction site, development of the sections that had already been bought would basically render the area unfit for cultivation because of the shadows the buildings would cast. The consultancy period for the development of the area had been due to be completed in 2012, but already resistance to the plan had resulted in a delay to the project of 4 years. In the meanwhile, Raymond and his family, as well as a group of young activists and others, are planning a number of projects to further resist and delay the development of the area, involving as many parties as possible.

As it stands, there are a number of others farming the land, not all of whom have necessarily signed on for the resistance to Henderson and the government. Some of these (apparently mainland Chinese) people come from the large complexes across the road and just want a spot to grow their own vegetables. But lacking knowledge of organic or traditional methods of growing or land management, they have no second thoughts about using pesticides or about lopping off the branches of a perfectly healthy lychee tree (that now had rubber boots inverted on the branch stubs). Such practices were all more self-evidently faulty to the people who had actually been living on the land next to the growing crops. And indeed, not many people actually live on the land anymore. This marks the endeavor of Raymond and his allies as somewhat different from other well-known examples of agriculture, activism and culture uniting in civil resistance against the loss of farm lands and traditional lives at the hands of government and developer collaboration. One of the most well-known of these struggles was the opposition to the Hong Kong–Shenzhen–Guangzhou express rail link, which caused the demolition of Choi Yuen Tsuen and displaced its villagers in a process spanning from 2009–2011. Though the loss of the village is long foregone by now, the resistance actions that included petitions, protests and artistic/activist cultural projects are still felt through a legacy of publications, documentaries, online discussions, and more importantly, through a lasting coalition of efforts that came together and carries over to other fields and new challenges. “There are hundreds of Choi Yuen Tsuens,” I was told, and some of the spirit of possibility carries over to Mashipo. The plan of Raymond and the others, however, is not only based on the injustice of displacement, but about proposing an alternative to the craze for destroying green and natural areas: “a showcase for traditional agriculture.”

Winding our way along a path past a giant mulberry tree and the small house where Raymond’s 90-year old father lives, and through a field of blossoming dill, chamomile and other flowering vegetables, we came to a grove of banana trees and a thin corridor of tall grass on the edge of a stream hidden by undergrowth. Raymond described his plan to construct a mud and straw house in a traditional Guangdong style, his tone sounding urgent since this is best done in the winter. This house had to be built now, but so did the many other initiatives that would go nowhere if brought as proposals to the government first; the key was to simply start doing things. Other ideas included a fish pond, which would also demonstrate cultivation of aquatic flowers, a community kitchen and a composting process, and in the fields, an emphasis on local herbs and vegetables; in short an eco-system that would make good use of this fertile soil. One of the city-based organizers involved in the Mashipo project, Kim Ching, showed me their layout for an edible garden. I asked whether they were reaching out by organizing an allotment system for people to come and grow, or by holding farmers markets or some sort of experimental farming school. (Raymond kind of groaned when I mentioned the sign advertising the organic farmers market I had seen back by the road, explaining that he and others had started it but that now, run by different people, mostly cheap organic produce flooding in from from Mainland China is sold there.) But I was quickly corrected: “Not only a farming school—but everything, public gatherings—in fact, almost everything is related to farming.”

The impetus behind Mashipo, then, is the construction of public space, in light of (or in spite of) its decimation by the CEOs of both Hong Kong’s administration and its corporations. This form of awareness and discourse was refreshing in a place that is effectively under control of the mainland Government, which also makes it seem fragile. As we looped back toward the street, the heavy evening sky darkened and fused with the curtain of mountains that form the backdrop for the skinny high rises clustering the New Territories. We turned around toward the north and Raymond pointed out some towers looming in the distance spelling out words with LEDs on their ostentatious surfaces. That’s Shenzhen right over there, he said. You can see how convenient it will be to drive down and stop here overnight before getting on the metro to your meetings in the morning, he mused rather reasonably. This observation betrayed no ignorance of the forces they are up against. And with my limited knowledge, I considered how unlikely this situation would be back in Beijing or elsewhere on the mainland: a 4-year delay because of complaints? Was this the patronizing local government appeasing environmentalist nostalgia for the sake of an appearance of validity, or what? (Could it actually be a soft-spot for democracy?) Setting aside doubts about the potency of the deputy authorities and their games, such a delay would certainly be grasped by the citizens of Hong Kong for its possibility to cultivate much more than a few feral papayas. Much more.

(originally posted on the HomeShop blog, 14/03/2012)