Posts Tagged ‘beijing’



Investigating Beijing’s Underbelly for Travel & Leisure

Clipping from "Beijing 24/7" for Travel & Leisure

Bejing is a notoriously hard city to pin down. It takes years of patient observation and interaction to start exposing the multifaceted nature of China’s capital. I can’t even begin to describe the number of parachute journalists who dropped in for a few days and unsuccessfully tried to capture the essence of the city. It was therefore a great pleasure to provide the photography for the one writer who got closest, Gary Shtenyngart. The satirical novelist spent a week or so in Beijing and left with quite a grasp of the many paradoxes the city has to offer. Maybe it came from his deadpan Russian roots, but he astutely picked apart the absurdities that make the city such a beguiling place to live. Humor is often the only way to get to the heart of the beast. Read the article here. Well done, sir, well done.

Clipping from "Beijing 24/7" for Travel & Leisure

Clipping from "Beijing 24/7" for Travel & Leisure

Clipping from "Beijing 24/7" for Travel & Leisure



    Galaxy SOHO Lights Up the Beijing Skyline

    Zaha Hadid's undulating Galaxy SOHO now lights up the night on Beijing's second ring road.

    The recently unveiled Galaxy SOHO literally resembles an array of astral objects with its spherical shapes and blazing lights. It now looms above Beijing’s second ring road. It is supposed to represent a big step forward in architecture and its capability to inspire. Zaha Hadid, the chief architect, made an appearance at the launch with a long talk about the space and the possibilities it represents. A strong sense of hope for the future of Chinese design and fashion filled the air. Translating this into viable products and businesses is the real difficulty, though. Galaxy SOHO is certainly an inspiring place for such imaginative pursuits with its elegant curves and charged globular structures. There are excellent lines of site throughout the complex. But are there enough clientele to actually fill it up and create an active and engaging community? Galaxy SOHO is huge: 330,000 square meters of office and retail space. Plus it sits atop one of the most trafficked intersections in Beijing. Right now Sanlitun SOHO is barely filled, let alone Galaxy SOHO which sees less pedestrian traffic and intense gridlock. I will keep tabs on the complex in the coming months. Hopefully it does not turn into a huge empty space like the many others popping up around the city.

    Zaha Hadid's undulating Galaxy SOHO now lights up the night on Beijing's second ring road.Zaha Hadid's undulating Galaxy SOHO now lights up the night on Beijing's second ring road.Zaha Hadid's undulating Galaxy SOHO now lights up the night on Beijing's second ring road.

    Zaha Hadid's undulating Galaxy SOHO now lights up the night on Beijing's second ring road.Zaha Hadid's undulating Galaxy SOHO now lights up the night on Beijing's second ring road.Zaha Hadid's undulating Galaxy SOHO now lights up the night on Beijing's second ring road.

    Zaha Hadid's undulating Galaxy SOHO now lights up the night on Beijing's second ring road.Zaha Hadid's undulating Galaxy SOHO now lights up the night on Beijing's second ring road.Zaha Hadid's undulating Galaxy SOHO now lights up the night on Beijing's second ring road.

    Zaha Hadid's undulating Galaxy SOHO now lights up the night on Beijing's second ring road.Zaha Hadid's undulating Galaxy SOHO now lights up the night on Beijing's second ring road.Zaha Hadid's undulating Galaxy SOHO now lights up the night on Beijing's second ring road.

    Zaha Hadid's undulating Galaxy SOHO now lights up the night on Beijing's second ring road.



      “Weapons of Mass Urban Destruction” – Visions of Modernity in Foreign Policy

      Visions of Modernity: China's Guilded Age - Weapons of Mass Urban Destruction Clipping

      Foreign Policy’s current issue on urban development focuses almost exclusively on China. Relying on research by the McKinsey Global Institute, the magazine delves into the 75 fastest developing metropolises on the planet, 29 of which are in China (Shanghai and Beijing top the list, respectively). It is well worth perusing the actual magazine, which features photographs from my Visions of Modernity project, and delves into the serious ramifications of China’s ambitious infrastructure projects. Many of these unprecedented developmental efforts appear more and more misguided. My panorama of clustered residential developments surrounding the Huilongguan subway stop in northern Beijing, seen above, accompanies a piece entitled Weapons of Mass Urban Destruction. The article investigates many of the issues I explore in Visions of Modernity, the foremost being the unsustainable nature of urban planning in China and how it effects consumer, transportation and leisure habits.

      The Foreign Policy website also features a series from Visions of Modernity where I documented Ikea customers in Beijing who partake in leisurely afternoons settling into faux showrooms scattered throughout the store. Each photograph suspends the shoppers in their appropriated Ikea environments, as if they were in their own homes. Such nascent nesting and consumer habits are catalyzed by the proliferation of individualized apartments in towering residential developments. These are known as megablocks and have become the cornerstone of Chinese urban planning. The monotonous and imposing structures dominate metropolises across China, forming urban islands that extinguish any sense of fluidity within cities. Although Foreign Policy delves into transportation and architectural projects that give some cause for optimism, such stratagems simply don’t exist on a scale to keep up with the massive urban migration China is experiencing and the concomitant demands on natural resources and energy. In many ways, I must agree with Ai Weiwei’s dark assessment of the plight of China’s cities. It can all seem very bleak. More panoramas of Beijing from Visions of Modernity are below.

      Visions of Modernity: China's Guilded Age - Beijing Megablocks
      Visions of Modernity: China's Guilded Age - Beijing Megablocks
      Visions of Modernity: China's Guilded Age - Beijing Megablocks



        Bodies of Desire – The 2012 Beijing International Automotive Fair

        Human and vehicular bodies of desire are conflated and on display at the 2012 Beijing International Automotive Exhibition.

        China’s love affair with the automobile is escalating every year, and the biennial Beijing International Automotive Fair is now ground zero for this sultry romance. Nearly a million automobile enthusiasts packed into the gigantic halls of the Beijing International Convention Center over the course of a week just to get a chance to sit behind the wheel of their dream car and admire the scantily clad attendants. The overt sexuality of both the male and female floor models in the trade booths is now increasingly conflated with the status of vehicle ownership. They utilize a practiced set of gestures and poses to better integrate with the curvatures of the surrounding hunks of glass and steel. These intertwined bodies of human and vehicular desire are the height of an erotic symbiosis that incites deeper forms of commodity fetishism. Car purchases in China surged 45% in 2009, surpassing the United States for the first time with 13.6 million vehicles sold, making it the largest automobile market on the planet. China will remain on top for the foreseeable future as more and more people pack onto already crowded streets and highways, even as dealer inventories continue to snowball this year. No matter what, expect more skin and desirous looks at automotive fairs across China.

        Human and vehicular bodies of desire are conflated and on display at the 2012 Beijing International Automotive Exhibition.

        Human and vehicular bodies of desire are conflated and on display at the 2012 Beijing International Automotive Exhibition.Human and vehicular bodies of desire are conflated and on display at the 2012 Beijing International Automotive Exhibition.Human and vehicular bodies of desire are conflated and on display at the 2012 Beijing International Automotive Exhibition.

        Human and vehicular bodies of desire are conflated and on display at the 2012 Beijing International Automotive Exhibition.Human and vehicular bodies of desire are conflated and on display at the 2012 Beijing International Automotive Exhibition.Human and vehicular bodies of desire are conflated and on display at the 2012 Beijing International Automotive Exhibition.

        Human and vehicular bodies of desire are conflated and on display at the 2012 Beijing International Automotive Exhibition.Human and vehicular bodies of desire are conflated and on display at the 2012 Beijing International Automotive Exhibition.Human and vehicular bodies of desire are conflated and on display at the 2012 Beijing International Automotive Exhibition.

        Human and vehicular bodies of desire are conflated and on display at the 2012 Beijing International Automotive Exhibition.Human and vehicular bodies of desire are conflated and on display at the 2012 Beijing International Automotive Exhibition.Human and vehicular bodies of desire are conflated and on display at the 2012 Beijing International Automotive Exhibition.

        Human and vehicular bodies of desire are conflated and on display at the 2012 Beijing International Automotive Exhibition.Human and vehicular bodies of desire are conflated and on display at the 2012 Beijing International Automotive Exhibition.Human and vehicular bodies of desire are conflated and on display at the 2012 Beijing International Automotive Exhibition.

        Human and vehicular bodies of desire are conflated and on display at the 2012 Beijing International Automotive Exhibition.Human and vehicular bodies of desire are conflated and on display at the 2012 Beijing International Automotive Exhibition.Human and vehicular bodies of desire are conflated and on display at the 2012 Beijing International Automotive Exhibition.

        Human and vehicular bodies of desire are conflated and on display at the 2012 Beijing International Automotive Exhibition.



          “Tigress Tycoons” for Newsweek

          Zhang Xin/张欣, Yang Lan/杨澜, Zhang Yan/张兰 and Amy Chua pose for a portrait at Capital M in Beijing, China for Newsweek.

          This was one of my most intimidating assignments to date: a portrait of three of the richest females in China along with Amy Chua, the author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, in less than ten minutes before their power dinner. It really was a Tigress Tycoons showdown. The leader of the streak, in my eyes, was Zhang Xin/张欣 (far right). Her company, SOHO China, is easily one of the top real estate developers in China, building some of the most daring (and sometimes dastardly) megablocks in the country. These properties reshaped Beijing’s skyline and netted her about $2.7 billion. Forbes and the Financial Times consistently list Zhang Xin as a top businesswomen in Asia. Her biography is also staggering. She saved up money working in Hong Kong garment sweatshops before moving to England to study at Cambridge and on to New York City to work at Goldman Sachs. Amazing. Next to Zhang Xin is Yang Lan/杨澜, also know as the “Oprah of China” thanks to her massive television presence and media empire. While not a rags to riches story like Zhang Xin, Yang Lan hit it big on Chinese domestic television, sometimes garnering viewing audiences in the hundreds of millions. She was one of the first talk show hosts in mainland China who really spoke her mind and cofounded Sun Television Cybernetworks.

          Last and certainly not least of the Tigress Tycoons is Zhang Yan/张兰 (far left). She founded the popular South Beauty restaurants with now boasts over forty locations throughout the country. Known for their opulent settings, they also serve up extremely tasty Sichuan fair. Zhang Yan completed the female power trifecta. Amy Chua is nothing to scoff at of course, but fits into a different category with her academic and literary accolades. Her book promoting the “Tiger Mother” parenting method  sent waves around the world, especially in mainland China. There is even now an “Eagle Dad” spinoff category. Anyway, it was a bit tense at first getting all the ladies together, but thanks to the antics of Zhang Xin’s husband, Pan Shiyi, who decided to take photos along with me, the ten minutes passed without a hitch. Be sure to check out Amy Chua’s accompanying profile of the Tigress Tycoons.

          Zhang Xin/张欣, Yang Lan/杨澜, Zhang Yan/张兰 and Amy Chua pose for a portrait at Capital M in Beijing, China for Newsweek.



            Visions of Modernity Installation – Recreated Propaganda Banners

            Matthew Niederhauser's Visions of Modernity installation at the LDDC in Beijing, China.

            Check out my newest creation. 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. All photographs were taken in Beijing. Check out the video below for a better feel.

            Matthew Niederhauser's Visions of Modernity installation at the LDDC in Beijing, China.

            Matthew Niederhauser's Visions of Modernity installation at the LDDC in Beijing, China.Matthew Niederhauser's Visions of Modernity installation at the LDDC in Beijing, China.Matthew Niederhauser's Visions of Modernity installation at the LDDC in Beijing, China.

            Matthew Niederhauser's Visions of Modernity installation at the LDDC in Beijing, China.Matthew Niederhauser's Visions of Modernity installation at the LDDC in Beijing, China.Matthew Niederhauser's Visions of Modernity installation at the LDDC in Beijing, China.



              Happy Magic Water Park in National Geographic

              Happy Magic Water Park in National Geographic

              It is with great pleasure to announce that a photograph from the Happy Magic Water Park series is in this month’s issue of National Geographic. I have been meeting with editors at the renowned magazine for over a year, and although it’s just a double-page spread, getting into National Geographic was one of those markers I set for myself a long time ago and definitely dreamed about as a kid. Hopefully it will lead to a full feature with them in the future. Also, fellow INSTITUTE photographer Richard Mosse has a spread from his amazing series Infra, which Aperture just published as a monograph. In celebration, I returned to my Happy Magic Water Park material and pulled out some photographs that I have never shown before. Check them out below.

              The Happy Magic Water Park in Beijing's Olympic Watercube

              The Happy Magic Water Park in Beijing's Olympic WatercubeThe Happy Magic Water Park in Beijing's Olympic Watercube

              The Happy Magic Water Park in Beijing's Olympic WatercubeThe Happy Magic Water Park in Beijing's Olympic Watercube



                Domus Mixtapes: The Sound of Beijing

                Looking out on Beijing in the morning from my bedroom window.

                I just completed a Domus Mixtape for Beijing. You can hear it over at Domus or on SoundCloud. I drew exclusively from Maybe Mars and Modern Sky for the music as well as a live recording of Zhang Shouwang/张守望 of White+ and Carsick Cars fame. There is a lot more music out there in China, of course, but this is definitely some of my favorite material. Sort of the soundtrack to my life over the past four years. Below is the accompanying text, track list and some portraits of the performers included on the mixtape from Sound Kapital:

                The hardest part of the day in Beijing is getting out of bed. Gazing across a smoggy skyline and watching the hectic traffic below is reason enough to hide under the covers for a few more hours. It is a dystopia – maybe even a nightmare. That is why I embrace the night. The sky remains a muted black, and I can seek out sparks of life in the darker recesses of the city. Beijing’s mutating urban landscape can only be matched by its shifting artistic climate, especially in the realm of sound. Desperation breeds discontent, and voices are emerging to express it. Every weekend features full billings at a growing number of performance spaces across Beijing: dive bars near the universities, small coffee houses hidden amongst the hutongs, larger concert halls in defunct government buildings, or experimental enclaves adjoining fish farms on the outer edges of the city. Beijing’s erratic social landscape is now molded by the Internet and mobile phones instead of more closely controlled media channels such as television and radio. Those with idiosyncratic tastes readily connect with each other and access an exponentially broader realm of music from both home and abroad as they continue to pick apart the past fifty years of western pop, rock, jazz, punk, electronic, and experimental music with increased vigor. The performers on this mixtape constitute a formidable new wave of artists striving to expand their creative limits in an autonomous and compelling fashion. Even though it is too early to tell what may come of the innovative strides made by these musicians, there is no doubt that they will continue to break ground within Beijing’s nascent artistic landscape, helping to push the boundaries of an already expanding realm of independent thought and musical expression in China. In the end the city resists description. Outside the smoke-choked bars everything is layered in a fine coat of dust. Whole neighborhoods disappear and find their way deep into your lungs. That’s the problem. The city gets inside you – fills you to the brim – consumed by a monstrous flow of people and infrastructure. It’s savage but enticing. Six million people flocked here over the past ten years and half a million are expected each year for the foreseeable future. The implosion is just beginning. The nebulous heart of the middle kingdom skips along to ever irregular beats.

                Tracks:

                01. My Great Location - Rebuilding the Rights of Statues/重塑雕像的权利

                02. Some Surprises Come Too Soon - P.K. 14

                03. No. 6 Space Ship - AV Okubo/AV大久保

                04. Sand Hammer - Hedgehog/刺猬

                05. Sunday Girl - Ourself Beside Me

                06. Flu - Snapline

                07. You Can Listen You Can Talk - Carsick Cars

                08. Golden Gate - Duck Fight Goose/鸭打鹅乐队

                09. This Side Down - The Offset Spectacle/憬观:像同叠

                10. To Die - Soviet Pop/苏维埃·波普

                11. The Earthquake - 24 Hour/24小时

                12. Hospital - Guai Li/怪力

                13. Beijing is Not My Home - Demerit/过失

                14. Intro/Outro/Transitions - Zhang Shouwang/张守望 live at D-22 on November 22, 2011

                Sound Kapital Portraits: HedgehogSound Kapital Portraits: AV Okubo

                Sound Kapital Portraits: Ourself Beside MeSound Kapital Portraits: Guai LiSound Kapital Portraits: 24 Hours

                Sound Kapital Portraits: LiqingSound Kapital Portraits: Zhang ShouwangSound Kapital Portraits: Liweisi

                Sound Kapital Portraits: P.K. 14Sound Kapital Portraits: Offset SpectaclesSound Kapital Portraits: Demerit

                Sound Kapital Portraits: Snapline



                  Ai Weiwei/艾未未 Marches On – Portraits for Foreign Policy

                  Ai Weiwei poses for a portrait with one of his cats in his studio compound.

                  A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of visiting Ai Weiwei in his studio to take portraits for Foreign Policy’s Top 100 Global Thinkers list where he appeared at #18 in the rankings. He was very amiable and open to me directing him about his compound where I posed him with some of his favorite cats. Ai Weiwei is all over the news again. After a short period of silence following an 81-day incarceration, he continues to lash out at authorities and decry the trumped-up charges of tax evasion brought against him in an attempt to silence his outspoken criticisms. A recent Newsweek piece he penned where he related Beijing to a “nightmare” was especially noteworthy. This renewed vigor and boldness seem in large part due to the outpouring of support shown by anonymous Chinese donors who rallied behind him to raise $1.4 million to challenge his huge tax bill which he refers to as ransom money. Other admirers are finding more brazen outlets to show support by posting nude photos of themselves online in defense of other spurious pornography charges brought against Ai Weiwei for a set of revealing self portraits released on the Internet. To make things even more controversial, high profile figures are weighing in on the situation, including Taiwan’s president Ma Ying-jeou who visited his current exhibition at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum. It’s all quite a mess, but I am sure Ai Weiwei is pleased with himself for creating an even larger fuss than before his arrest – another great case of censorship backfiring in the face of the Chinese state.

                  In a crazy sense I think the political space in China has truly transformed Ai Weiwei’s life into an interdisciplinary work of art or a “social performance” as he calls it. His invocation of the Chinese state’s ire came through a combination of critical sculptures, writings, photographs, videos and installations. While these separate pieces might not be interdisciplinary in nature, they have brought about a dynamic where every action or utterance of Ai Weiwei becomes performative in nature and open to intense analysis by journalists, officials, police and, increasingly so, the general public. His identity remains at the center and activates all of these mediums of expression, especially through the Internet which exponentially magnifies his impact. In a statistical sense, Ai Weiwei is not well known in China. Still, he is making waves where it counts and China’s intelligentsia is taking note. These are the people fashioning the new China, and his stand against censorship and political suppression is singular. By tapping into a populist sentiment with his donation drive, he is putting officials even more on edge. It’s a very crucial moment for Ai Weiwei right now. There is still a very distinct possibility he might disappear again.

                  In other Ai Weiwei news, my friend Alison Klayman’s documentary, Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, is set to premiere at the Sundance Festival in January. Check out the trailer and her appearance on the Colbert Report. It is very timely and should be a great film.

                  Ai Weiwei poses for a portrait in his studio compound.

                  Ai Weiwei poses for a portrait with one of his cats in his studio compound.Ai Weiwei poses for a portrait in his studio compound.Ai Weiwei poses for a portrait in his studio compound.

                  Ai Weiwei poses for a portrait in his studio compound.Ai Weiwei poses for a portrait in his studio compound.Ai Weiwei poses for a portrait in his studio compound.

                  Ai Weiwei poses for Foreign Policy's Top 100 Global Thinkers



                    Vice in Beijing: The Creators Project Returns to UCCA

                    Tatsuo Miyajima was showing alongside The Creators Project Beijing event at UCCA.

                    The Creators Project is one of the best live multimedia events to come to Beijing. Curated by Vice through an unlikely Intel partnership, this year’s second installment took over UCCA with massive art installations along with an evening of performances from an impressive roster of bands and solo acts. The Creators Project really provides an important platform for international interchange between artists, designers and musicians. Their dedication to the Beijing scene is also growing every year and helped arrange New Pants’ appearance at Coachella and also flew out Queen Sea Big Shark for the Creators Project event in New York City. The video below features installation pieces by Mick Rock and Barney Clay, Joao Vasco Paiva, United Visual Artists and Tatsuo Miyajima. I am already looking forward to next year.

                    Mick Rock and Barney Clay collaborate on a new David Bowie video for The Creators Project Beijing event.Tatsuo Miyajima was showing alongside The Creators Project Beijing event at UCCA.Fuhan, lead singer of Queen Sing Big Shark, strikes a pose in the United Visual Artists installation during The Creators Projects Beijing event.

                    Supermarket opens up in 798 for The Creators Project Beijing event.Yang Haisong of P.K. 14 works up a sweat at the Creators Project Beijing event.Zhang Shouwang performs a solo set at The Creators Project Beijing event.

                    The Creators Project takes over 798 in Beijing, China.





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