Tuesday, March 11, 2008
the plant house and eyeball building
Not far from Xin Tian Di, J.J. and crew (random children, photographers, cameramen, etc.) "performed" Sunday afternoon (I include photographers and cameramen as well, since they added to the excitement and chaos of the small street. I feel certain pedestrians were drawn by those documenting as much as they were by the actual performance itself.). Starting by himself, J.J. drew the old houses (circa 1920s and 30s) with chalk on the sidewalk. After warming up to the ever-growing and changing audience of those passing by, the children finally joined in, focusing on smaller details such as a window air conditioner unit and window molding.
From the beginning, I felt very intrigued by J.J.'s concept; however, once present, I was almost more interested in watching the various Shanghai passerbys collect and disperse through the duration of the piece. Some even seemed oblivious as they walked over the drawing as J.J. continued to draw. Yet, others were so enthralled that they literally stood and watched for nearly 30-45 minutes.
Other than observing the viewers, I enjoyed watching the children's interactions with each other and J.J. It really reminded me of being that age; I felt an overwhelming sense of nostalgia during both the first and second piece--probably even more through the latter, where the kids were told to draw from their imaginations. In the end, we stood facing a rainbow, high rise skyline with everything from the charming Plant House to a "China" building (the titles were written in English rather than Chinese) which stood proud with both Olympic rings and an scary eyeball perched on top. As I studied the works, I remembered drawing very similar pictures as a child, and hate that I rarely draw anymore, especially in such a creative way.
Reflecting on the piece now, I do wonder if the children were prompted at all to draw skyscrapers. Despite the current building craze, would not even one child decide to draw something much smaller in scale...a pet store, a single house, a hair salon? I must ask J.J. if any unintentional queues were given during his instructions. I also want to know if there are concrete plans for the second site's future; it seemed that some of the area had already been torn down, but people appeared to still live inside at least one home. Lastly, I'm extremely interested in hearing the children's interviews which took place afterwards.
As for negatives...I feel that the duration could have been longer. I know that one can only keep ten yr-olds occupied for so long; however, the first drawing, especially, would have developed even more if given more time, just 10-15 minutes more.