Sunday, May 24, 2009

Another thought post-Futurism lecture...

After hearing the Chinese university student’s question about for whom and for what the city’s development serves I began to think about what constitutes a city. There are many different venues for culture here: galleries, nightclubs, bars, restaurants, too name a few, but these things all seems to be western approximations of what city life is “supposed” to be like. Being a student living here from abroad, I am most often exposed to these kinds of foreign-designed activities. Most often, these activities are, as I said before, merely approximations and therefore are most often destined to be mediocre and lacking in quality. For example, many western musical acts that come to Shanghai to perform have only a small following from their home countries, but upon arrival in China they are immediately put into the spotlight and interviewed by all of major foreign media sources. It seems that China, and specifically Shanghai, is being bogged down with such tremendous expectations about its growing arts industry that it is struggling to catch up. They can do as the Futurists promote- create things in lightening speed leaving no room for the past- but who does this benefit? Who is creating these venues of culture and where are the profits going? As of right now, it seems that are the arts are so intertwined with foreign money that any form of culture that exists outside this money cannot sustain itself. If these approximations of Western culture in China are so inherent to the makeup of a city, we need to ask who is telling us so and for what reasons. From my point of view, they (at least for now) predominantly serve those who created them: foreigners working in Shanghai. The final question that comes to my mind is how can venues that exist outside of the foreign money mechanism be created and sustained?

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