“Dim and mysterious is London’s Chinatown-and in Limehouse Causeway one gets the tang of betel-nut,of bhang, and of-opium.”
I am really lucky that we had this post code project. Apparently, I learnt a lot from this. And it inspired me a lot.
If not for this, I will probably never create ‘UAtown’ .
However, Ukrainian diaspora hasn’t been a subject of my research from the beginning. I was interested to work on a ‘banana’ issue-self-identification of people who were born immigrants and how they are perceived my those who were raised in a Homeland. Chinese ‘bananas’ (yellow outside and white inside) is a bright maple of such discrimination.
I was thinking about creating am animation video with live background of Chinatown and Soho in collaboration with some of my classmates. I created a storyboard, shooter a background video and edited that. However, it turned out that other members of the team wasn’t as into this project as I was. So, I failed.
(Charlie’s drawings. There were supposed to be two main heroines-immigrants: one Chinese girl Ling who meets Ukrainian ,Zlata .)
But, it is okay. One day I will make it real!
So, before this project I was studying this ‘banana’ phenomenon. especially, it was extremely useful interesting to talk with my friends of Chinese descent: a boy from Canada , Jimmy, and a girl from Australia, Olivia. We were eating Chinese food together and chatting almost every evening.
After spending almost a month studying Chinatown and Chinese community, I ended up with one question : Why is it Chinese diaspora who has their cultural centre in London but not Ukrainian ?
I mean, I has nothing against Chinatown and I understand that Chinese community is much more numerous than any other. But still! There are dozens of Chinatowns all over the world and just several Ukrainian ‘towns’ ( mostly in Canada).
So, I decided to create my own prototype of ‘Uatown’ which was based on social survey of Ukrainians. I started working on this idea in my zine. That was a very exciting process, as I was comparing two completely different cultures.
After I finished with that I felt that it wasn’t enough, I had to go on with this idea! I decided to create editorial. The main problem was that I had no idea how to create it digitally! I had never used Photoshop or Indesign before, so I was freaked out because of that.
I was borrowing a computer from library to work in Photoshop several times during weeks and am proud to say that I am aware how to use it now.
Moreover, I needed pictures for my magazine. So , I took a camera from LCC kit room and went for photo-hunting in the city rather than working in the studio, as I had been spending all my time there while working on a previous project.
And, u know, what?! It is so much more difficult to take pictures with a camera rather than use a phone!!! I was taking several photos of one image to have a perfect one in the end.
I am proud of my work. And really hope that in the future this idea will transform from a university project into reality!
“The contemporary art museum is often compared to a secular cathedral, where agnostics come to engage in a pale mimicry of worship. The artists Jake Chapman, a ferocious critic of Tate Modern, expressed the complaint that its architecture is ‘concussive’: ‘You feel very small in the face of the magnitude of this cathedral. It sends messages for miles: this is important, this is a sacred place, everything here is sacred. Things that are sacred aren’t questioned and that’s the problem.’’ (Frances Morris, 2010) Maybe it is true and all installations and works there are icons of some kind. Nevertheless, if not to focus on how big the building of the museum is and go into comparatively small rooms within the gallery ,you won’t feel as being pressed by the complexity of understanding contemporary art in its intimidating entirity. If you head to the highest levels of Tate to several small quite chambers, you will see the greatest sample of simplicity and heaviness in the art at the same time.
The exhibition of Jenny Holzer won’t perplex you with its madness and extravagant effects. The artist uses the most basic tool – words. You just have to read short notes on the walls or posters or sentences that are projected on various objects… Allow yourself to take the look behind these characters. Some of these phrases might seem ridiculous or they can also contradict one another, but that is the best part, as long as you start to interpret those in your own way. ‘What are words? Words are how what you think inside comes out and how to remember what you might forget about.’ (Ann & Paul Rand, 1957)
A figure 1, Jane Holzer
‘Holzer’s writings give voice to anonymous, suffering souls, perhaps identifiable as “characters” that are disembodied and drifting. Her design inserts the voice in our heads. Sometimes it happens by a normal process of reading, albeit in abnormal formats: poems, engraved on marble benches, for example. More often-and masterfully-she uses technologies of advertising and public announcement: spectacular language, which is seen and absorbed rather than read.’ However, her works won’t give you the impression of being a propaganda, because it is not actually. Those displays are ‘mind bombes’ that just slip into your head and won’t let you forget about them. The author doesn’t provide you with a ready-made idea, she just shows you direction, but it is you who has to find your own way.
A figure 2, Jane Holzer
A figure 3, Jane Holzer
A figure 4, Jane Holzer
A figure 5, Jane Holzer
A figure 6, Jane Holzer
If to think about it deeply, one may say that Holzer is not an artist as she doesn’t paint on canvases or doesn’t create sculpture or whatever that involves years of practice and lots of knowledge. She just uses words, that we also use in our everyday lives . But yet it is she ,not us who can make a real ART out of it. It is understandable for each of us, in some way it is clear. Personally for me, it is perfect.
When you create a painting it always will stay abstract, because every person will choose different details to pay his/her attention to, so everyone will feel it differently. When you use words, you carry your message directly. There are no doubts that the impressions and feelings about it will vary as well as making people thinks about different meanings. This may lead to diverse conclusions, but anyway, those are words, and you can feel what an author wanted you to think about. You can hear the voice in your head, read someone’s thoughts. And it will happen to you so naturally and easily. Because what can be more instinctive than reading?
Frances Morris “Tate Modern. The Handbook.” Edited by Frances Morris. With essays by Michael Craig-Martin, Andrew Marr and Sheena Wagstaff. Tate Publishing, 2010
Ann & Paul Roland, “Sparkle and Spin. A book about words.” Jacket illustrations, 1957.
Jenny Holzer “Jenny Holzer. Xenon.” Ink, third edition.
Stop for a moment. Look around! What do you see? I can bet that now, while reading this text, you are sitting in the comfortable chair in your office, drinking coffee in Starbucks or waiting in the queue in a shopping mall… To cut the long story short – you are in the building, but not surrounded by pure nature somewhere deep in the forest or wherever else. Nowadays people spend most of their lives inside their modern new-tech ‘caves’. “Modern architecture was evolved less than a century ago to reconcile an idealized vision of society with the forces of the Industrial revolution. While it made drastic breaks with the past it also allowed the basic principles of architecture to be rethought in new ways.” ( Curtis ,1999) Have you ever thought how those changes may influence your happiness? What is the difference in the quality of people’s lives who reside in high-rise blocks and semi-detached houses, in the city and in suburban area? Do you know that housing may be unsafe for your health? Giving answers for these and lots of other questions is the aim of the ‘Living with building’ exhibition. Maybe you will find them, maybe not, but what is more likely and important – you will be offered a material to think over and that will raise questions of your own.
The exhibition is divided into two parts and situated, respectively, on several floors. Let’s look at the first part, initially. Among all aspects of the exhibition there are definitely some issues in what authors were interested the most- switching from architecture of the past to future, buildings impact on men’s health and usage of architectural methods and knowledge in medicine therapy. Lots of photos, drawings, 3D models and media sources are provided. You have a chance to see 19th century slum housing and alternatives that were offered instead of them, that, as for me, are the same as social building reforms in SSSR brought by Khrushchev but with another shape that depends on design culture and the amount of space. Many information is dedicated to models that promote fresh ideas about hospital and ‘hygienic’ flats designs that seems to be very relevant nowadays. “What we have to do in the realm of architecture is to find a method of linking rationality with the organic in such a way that the organic becomes dominant and rationality is reduced to a menial position.” ( Sigfried Giedion) You will find out a lot information about the architects and their projects dedicated to creation natural spaces that will be conductive to people’s well-being.
The second section has another subtitle ‘Global Clinic’. It was launched so as to draw society’s attention showing in what ways architecture may help in solving worldwide health issues today. The design that is presented was created as a result of coworking of Roger Stirk Harbour and Partners and engineers BuroHappold and ChapmanBDSP for independent humanitarian charity Doctors of the World. The core of the project was creating the design of a field ‘clinic’ that would be easy and flexible in transportation and reusable in construction. What they had as an outcome really amazes! Those are accurately cut pieces of plywood sheets that when connected together create a basic structure that answers needs of Doctors of the World. Also you can see projects of young designers working on simple prototypes of furniture and other objects that may be in demand.
Moreover, I highly recommend to take a handout about St Pancras area and have a walk after attending the exhibition. That would be a nice chance to think new information over on the fresh air and have a practical look on how design may affect us.
To conclude I would like to say that it is very important to be broad-minded and have critical thinking. You should know about environment that surrounds you, especially about how it is designed. Buildings have become part of us. “The structure of place ought to be described in terms of ‘landscape’ and ‘settlement’, and analyzed by means of the categories ‘space’ and ‘character’. Whereas ‘space’ denotes the three-dimensional organization of the elements which make up a place, ‘character’ denotes the general ‘atmosphere’ which is the most comprehensive property of any place.” ( Nesbitt,.1965-1995) It is quite useful to have in mind some aspects using which you can scan your building environment. This exhibition is a nice starting point. Some things will be difficult to understand or may seem weird but if you really spend some time there and try to think it all over, you will start looking at your life in a new way, regarding design not only as something aesthetically beautiful. Maybe an architect built stairs here to make you move more? Or maybe the shape of the window was chosen to let a specific amount in? You ought to be aware of it.
William J.R. Curtis (1999). Modern architecture since 1990. London. Phaidon Press Limited.
Sigfried Giedion.Space, time and architecture. The growth of a new tradition. Harvard University press Cambridge, Massachusetts, London, England.
Kate Nesbitt.Theorizing a new agenda for architecture. An anthology of architectural theory.1965-1995. New York. Princeton Architectural Press.
Today I am gonna tell u a brief version of the story that led to controversial experience and events about which I will tell u in the next blogs.
So lets start!
Once upon a time, somewhere among deep ocean waters, on the foggy land where ancient legends are still alive dancing with elfs through the night, which mysterious forests hide secrets of Celts , one girl was about to know her future…. Okay, I am just kidding >_< Well. okay, I am getting serious. As u wish..
So, where was I? Ah, right… When the letter project was done, and all of us were inspired by thinking that we gonna have free time to relax now, considering everything we had gone through, the completely expected thing happened that our exhausted minds had been trying to ignore all that time – a new brief came to our lives. Everyone felt like being stabbed in the back.
Anyway it turned out to be not that bad. The idea behind it was pretty exciting-a student has to choose a certain area in London to make his/her research about. It was an amazing opportunity to become closer with London and try to look behind its settings. The first thing that came to my mind right away was Chinatown. I had passed through it a couple of times before and it seemed to be unusual, weird and interesting.
However, as our group is basically consisted of Chinese students I felt big responsibility to do it properly and didn’t hurt their feelings anyhow. That’s why the most important role was given to primary and secondary research. I spent weeks on that before starting working on my final outcome. I learnt a lot about Chinese culture, history of the district and I wanna think that even became closer to understanding local people . Lot’s of resources were analyzed including library books, magazines, online websites, movies, songs, museum exhibitions and so on.
Actually, the story of nowadays Chinatown is not as exciting as of the oldest one. It was located in the opposite part of London-Limehouse and was a headquarter for Chinese mafia. Gambling, whorehouses, guns…such associations Londoners used to have with Chinatown. Weird, isn’t it?! Such an image even caused the appearance of Dr Fu Manchu, a character created by Sax Rohmer, who was terrorizing London . These and many other stories were the reason of discrimination of Chinese community in the 20th century.
I watched a documentary film where an old woman , who was living in Limehouse as a small girl , was being interviewed. (http://www.mix-d.org/museum/timeline/limehouses-chinatown ). She tells that actually it wasn’t such a dangerous place as pictured by a Limehouse literary sub-genre.
We can just guess whether it was all true or not, but after the World War 2, the British government transferred Chinatown into a city centre and since then it became a culinary oasis rather than a ‘kingdom’ of Chinese gangs.
But who knows? Maybe a prototype of Fu Manchu is real and still is creating devil plans of conquering the world with his army?
The task was clear- visit to your post code as often as u can, at different hours and days of the week and observe , observe, oh and have I already mentioned observe (?!) , good. So I went. Here is the first wise thought of mine as a “recognized” Chinatown expert – there is no best time to go there. U see, if u go there early in the morning the area will be full with cars and traders hurrying to get everything prepared for the day. ( Personally, I still can’t understand how much stuff, for the sake of God, they do need that full vans come to them every day!!!), in the afternoon u will have this feeling when it seems that there are people but actually most of places are still closed , so u are just wandering there waiting for something to happen and when the night comes the fun starts. All places are open now , BUT there are crowds of people. By the way, have u dreamt about taking nice pictures there? Forget it. Your photos will always be perpetuating dozens of strangers. But u can try your luck with top of the buildings and lanterns, though.
What u MUST do if going to Chinatown is to try food there. Yes, it is overpriced, but, come on, it is Chinatown, you have to eat there at least once just to feel as being somewhere in Asia. If u don’t want to spend a lot of money, yet excited by the idea of eating something in there- try ‘baize’, it is kinda Ukrainian varenyk (dumpling) and will cost u just 2.50 pounds. Moreover, it os so warm and cute and will be served by a Chinese guy… U are already getting the atmosphere, huh ?
Besides, there are a lot of bakeries where u can buy fresh warm buns and cakes. And even if u didn’t have an intention to purchase something there-the smell will make u commit this sin against your waist.
The next thing that u can do is to go into a supermarket or a local shop and look at a wide variety of Chinese stuff imported straight from Hong Kong. U also may try to have a chat with salesmen, if they won’t be too busy with customers.
Oh! I almost forgot to tell u! Bubble tea! It is a hit there. This is a very famous in Asia Taiwanese drink made of tea, small tapioca pearls, condensed milk, syrup honey. U can also regulate how many sugar u want to be added there. It tastes a little weird for those who never tried it before and are used to traditional kind of tea with herbs, water taste and beats of fruits or whatever. But it still worth giving a chance.
So, the time for my final verdict has come!
I like it. Notwithstanding that every time after coming back from there I have a feeling that I am just a potential buyer for locals there. They are so busy with trade and making money. Basically, I understand that, but at the same time this is the reason why I won’t visit it when I just need to relax.
Anyway, I insist on your going there. Give yourself a time. Go around several times, ask yourself immortal questions like whether Chinatown is a part of Soho or not. Smell. Listen. Maybe learn some Chinese words in advance and try to use them while buying ‘baozi’ from a Chinese man.
P.S: Oh, and by the way, why is it CHINAtown? There are a lot of other oriental nations presented there: Japanese, Korean. Taiwanese … So why not to call it Asia(n)town?