From rubble, art and new life spring

By Deng Zhangyu ( China Daily ) Updated: 2017-11-04 11:00:09
From rubble, art and new life spring

Artists from the Central Academy of Fine Arts invite residents living in a shantytown to write down their wishes (left) and engrave them on bricks from dismantled homes. [Photo provided to China Daily]

She and her team set up an open sitting room beside the Yuan River against a ruined house, complete with discarded furniture in which they planted audio devices. They then invited locals to the sitting room and chatted away as the background sounds added an air of everyday life to the proceedings.

"They needed some coaxing to come here, but now people are making frequent visits and say how much they love the place."

Xu, whose house is one of those that has already bitten the dust, says she could never have imagined that she would miss what used to go on every day in this place, and through the artists is being given the chance to satisfy her nostalgic longings.

Like many of her neighbors who have chosen to stay, Xu rents an apartment nearby, waiting eagerly to see her new home.

The sound installation with photos is now on display in the newly built art center, the first building to set up in the shantytown.

Zhao says it is rare for artists to take part in pulling down the old and raising up the new, and she plans to return to Changde to do more artworks next month.

"When people have everything they want materially they naturally yearn for spiritual things," says Zhao of locals choosing to stay instead of moving to the supposedly better section of town on the other side of the river.

All together, more than 2,500 buildings and houses will be removed in the shantytown, involving 8,612 families, the local government says. The project is expected to take six to eight years to complete.

Zhao says she arrived in Changde in March, just after demolition had begun. Many people were on edge about what was happening around them and apprehensive about the future, she says. Most of the first group of families whose houses were demolished chose to move to other areas. But once the art project was finished and the show in the art center had opened, more and more decided to stay, keen not to let their memories, now embodied in art, simply die.

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