Eventhough this work on Bodies and Buildings is focused on Dublin, I can’t help but relate the way that Ireland’s new wealth has been expressed in construction to the way China’s renewed power is similarly expressed. The Olympics in Beijing has been an excuse for huge building projects but Shanghai too is a city rushing to embrace its future with buildings that glitter, flicker and shine into the sky.
Of course this construction depends on destruction: the old hutong are demolished to make way for new high rise apartments. Do our bodies remember the old paths? What must they forget to negotiate the new way? Pete, my partner, and I found this part of Shanghai near the railway station in the south of the city when we were looking for the Botanical Gardens. As you’ll see there’s not much botanical about the demolished buildings. I felt a little strange dancing in what remained of people’s homes but the few locals who came up to check out what I was up to were tolerant of my strange activity, though given my limited Mandarin I’m not sure I communicated what that activity was.
I was in Shanghai in April to spend some time with artists from the Zu He Niao collective but I also did some work on my own – in my hotel room in the example below just after I’d spent a day being ill and expelling every single morsel of Chinese food I’d eaten the previous few days. Clearly my body wasn’t entirely at ease with the city. But it did give me a strong sense of what it might be like to feel fragile in the metropolis.