People in Shanghai alleys are isolated from the modern city. In the past, the buildings were more for wealthy families. After the Culture Revolution, outsiders gathered together with local residents and gradually the buildings became slums. Although there are many changes, the humanity part is eternal for Shikumen. They smile. They cry. They chase. They hope. They despair.
Chairs can represent the personalities of alleys and people. Gradually, chairs become an icon of civilization and memory of the owner. Even if the residents are forcibly moved out, the chairs are still there to take the place of the existence their souls.
In China, people usually criticize generations after the 1980s or 1990s and even 2000s. These young generations are more open-minded than the old generations but they have to accept numerous changes in the big era. One aspect is the appearance. Some posters in Shanghai alleys show the popularity of Korean plastic surgery among young people. Another aspect is the pressure for the young generations. Due to the one-child policy and the fast speed of economic improvement, these generations have to not only make a living when they are in society but also raise their parents. Housing price in Shanghai is even higher than the price in New York City. The future of these generations is questioned.
There is no Asian face on models in Chinese clothes stores. Especially in the city of Shanghai, more westernized elements are presented as mainstream culture. The origin can be traced back to modern Shanghainese culture during the period of Republic of China (1912-1949). Lu Xun, a leading figure of modern Chinese literature, published a prose in 1934 titled Have Chinese Lost Their Self-Confidence? The problem is still existing nowadays.
Animals in Shikume alleys have their emotions and attitudes towards life. It’s precious to see the harmony between human beings and animals. Especially in ruins of Shikumen, they act like humans to express the loneliness and emptiness.
Shanghai alley culture has the intimate emotion from its skin. Although demolition takes places everywhere in Shanghai, the patience and tenderness are still in every corner. Pureness becomes tolerance against the violence.
“…all photographs are self-portraits.” – Minor White.
Geometrical Beauty 幾何之美
Installation art is pretty common among Western contemporary art. The photographer here is criticizing the meaning of them and the waste of materials by documenting the original geometry in Shikumen alleys.
As Chinese writer Wang Anyi's novel The Song of Everlasting Sorrow describes,the lichen is Shanghai’s special tenderness. In the 21st century, the lichen and abstract patterns are found in alleys next to the demolition place. They represent the faces of the former residents, their memories, and the changing seasons. These paintings were all made by nature and without any artificial effects, which can be traced back to the spirit of Taoism in the 4th century BC.
Once, Zhuang Zhou dreamed he was a butterfly, a butterfly flitting and fluttering about, happy with himself and doing as he pleased. He didn't know that he was Zhuang Zhou. Suddenly he woke up and there he was, solid and unmistakable Zhuang Zhou. But he didn't know if he was Zhuang Zhou who had dreamt he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming that he was Zhuang Zhou. Between Zhuang Zhou and the butterfly there must be some distinction! This is called the Transformation of Things.
Religion's essence is based on magic culture. People made the sacrifice for nature by ritual. Gradually, the habits become religions. In some forgotten places in Shanghai, there are still magic-culture events happening. However, the magic of reality is heavier than the magic of spirit. The changes in Shanghai is like a magic entertainment show. During one year or even one month, there will be one demolition or one new building construction on the street. Under this heavy pressure of reality, God is still trying to protect the essence of Shanghainese culture.
Shanghai Songze Ruins Museum was built in 2011. They have the collection of the oldest skull in Shanghai which was nearly 6000 years old found in 2004. It’s meaningful to see the ancestors’ life and how they trusted the world.