Haussmann in the Tropics


Time: May 11, 2017 evening

Location: M Art Center, 1 floor, No. 2 Building, M50, Shanghai



Li Shengzhao: You are welcome to come here today to listen to the exhibition of three artists: Wu Ding, Bai Qingwen, Tan Lijie's work sharing meeting. The three are now graduate students in experimental imaging at The China Academy of Art and students of the famous artist Yang Fudong. In this exhibition, Bai Qingwen and Tan Lijie's works are the first attempt, and they have been writing for about one year. So it's the first live show for everyone. This is Tan Lijie, sharing her creative experiences with everyone.


Tan Lijie: This short film is about the living conditions of people in different walks of life in China's first tier cities. It is about Shenzhen, as well as for the whole of China, or for the third world fast developing countries and cities.


The area I photographed was called "the most secluded mansion in the mountains", "Xanadu" and "castle built on the mountain"". Because of these titles, I had very high expectations and various imaginations before I went to this place for the first time. The environment is great here, surrounded by mountains, the sea, private golf courses, largetheme parks, hot springs, vacation villages, super low density villas, and so on. But when I lived in it for a while, I found something different. For example, in this civilized, modern community, the occupancy rate is only about 10%. Take one of them alone. There are 126 homes. However, the long-term living may be only about three or four households, the resident population is very small, this is one of the better areas. 80% of the houses are vacant and deserted. Once I passed here, the taxi driver joked with me, "there are more security guards in this area than tenants.” All the vacant houses, by plants or years of erosion of rain water, bring a very peculiar landscape. I was shocked by the scene and doubted my own judgment. Until one of the online sharing sessions of a book, I read a book called "Planet of Slums."


McDavis, the author of the book, believes that the future of the earth will turn into a slum filled planet. Because the rich have the right to go to a better place: a suburb or a far dwelling. They can choose a better living environment. Poor people have no choice but live in the slums of the center of the city. With the influx of migrant workers and the poor, slums have expanded in the metropolis. The data in the book show that there may be many slums in the big cities in the future.


Most of the books are about poor people, but one chapter is called “Haussmann in the Tropics." It contrasts the rich with the poor. For example, the rich in the city have greater right to buy, use, or waste the land, while the poor do not. The elite of the third world like to pursue some simulation life. The simulation of life is like a movie, isolated from the everyday landscape.


I live on the top of the hill with French and Chinese architecture, a Swiss town, like a film that breaks away from the boundaries and boundaries of everyday landscapes. It gave me a clear clue to my strange and contradictory ideas from this book. These are not personal sensitivities. They are a great thing to see in our entire urban development.


The book prompted me to think more carefully. When I first lived in this place, I felt distant and unreal. I moved from an ordinary city center house and felt like I had been living in a five star hotel. It was beautiful, but I didn't feel at home. Including when living in the District, the whole district around down, will not encounter a person. All the vacant villas are right in front of you, sliding over and over.


But when I lived here for a long time, I changed my attitude, not just criticism. Although there is no human habitation, the building is decadent. But here, far from the city's noisy natural landscape and environment, not lively, is another feeling. It is close to nature. Every night, the  outside is dark, and you naturally want to sleep and get up early in the morning. So it's not absolute criticism. My attitude here has become somewhat ambiguous, inclusive and complex.


Although the whole neighborhood feels like this, I need a representative, one of the most compelling things to start the story. Suddenly, on the way I found a house like this, it had a special story. Shenzhen's economy is growing so fast that some people may soon accumulate large amounts of wealth in a short period of time. House owners are in a similar situation. He suddenly made a lot of money and bought a lot of houses in the neighborhood. He believes in Buddhism and gives his house to the Lama who believes in it. He lived in the roof of the house also has a beautiful temple, the temple often appear in my movies. In 2015, he suddenly went bankrupt because of stocks or economic levers. One night, the truck removed everything from the family, including his Lama who had disappeared overnight. The inside of the house is very large, and the small banyan trees and camellias growing out of the garden are overgrown with worms for a long time. I feel so sorry. Therefore, the house will be a clue to the different state of the community.


I'm also thinking about the relationship between the abandoned mansion and the slum. The slum house is broken, the ruins of mansion is canbai bear, but the causes are different, which makes me feel interesting. The beginning of the film will show the landscape of the village in Shenzhen.


Now the film's expression is clear. For example, a large number of scarce mansions are idled, and the building itself does not decay, but weeds become the densest and active organisms in the luxury community. Living in the city, struggling people are inextricably linked with the rich who have never bought a house. The story is a girl named Esta, who went to her uncle's house. She inadvertently entered the deserted villa three times, and each time she entered, she would experience something different.


Ester's three different experiences of entering the ruins involve reality and fiction. Must fiction be fake? Doesn't it exist? What does "reality" mean? I would spend a lot of time exploring the relationship between truth and fiction, through the three experiences of the protagonist who entered the ruins.


Now I talk about the movie style and tone. The choice of topics is close to reality and closely related to people's lives. The style of the film I want beautiful, mysterious and charming and colorful feeling. It's kind of like Alice in Wonderland or  Spirited Away. The image uses a lot of collage and reality photography. The collage creation like in the painting, the picture narrative and linear narrative is simultaneous. The film also uses a variety of media. I didn't major in photography but integrated art, so I created it in various materials. There are documentaries, collages, feature films, and animations in the film.


The film was also a metaphor and symbol at the beginning, about general Osman. He had a dream before the battle of Turkey. He dreamed of two people, a big tree growing out of his chest, and the other a moon in his bosom. Leaves into a sword stood on the point of the castle. I do it in the form of freeze animation.


Li ShengZhao: Tan Lijie's work calls me Claude Levi-Strauss's Tristes Tropiques. He is a tropical scientist. Lijie said that when she first created images, she wanted to combine the reality of this image with anthropology and current thinking. What she wants to show is a moment of suspension. As Strauss once said, when the ancient people are thinking, they will be good at using the way of thinking of a badly mutilated. This is the difference between them and modern people. They combine animals, plants, dreams, symbols, and think together. By contrast, modern people tend to lean towards a metaphysical and physical thinking. There is no distinction between the two systems. When I see Lijie's film, I think of the situation.


Questioner 1: Are the films dubbed in Cantonese?


Tan Lijie: Part of the dubbing is Mandarin, and part of it is cantonese. At that time, considering Shenzhen, it was actually a city of immigrants. Shenzhen is in Guangdong, but there are a large number of outsiders. Some young people in Shenzhen may speak both Cantonese and mandarin. But there are some older people who may not speak cantonese. So I would like to make the identity of the people more sense of Shenzhen through language. On different occasions, the people of Shenzhen speak different languages. For example, the conversation between young couples is in cantonese. But if they are with elders, and people from other places, they use mandarin.


Questioner2: How long did it take you to make the film?


Tan Lijie: It takes about a year to prepare. The shooting time is one month and the post production is half a year.



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