The Shanghai 1mile2 was hosted by Shanghai eARTS and investigated the area around the South Shanghai Train Station in Xuhui Province. Local sound artist Yin Yi ran weekly workshops over a period of 3-months, with local participants who live or study within the defined area, using sound to map and understand the area’s ecology, cultural and aesthetic diversity. The workshops began in October, with context setting lectures and focused on sound field work lead by Yin Yi, culminating in an exhibition.
Richard Layzell arrived in Shanghai on 29 October. His immediate reaction was that it “feels like an incredible privilege to be given a defined area like this to explore in a city like this, and I can completely understand the motivation for this project.”
Richard’s work in the square mile and with the participants will be more informal but complementary to the work on Yin Yi. In addition to participating in the weekly formal workshops, Richard will work with a smaller group to interrogate and interact with the square mile separately.
Here is his initial appraisal of what he has discovered:
I estimate there are 100,000 people living in my square mile. Xuhui Province, which this is a part of, has a population of 900,000. The total population of the city is 17 million and growing. Then there are the people in transit, those just arriving at Shanghai South Bus Station or Shanghai South Railway Station, several thousand a day, and the people working here, including the tricycle trailers laden with materials to recycle for cash, and the taxi drivers. The first time arrivals from the South are easy to spot with their wide eyes and large plastic containers. Like in every place, there are locals waiting opposite the bus station to sell them accommodation or rides on the back of scooters. One day I’m planning to stand and count the people passing by. So the question for the socially engaged artist is how to work with a community of this size, how to engage with them, how to reflect their culture and their ecology? In this square mile I’ve so far found: my partner organisation Shanghai E Arts, The Botanic Gardens, Kangjan Park, a university, several schools, six rivers, the place where the taxi drivers hang out, The Humin Elevated Road, some major roads: Longcao Road, Shilong Road, Laohumin Road and Longwu Road, a thriving indoor market, an outdoor market, a grass roots recycling zone (cash in hand), factories, businesses, a disused hotel, a centre for people’s culture, two Metro stations (Lines 1 and 3), Shanghai South Long Distance Bus Station, Shanghai South Railway Station, two shopping malls, supermarkets, tea houses, restaurants, hundreds of shops and bike/scooter repair sheds, and countless neighbourhoods.
Image: With the universal gesture of phone holding and the western model towering. Copyright Richard Layzell.