The V&A in China – ‘Values of Design‘
Welcome to Shenzhen – 歡迎來到深圳!
The Pearl River Delta is China’s most dynamic, open and innovative region with Shenzhen leading the charge. VIVISXN swung by the city’s Culture and Arts Center in Shekou to check out the V&A’s ‘Values of Design’ exhibit. It was epic!
Not long ago Shenzhen was a redneck-infested farm field with a gaggle of Gwóngdūng wá-prattling bumpkins trawling for crawfish and toiling for pig’s tongue. A few decades on and riding the American-led wave of globalization it has become China’s most dynamic concrete jungle and worldly outpost — a metropolis teeming with techno-oriented trailblazers and artistically-inclined trend makers who are innovating up a storm. Rem Koolhaas, a badass Dutch architect with an indisputable Midas Touch and an indelible presence in the Middle Kingdom, called Shenzhen “the ultimate generic and organic city” — a place without legacy that can spontaneously adapt, mutate and evolve into a hyper-inventive global village.
Shenzhen is arguably emerging as a world-class cluster for innovation and cosmopolitan design. A true melting pot city of chinese migrants, grifters and global nomads alike, it has rapidly moved from sweatshops to advanced manufacturing, robotics, genomics and art/culture (subject to debate, of course). It is home to ZTE, Huawei and Tencent, three of China’s most well-known, albeit frighteningly Orwellian, multinational pirates (President Trump basically zapped ZTE last month sending it into a financial death spiral). There’s also FfiXXed Studios, an avant-garde fashion house (and one of our favorite China-based fashion brands helmed by Kain Picken and Fiona Lau) situated smack-dab at the base of Shenzhen’s Wutong Mountain. And don’t forget about the countless creatives, art entrepreneurs and risk-takers like Hax Accelerator, the MOCAPE, drone devil DJI, and visionary designer ALIAS, to name a few, who have all converged on the Pearl River Delta in hot pursuit of fantasy, froth and fortune. Even Apple, the hegemon of American tech, is building a research and development center in the megacity and Tesla, the much hyped, ailing (soon to go bust!) electric-car company, is setting up shop there.
Anyway, Shenzhen is all neo-traditional temples, pomo neon-lit skyscrapers, sun-drenched paddy fields, nervy nocturnal hookers and some fucking cool art and architecture. Drawing on themes of artistic identity, commodity fetishism, and rapid cultural transformation, the venerable V&A Gallery has set up a niche space at Fumihiko Maki’s futuristic-megalithic museum in Shekou — Shenzhen’s surreal and seedy southernmost tip (a.k.a Sea World ‘Snake Mouth’). With over 250 objects from its permanent collection on display, the exhibit offers a unique opp to investigate the historical and geographical diversity of its art/commodity portfolio, while exploring critical issues about industrial design and original equipment manufacturing (OEM). Several made-in-Shenzhen objects have been incorporated (like Game Boy and LEGO figurines, old school NIKE kicks, those daffy baubles you had as a kid and vintage injection molten material) and sit side-by-side with other objects from the collection, creating cool socio-cultural-economic linkages between Shenzhen and the rest of the world. Check it…
The whole project is underwritten by China Merchants Group, a government-backed investment vehicle trying desperately to learn from the West by co-opting foreign technology and art and encouraging new commercial ventures, including the makeover of Shekou’s bawdy ‘Badlands.’ The banking-to-shipping-to-infrastructure conglomerate — an obvious ‘soft power’ instrument and ‘cultural propagator’ for the PRC’s big shots, is one of China’s heftiest state-owned enterprises, with a whopping $1.1 trillion in assets. It is now splurging via a new VC fund on projects from art and cyber security to fashion and fintech. Fittingly, its latest endeavor involves looking westward for new art exploits and flashy museum projects. The West’s uppity art crowd is kind of (naively) coddling the world’s biggest, baddest authoritarian dragon. Soft power, it seems, is subtly cultivated.
Images via V&A Shenzhen
A special thanks to Azinta Plantenga
VIVISXN MEDIA – Art + Fashion + Tech + Music + Pop Culture + 深度学习 + AI + Machine Learning + 音乐时尚 + 艺术 + 高科技 + 流行文化 + 大众文化 + 前卫艺术 + V&A Shenzhen + Fumihiko Maki + Azinta Plantenga + Brendan Cormier + China Merchants Group + Cool Shit in Shenzhen, China + Shekou + NanShan