YUAN LI, A Village Trapped Within A City
People’s Architecture and MediaNoche present SAN YUAN LI, a village trapped within the city of Guangzhou. The video will be projected on the handball court wall in White Park, framed by the urban landscape of Spanish Harlem, a district trapped in its own storm of social and economic change. Please come Wednesday, July 19, at 8:30PM. There will be a Q&A with the directors Ou Ning and Cao Fei who will be arriving from Beijing this week. Architect Olympia Kazi will moderate. SAN YUAN LI, 44 minutes, directed by Ou Ning and Cao Fei.
China is a country with one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Adding to the population shift, from country to city, are startling urban developments and re-distributions of wealth that boggle the imagination by the sheer magnitude and speed of change. At the blink of an historical eye, great rivers are dammed for power, farmlands choked into highways, and trees dwarfed by gargantuan skyscrapers.
Armed with videocameras, twelve artists respond to this tsunami of economic transformation by recording the unchecked growth of Guangzhou and the besieged village of San Yuan Li whose people valiantly resisted the British attempt to turn them into junkies (opium eaters) during the Opium Wars of the 19th Century.
In the new millennium, progress threatens to vanquish the people of San Yuan Li. Modernization and expansion have been so rapid that the village is trapped within the sprawl of neighboring Guangzhou. Walled in by surrounding office towers and outnumbered by their yuppy neighbors, the villagers try to conduct their lives as usual.
Thriving on subsistence farming and traditional crafts, the villagers move to a different rhythm and perhaps heart rate. They creatively reinvent customary forms of farming, tending rice paddies on what are now empty city lots, growing chickens in coops on terraces, and cultivating fruits and vegetables on rooftops in makeshift terrariums.
Ou Ning and Cao Fei, the directors of SAN YUAN LI, worked with a team of twelve artists documenting the architecture and life in both San Yuan Li and Guangzhou. In a highly stylized, and impressionistic Koyaanisqatsi-type video, the paradox of economic growth and marginalization that is so much a part of China today is revealed.
The outdoor screening of San Yuan Li in Spanish Harlem reframes the problems confronting the Chinese village within the context of this community’s struggle against gentrification. San Yuan Li and Spanish Harlem may be on opposite sides of the planet but they are both bearing the brunt of a brutish capital.
Ou Ning and Cao Fei
Olympia Kazi (moderator) is an architect and former junior curator at the Triennale di Milano. She is a frequent contributor to New York Architect’s Newspaper and a fellow of Architecture and Urban Studies at the Whitney Museum’s Independent Study Program for 2006-2007.
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