The latest in a series of exhibitions presented by WhyWhyArt and curated by Zane Mellupe-Goutard that explore urban renewal, erutuF is the beginning of a site-specific project to enable local interaction in the midst of this process in Nanjing’s Pukou district. As the community and individual together wade through the process of renewal, the broader concerns will be given a platform through the individual’s creative processes through collaboration, exhibition, and intervention.
In erutuF, WhyWhyArt opens a new Art Space within an urban development project in Nanjing’s Pukou district. By imposing artistic and cultural feedback into the renewal process, the space takes a concrete step to finding contribution where before it was not seeded. The northwester Pukou district of Nanjing sits separate from the main city. It is geographically secluded by the Yangtze and Chu Rivers. With only 480 thousands residents in a 902 square kilometer area, the historically rich district is remarkably less dense than the majority of the cityscapes along the east coast of China. As the “Entrance to Nanjing” and the general intersection between the northern and southern sections of the city, Nanjing has long given passage to processes of development that will soon disrupt its own identity. By exploring the issues that surround the space itself, and its presence in the Pukou district, erutuF seeks to allow depressurization for Nanjing to develop as a major modern and cultural brand destination.
Through mixed media installation artworks, they express and question the mechanics of the individual’s development, the local communities self-maintenance, and the handholding in those endeavors. Each will express views on urban renewal and locality and bring perspectives honed inside China’s main cities, into the country, and internationally. The project is the latest in a series which has used microcosms of urban renewal to scale down a ever-present modern process.
In the three preceding exhibitions in this socio-experimental endeavor, the Yongkang Lu Art Project and the Community Hospital and Babel Me exhibitions each took separate microscopes to fine aspects of this multi-armed, weapon-wielding, tongue-lolling process in a series of thematic intervention and remediation. erutuF’s focus on the individual and the community will triage the symptomatic thinking and relationship-forming processes tied to regeneration’s unyielding building, destruction, and rebuilding.
The first project in this series, Yongkang Lu Art Street, was an effort to encourage an art street that instead provided a case study of the urban renewal process itself and its cyclical ends. The ever-iconic street in Shanghai’s French Concession was first the neighborhood wet market. When officials cracked down in the interest of the residents, who were frequently pestered by the early hours of seafood salesmen, it became occupied by artists. In Shanghai’s cosmopolitan self-consumption the street quickly became fashionable. Cafés and bars moved, commercialization drove up rents, artists left, and residents again became pestered by all the wrong noises at all the wrong hours - the only difference was it was now too late rather than to early. The cycle of gentrification fulfilled itself and changed little else.
The next project in the series, the Community Hospital exhibition in Shanghai’s Changning district, co-opted the process of regeneration for the community’s social needs. By repurposing an old, defunct public hospital into a vibrant and receptive art space, the exhibition took the thematic mold of health care in its public and private iterations. Art is cathartic at a personal level but, as Community Hospital showed, can also be socially holistic in the healing process of a community. Artists presented ailments which, through community outreach, could find popular remediation. The success of Community Hospital rooted in the network of the local arts scene, a lesson that erutuF will take to the beginning of the urban renewal process.
The most recent exhibition in the series, “Babel Me,” showed at the Shanghai Museum of Glass and took a scalped focus on the issues of urban renewal as they interact in Shaghai’s northern Baoshan distinct, and what explanation this offers for Shanghai and other expanding cities. In parallel realization with an major international conference for architects and urban developers on the wiped-down topic of Urban Development, Babel Me involved 20 different local and international artists to undress the topics under attention by the developers in attendance. This renegade system offered a preliminary model for how culture may wield say-so in the planning and thinking processes of development.
erutuF provides the grounds for intervention and remediation in real time. This initial exhibition opens the grounds for individual experience to take the vanguard of a community’s concern through collaborative experimental processing. Incorporating the insights grown through the previous urban renewal exhibitions presented by Zane Mellupe-Goutard, erutuF is perspective enacted.