Exhibition Theme

Exhibition Theme
2017.04.10

The theme of the 7th UABB in 2017 is "Cities, Grow in Difference".

Today, we are living in a world confronting instability and uncertainty, with unbalanced economic development, cultural conflict, divided views, and contradictions. Meanwhile, globalism, consumerism, and media hegemony are overturning the existing world order, economic landscape, and people’s lifestyles, constantly reformatting people’s ways of thinking and doing. Mobilized by power and capital, China’s city making has gone through a rapid development for over 30 years, and the city tends to be homogeneous and generic. In recent years, urban renewal, in a bid to improve quality of life, has further swept away time-honored historical areas and a hybrid urban life, which have been replaced by a globalized and commercialized standard configuration.

2017.04.10

Faced with this reality, we call for an urban concept of “coexistence”.

We should consciously resist the promise of an identical and idealistic future, as a city itself is a highly complex eco-system. Today’s city should be a manifestation of a balanced coexistence of different value systems. It should be a civilized community with maximum heterogeneity and diversity in which people co-live in one world sharing a variety of dreams. A city should be all-embracing, and seek harmony yet not uniformity. Its survival and prosperity lie exactly in being more inclusive and tolerant toward the cultural “difference”, “alternativeness” and “otherness”.

“Cities, Grow in Difference” is fundamentally the recognition and inclusion of different origins, status and values at social, cultural and spatial levels. It is a revolt against mainstream cultural centralism. It manifests a heterogeneous conjunctive symbiosis: Shenzhen is the conjunctive symbiosis of top-down rational planning and bottom-up spontaneous growth; the urban villages reflect conjunctive symbiosis of city and village, reality and history, order and chaos, as well as mobility and creativity. Nantou Old Town, as the main venue, is the heterogeneous symbiosis of a historical town and a contemporary urban village. In the past century, the ancient town has gradually vanished, while the village was constantly expanding. The exacerbation of urbanization in Shenzhen has resulted in an intertwined layering of the historical town embedded in the urban village, which is again encircled by the city. As the main exhibition venue, Nantou Old Town displays in a full spectrum a complete set of spatial evidence of the urban village transformation in recent history. It fully embraces its Chinese origin and Western influence, as well as the hybrid coexistence of the past and the present. As a laboratory of urban interventions, UABB 2017 will be organically woven into the regeneration of Nantou historical town to achieve a highly coherent, tailored and seamless result.

“Cities, Grow in Difference” carries the creative energy and passion of the future generation. Now these creative young people wandering on the street can hardly find a sense of belonging, as the free and open spaces in which they live and grow are being squeezed and eliminated by normalized, institutionalized and standardized urban spaces. Places such as CBD, university town, science city, technology park and even the so-called creative park also become identical, conventional and unimaginative. Free minds, vigorous and creative souls should have their inhabitation in the city; however, the current conventional urban typology is no longer able to accommodate any far-reaching vitality of true innovation. Thus, creativity and imagination need to find a new habitat in the city.

Just as the balance of nature, in which the ecological system exists in a dynamic equilibrium, “Cities, Grow in Difference” highlights the balance of the urban ecosystem. On one hand, the balance of contradiction and hybridity in the city shouldn’t be broken arbitrarily. On the other hand, respecting otherness is a challenge to test the inclusiveness of a city. Opposing purity and advocating hybridity is an amendment to the orthodox modern aesthetics and monotonous “progressive” view of history.

“Cities, Grow in Difference” emphasizes multiple identities and perspectives, and shows the acknowledgement of a diverse society as well as the time dimension, the spatial variety and uncertainty. It is like the pun “The Jungle of Growth”, which emphasizes differences, hybridity and resistance. The exhibitions will be spread all over the lanes and alleys, parks and squares, residences and plants in Nantou Old Town. Sometimes, they are just a subtle urban intervention, which infiltrate into our daily life and encourage unexpected encounters and discoveries. A glimpse during a walk, a moment, or an encounter may bring about profound understanding. It is in this way the exhibition responds to what George Brecht once said, “The most important things are the insignificant ones happening in the street”.