Occupying Unoccupied Architectures:
On anothermountainman’s Lanwei
A) The Enlightened Photographer as a Trans-world Skateboarder
World cities are one of the chain results of economic globalization, reproduction of capitalism shapes our urban architectural landscape as high rise buildings are concrete manifestation of political status and monetary power. The supremacy of these erected constructions are counterpoised by international recessions and financial crisis experienced after the millennium; incomplete architectures are resulted and these fugitive buildings became enormous gothic graves, escorting the luminous city nights with deep dark roars.
The social phenomenon of deserted empty constructions in different parts of Asia established the basic development point of anothermountainman’s Lanwei
photo series since 2006. Contrary to architecture as a lavish symbolic economy of world cities, his photographed lan wei
buildings are instead projections of a bankrupted financial system, over urban development by irresponsible governments and dark lessons for the greedy property developers. Often label himself as a social worker (not a ‘photographer’) using lens media reflecting the turmoil in our urban and political environment, anothermountainman’s documentary and staged images are solid samples of the apocalyptic ‘End Times Photography’, which is a trendy genre within the contemporary progression of the lens medium.
Working under the umbrella of creative industry for decades, anothermountainman resists the rational specialization of the buildings, he treats his photographed emptied environment as formidable text and rejuvenates them with personal symbols: performers enacting as imagined dwellers, plantations, furniture, dancers etc. Similar with a trans-world skateboarder, the photographer in this sense occupies the unoccupied private spaces and recreates them into new territory through physical and mental intrusions. Three kinds of territories of occupation are observed:
1) The found space
2) The constructed space
3) Space of representation
For the first territory, anothermountainman mediates the spatial space of lan wei
buildings and associated environments with his body or mind and constituted it as sensuous geography, which is a personal body-centric site receptive to his creative input. For the second territory, architecture space becomes the photographer’s private theatre; it is a direct body and terrain encounter harvested interesting dialogues between the two. The dynamic intersection of his actors, props engaged within the architectural terrains reproduced a new spatial order; we could notice the original private space is erased or even distorted in favor of the appropriated symbols (staged objects) with performance elements (staged humans) implanted by the photographer, all these help to raise questions about personal existence and social reality. For the third territory, anothermountainman’s careful manipulation of his subjects, lighting, framing techniques and observing mode of photography contributed to a revolutionary representation of lan wei
buildings. One could witness a new breed of architecture by visually juxtaposing both vacant and erected sites in his Bangkok portfolio; anothermountainman has established a super-imposed architectural space with the advent of the photographic medium.
B) From Carnival to the Mirage of Progress
The success of the
Disney theme parks around the globe gives rise to cultural as well as economic hegemony; many of these entertainment
ingredients can be copied and transferred, shopping malls and large Las Vegas hotels are the most significant sites of ‘Disneyization’. Globalized theme parks bear the same connotative cultural signification of ‘Disneyization’ which refers to the following principles Disneyland elucidate:
refers to the application of a narrative largely external to the subject with an exotic aura (motifs such as “the Wild West”);
2. Dedifferentiation of consumption:
refers to the hybridized nature of many areas of social and economic life that previously have been separated (amusement park, shops, and restaurants in Disneyland are blended and distinctions between them are blurred);
refers to the promotion of goods with copyright images and logos;
4. Emotional labor:
refers to employees in service occupations are constrained to exhibit emotions of a particular kind (Disneyland employee exhibits positive emotions to create a more uplifting experience for visitors).
photo series reached another stage with a recent portrayal of a discarded Beijing theme park which is probably a failed urban planning program in conjunction with the 2008 Olympics heat years ago. Massive large scale constructions were built in Beijing and Shanghai in parallel with the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2010 Shanghai World Expo, thus have redefined urbanism in China and raised significant questions about the sustainability of post-event city. Transferred ‘Disneyization’ occurs when
the above mentioned principles associated with the Disney theme parks are
relocated or mirrored into other spheres in contemporary China, such as the over commercialized property markets, fancy shopping malls and emotional advertising techniques advocating endless consumerism.
China’s over-heated financial and property sectors came to an alarming slide in post-event Beijing or Shanghai; anothermountainman’s Beijing theme park portfolio prophesized to us a planet of relics and can be interpreted as a looking glass, reflecting the mirage of China’s economic progress since the millennium. He filled the original planned dreamland with performers mixed from different historical or folklore references such as Empress Dowager, Chairman Mao, monkey king, Beijing opera artists and costume players etc. The artist’s visual association of the incomplete theme park building with the shape of a wrecked space ship aligns the ‘fantasy of space race’ with the ‘fantasy of the theme park’ and provokes a satirical and fateful social comment. anothermountainman eventually envisioned a post-carnival scenario out of the delirious post-event city by selecting unusual but recognisable settings which his subjects have acted out extraordinarily. In this finale session in Asia for ‘lanwei’
photo series, anothermountainman synthesizes and transforms, creating new, unknown spaces for his audience to explore and provides a bridge between realism and expressionism; the sophisticated usage of metaphorical symbols mined under an epic theme lend himself a sesame door to the territory of seminal artwork.
Blues Wong is a photography, fine art and film critic based in Hong Kong. He also curates photography exhibition. In recent years, he co-curated “Imaging Hong Kong: Art Photography by Hong Kong Photographers” (Hong Kong Arts Development Council, 2008/9), “Hong Kong Photography Series 2: City Flâneur - Social Documentary Photography”
(Hong Kong Heritage Museum, 2010) and “Rediscovering Photography in Hong Kong” (China Pingyao International Photography Festival, 2011).