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Nothing Lasts Forever, Really?

Some points of views for 'Nothing Lasts Forever' Author: Shi Qing 2013

1 Juma

The entry in Wikipedia indicates that Juma (literally Defensive Horse in Chinese, equivalent to Cheval de frise in French) is a portable defensive obstacle. In ancient China, it was invented as a barrier covered with many long iron or wooden spikes or even actual spears. Similar apparatus was also found in military history of the West. The modern Juma, on the other hand, principally consists of an iron frame and barbed wire for an even wider usage: besides military purposes, it is used also in suppression of riots in order to block the way of people and vehicles.

2 Project

This project was executed in Jianchang Hutong in Beijing. The width of each entrance was measured, in order to find references for the dimension of these wooden barriers known as Juma in ancient times. The entire structure of the devise was then deconstructed after completion and each block was silkscreened with floral patterns from ancient Persia or Islamic culture. Later on, they were piled around the Hutong bearing a useless and abandoned appearance. As expected, these ownerless materials would be picked up and finally reused by local residents. In that way, they became useful everyday objects.

3 Floral Pattern

Each Juma carries the same type of floral pattern which functions here as an assembling code. Stepping from Hutong into private spaces of local residents, these blocks also leave traces for later recognition. Besides, patterns introduced from foreign countries may provoke an unfamiliar vigilance to viewers.

4 Hutong

Hutongs in Beijing can be seen as a semi-private public space, inhabited by a community which integrates and reshuffles limited space. In my understanding, an exhibition in Arrow Factory should by no means be restricted within its rented space of a dozen square meters along the road, which otherwise marks no difference whatsoever with a standardised showroom. Instead, it embraces the whole Hutong as a platform for display whose very nature lies on the production of reasonable discrepancy and invasion in general community space. Juma per se stands as a visualised hint on blockage and self-confinement, as well as the means which are wielded to intensify spatial politics in Hutong.

5 Uselessness

Juma used to be a devise characterised by high functionality and extreme violence. Its deconstruction, therefore, can be read as suspension and collapse of violence. As an object, it turns useless since its designed function is deprived of. But then it is picked up and reused by local residents, a process which in fact reestablishes the value of usefulness, as well as the function of replacement and transformation.

6 Boundaries

Just like the boundaries introduced by the blocking function of Juma between interior and exterior, the functional transformation intended in this project also outlines the boundaries between a social instrument and an everyday object. My understanding of artistic practice in social space is likewise built more upon the attention on boundaries: between social and institutionalised display space; between general public and viewers within a certain context of art; and between societal practice and art politics. Perhaps the recognition and demarcation are illusionary and incorrect themselves. Should boundaries, for today's art, be set even further and beyond eyes?


Shi Qing - Nothing Lasts Forever
December 1, 2011 to February 1, 2012
Arrow Factory is pleased to announce Nothing Lasts Forever, a new project by Shanghai-based artist Shi Qing that takes place in various locations throughout Jianchang Hutong over the next two months. Nothing Lasts Forever uses the physical site of Jianchang Hutong as a space for dissemination—not of ideas or information—but of raw materials. For this work Shi Qing has designed and built eight different types of road blockades reminiscent of makeshift barriers often found on battlefields or in besieged urban areas. Each is customized with different abstract markings and carefully constructed to fit across specific entry and exit points in the hutong. However these blockades will not be reassembled as full structures at any point in Jianchang Hutong nor will there be any visual reference to the blockades at Arrow Factory. Instead, stacks of the pre-cut and pre-painted lumber will be left outdoors at various public locations in Jianchang Hutong and made available for re-purposing.

Nothing Lasts Forever ‘s associations with notions of turmoil and unrest are far from inadvertent, and yet they are carefully effaced in the presence of a more dominant gesture: generosity. As these disassembled roadblocks appear unannounced on the street in the form of haphazard stacks of mixed lumber, they lose their connection to authority and power and freely dissolve into the neighboring community as basic usable materials. In Nothing Lasts Forever the slow dissolution of such loaded items enacts a process of transformation, even if questionably registered by the surrounding locale.

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