By Stefania Danieli
The Shenzhen/Hong Kong Biennale is an interesting event started back in 2005 and now in its fifth year. The exhibition opened last December and has been extended until March 14th, two weeks after the closing ceremony held last Friday.
The central theme of 2013-2014 edition is the “Urban Border” (城市边缘), and its many implications on urbanism: “Sociologically it can imply peripheral spaces of the city, fringe groups, and marginal lifestyles; in the context of political science it can refer to regulation of how urban public resources are organized and distributed; and in urban geography it can denote borders and interstices of urban development, as well as the interrelatedness between the city and natural ecologies”. The chosen Chinese word Bianyuan (边缘) is important because it does not merely mean physical border, but embodies also the differences among diversified subcultures and distinctive identities.
The concept of Bianyuan is used to express a condition or identity, which surpasses spatial boundaries, accepting fragmentation and difference while seeking the possibility of bridging and blurring such differences, as affirmed by Xiangning Li, academic director of the biennale.
According to the creative director Ole Bouman, the inner meaning of the exhibition is “to embrace new life into old foundations”. This is perfectly expressed in the venue: the main power house of the founding and molten tin bath workshops of a huge glass factory built in 1987, a miracle in the history of China’s glass industry so that it won Lu Ban Prize of China Constructional Projects in 1988.
Shekou, the harbor where the factory is located, used to be at the edge of Shenzhen, but today, it found itself right in the city core, becoming a fashionable shopping and entertainment district. This site stopped the glass production in 2009, and moved to another area sited at Shenzhen “new” edges: the history of the factory perfectly embodies the concept of “Urban Border” and how boundaries are developed and constantly moving, changing the shape of the cities as well as their inhabitants.
The “glass factory” became a “Value Factory”, reflecting the metamorphosis of the city of Shenzhen, from a mere production site developed to maximize output and spread “Made in China” products throughout the world, to a new cultural zone, “a place for ideas and knowledge, for creativity and wit”.
External link: http://www.szhkbiennale.org/
Stefania was born and raised in Italy, where she took a BA in Languages and a MA in Business Communication at the University of Perugia. She fluently speaks both Mandarin and English, and by now has been living in China for over two years. Having been raised in a country rich of history and culture like Italy, she has always had a strong interest in art and architecture, which led her right through the Chinese landscape design industry. She is currently working as Marketing Director at Beijing’s based America Leedscape Planning and Design Co. Ltd.