I remember being in the taxi on my way to my next destination: Shanghai in China. How different it was, coming from Japan!
It took an hour before I reached an area outside Shanghai called Jinze, an ancient water town. This was the location of Untitled Space, the international artist residency I would be staying in for about a month.
I read briefly on the history of Jinze before my arrival here, but what I did not know was the residency was in an abandoned military industrial complex.
The taxi reached a very old rusty gate that looked pretty much deserted. I remember saying to myself “Woah! Will I be really staying in this place?” But that was just the cherry on top!
An old man came to open the gate. We drove about 100 metres in a desolated environment of abandoned buildings until we reached a couple of newly restored warehouses in the middle of the phantom place.
I liked the place at first sight. It was so inspiring to see all these buildings that had so many things to tell. After the place was left by the military administration in the 1960s after the counter-revolution, it was converted into a fashion factory and abandoned again after some time.
Today, the only neighbour in the complex is a Dutch guy running an antiques business with amazing pieces from Europe (mainly France) and China. I spent quite some time in there, but I will share with you my experience in this place in another post.
The same night I reached Jinze, all the artists as well as two of the residency’s staff walked to a restaurant for dinner. We reached the main road of the city walking along one of the city’s canals.
The 10-minute walk felt like I was travelling back in time. Everything looked vintage. The neighbours living in the car-free street were staring at us as much as I was staring at them. After so many trips to China, this was the first time I felt being in such an authentic environment. And I was so happy I had one month to discover it all.
It got even more interesting on our way back from dinner. It was dark already and the play of lights disconnected me from reality. It felt dreamlike, as if I were playing a character in an ancient Chinese film.
Jinze still is quite preserved from tourism. Each time I strolled around the narrow streets of this quiet town, I would see old people sitting or cooking outside their house or washing clothes in the river, or fishermen in their traditional boats coming back from fishing or going out on the river. I would say hello to all these people. Some were curious and would like to know more about me, but unfortunately I could not understand and speak Chinese.
A few Chinese friends came to visit me during my stay. This is when I realised a few of the neighbours thought I was American because I speak to them in English.
A month has passed and I felt quite sad to leave the place, but I felt comforted that I was taking with me photo series* that will eternalize the unique moments I lived there.