This piece is inspired by the urban villages in Shanghai. These urban villages are a form of spontaneous, informal housing construction. Despite facing constraints in terms of space and living conditions, residents demonstrate a remarkable ability to mobilize their resourcefulness and creativity to solve various challenges. A series of adaptive survival tatics emerges, responding actively to the changes in their surrounding living environment, from materials used for spatial transformation to the techniques ultimately employed.
I am captivated by the residents' everyday "making-do" approaches, and I am wondering if it is possible for those buildings to become sculptures. Although these residencies serve functional purposes, they exude qualities and possibilities that go beyond functionality, akin to becoming sculptures (form, intention, human behavior, etc.). Therefore, in the early stages of my practice, I combine photos taken in the fieldwork with locally found materials, aiming to represent the urban village landscape.
On the material, I utilized a significant amount of discarded styrofoam. Despite being considered visually unappealing, it is a common material in the city, widely used for transportation and preservation. Within the existing market circulation, it exhibits relatively low residual economic value compared to other materials such as cardboard boxes, wooden crates, or plastic baskets. These foam materials are more easily discarded. However, in urban villages, they seem to acquire a certain "dignity," no longer constrained by aesthetic judgments and selection. Instead, they become a locally sourced material with high recycling and utilization rates.
Therefore, I am curious: When an object's economic, practical, and aesthetic values are all diminished in the circulation of the market, what other intrinsic value does it hold? When such an object is redefined merely as an object of contemplation, or even when it is revalued once more, what can it reveal?
In addition, styrofoam not only shares similarities with informal settlements in terms of surplus value but also exhibits spatial characteristics such as high plasticity and precariousness. Therefore, I experiment with "spatial practice" on various forms of carriers like foam boxes, foam crates, and foam boards. I objectified the texture of the informal settlements and their flexible and dynamic spatial structures, reshaping them to provide a new perspective for observing spontaneous spaces.