2010 Xiaozhou Arts Festival Poster.
During the arts festival, many of the traditional buildings – shrines, temples, houses – were open to the public for different kinds of outdoor and indoor exhibition and installations.
Chen Gan now stays in residence at Xiaozhou village where he has rented an old shrine for 3000 RMB per month and uses it as his arts studio and private events space.
He shared about the history of the arts festival and the village and he found it frustrating that the village is turning more into an urban village. Arts festivals no longer run in the village and many of the artists have left – what will become of Xiaozhou?
Xiaozhou village as the site of this project and it sits 1 hour away from the city centre. It has history tracing it back 800 years and is one of the preserved areas of Guangzhou.
Wanting to find accommodation in the village, I simply had to walk around to see adverts sticking prominently on the walls of buildings. The process was extremely easy – I called a phone number, a lady picked me up from the streets, showed me a studio flat that she was renting out and I paid my deposit there and then.
Walking around the village, the historic core is where most of the traditional buildings are located. The village is accessible via bus (and only bus) and is surrounded on all sides by park and agricultural space.
An arts event during the National Holidays. This will run every third Saturday of the month. Organised by the Jiazong (community work organisation), this is a new initiative that takes the place of the arts festival. It is interesting to see that the arts festival which to a certain extent was targetted at the arts community and interested city residents has been replaced by a more community based event. However, this event is limited to the Litang (hall) area and does not reach the same kind of spatial reach within the village.
Xiaozhou village is an urban village in Guangzhou. It is not quite easy to reach it (takes around one hour by public transport from the city centre) and the village is surrounded on the south side by the Yingzhou Ecological Park. The village has a slightly different history than other urban villages as in the 1980s, some artists came and settled in the village. Shrines and old houses were converted into art studios. The village was entered into the nationwide ‘Beautiful Village’ campaign and many buildings are signposted as ‘immovable heritage’ by the district government.
What is different about Xiaozhou Village is that due to the actions of the artists, the development of the village into a typical ‘mature’ urban village has slowed down. Many of the old buildings and shrines are still standing. The active use of its old buildings and environment in the past 30 years has enabled the preservation of its rural aspects – old buildings, tree-lined streets, riverways, bridges and piers – and time for the local heritage department to survey the village, step in and exert certain amounts of protection on the remaining built heritage. However, with the lack of sufficient building control, Xiaozhou village is at the same time also developing further into an urban village. The village is currently at an awkward position of trying to retain its heritage while enabling the development of rental apartments and the continuous arrival of migrant populations. How do we then allow the two to coexist together?
There are many examples of coexisting in Xiaozhou Village: old buildings repurposed, old streets occupied as courtyards, new buildings made to echo the old…
One of the very interesting one I thought was the use of oyster shells in the village:
Traditional house with walls built with oyster shells.
New concrete building with oyster shells pasted as decoration.