Bastard Chairs, Beijing

Back from my second time to China (after 10 years) with images quite the opposite of what I had expected and planned for.

The reason is that most of the traditional living quarters in Beijing and Shanghai have been cleared for wide boulevards, and their inhabitants have moved to gated, high-rise apartment complexes.

Chairs 1, Beijing, China

Yet some of the Hutongs (alleys formed by lines of ancient courtyard residences) have been declared protected and are being turned into amusement quarters with boutiques, art galleries, and hotels disguised by faux historic façades.

Authentic living areas can still be found west of the Temple of Heaven and near the Lama Temple*. Recalling the work of photographer Michael Wolf, I immediately noticed what Wolf calls “Bastard Chairs” placed on the small alley roads. But while Wolf focuses on the chairs themselves, often put together from different materials and supposedly manifesting the creative ideas of their creators, I was left with a different impression.

The chairs are shabby because they are meant to remain out on the street. They are thus no signs of backwardness but rather of functioning social interaction and communication; soon begone. SR

*A temple and monastery of Tibetan Buddhism, not yet on the main tourist track, with some of the most impressive statues of the Gautama and Maitreya Buddhas that I have seen.

Chairs 2, Beijing, China

Chairs 3, Beijing, China

Pek15

Chairs 4, Beijing, China

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