2016 January 17
Guang Chang Wu

square dancing

If you use the search term “Guang Chang Wu” (Chinese for “square dancing”) on Baidu (China’s version of Google), you will get about 184 million items of news, 4,665 hits in music, 777 dancing groups, and numerous comments either supporting or disapproving of the activity. Guang Chang Wu is a collective public dance, which has been estimated to have 100 million participants in China; most of the participants are retired middle-aged and elderly women. It has become a social phenomenon and represents the collective aspect of Chinese culture. Despite this popularity, Guang Chang Wu has been labeled as “noise pollution” and “public-space occupation”; the negative effects of Guang Chang Wu and its participants are often topics of focus for the media and in society. Based on research and analysis of Guang Chang Wu, this project investigates the past and present conditions that have facilitated its development: from the Cultural Revolution to the Chinese economic reforms and opening-up policy; from birth encouragement to the one-child policy; from retrogressive to rapid urbanization; and the power relationship between old and new generations. These aspects result in con ict and stigmatization.

Alois Riegl defined a monument as follows: “A monument in its oldest and most original sense is a human creation, erected for the specific purpose of keeping single human deeds or events alive in the minds of future generations” (Alois Riegl 1903). Monuments commemorate not only “intentionally”—as buildings or sculptures—but also “unintentionally,” via later inscriptions and any event with “age value” that involves the monument. The term “age value” is used to describe the most modern value and the one that will guide the conservation of the monument in the future. Guang Chang Wu has been assigned a special age value by its female participants, who have a complex cultural and social background.

According to statistics from the Chinese government, in 2015 the per capita space available for sports was 1.5 m2. This explains how Guang Chang Wu conflicts with an increasing desire for a less chaotic urban lifestyle as public spaces are squeezed by development. This Guang Chang Wu monument tries to express that in this contemporary society.

more info as .pdf
Photo: Pai Wu