Global wealth chasing highlighted in art

FUTILE: East Asia's abandoned or incomplete buildings represent people's economic dreams coming to an end

MANCHESTER’S Chinese Arts Centre has announced that it will play host to a photography exhibition about abandoned and incomplete buildings.

‘Lan Wei’ or ‘Decaying End’, which is anothermountainman’s debut solo exhibition in the UK, features a number of haunting large-scale photographic prints of abandoned, incomplete building projects from across Asia.

During the 1980s there was a frenzied investment in real estate after China opened its doors to foreign investment. However, this market was exposed to corruption and it eventually collapsed in the late 1990s.

When the bubble burst there were huge numbers of building projects that were abandoned and left unfinished. In 1998, in Hainan alone, a combined floor space of 16.3million square meters were aborted or left unfinished. This wave of abortive building construction spread across other Asian cities that also experienced meteoric economic growth and collapse.

The term ‘lan wei’ was coined in reference to these aborted building projects, ‘lan’ meaning ‘decaying’ and ‘wei’ as ‘the ending’. Lan wei implies a not just unfinished but also something is that is long, drawn out and for whatever reason suspended between completion and destruction.

anothermountainman’s images, which include locations in China, Thailand, Cambodia, Turkey and Singapore, attempt to capture the relics of this gold rush and, at the same time, reflect how, throughout the years, lan wei has manifested not only in building projects but also in all aspects of life.

These building projects represent decades of futile chasing after opportunities desires and dreams in a liberated society, at a time of seemingly limitless economic expansion. Buildings can be aborted, so can projects, plans and hopes.

In anothermountainman’s images buildings loom empty and abandoned, but far from being literal documentary images they are also sites where captivating and mysterious scenes are staged. The scenes of figures positioned amidst a few of their possessions evoke narratives of dreams and aspirations which like the buildings have been abandoned.

The images have particular resonance in the current economic climate where the presence of half finished buildings can be witnessed in many cities across the UK.

Lan Wei runs at the Chinese Arts Centre (CAC), Thomas Street, Manchester, from 16 April to 12 June 2010.

You can find out more about CAC by visiting its website.

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