In the tradition of great world novels such as David Copperfield, Gravity's Rainbow, and Ulysses, photographer Hu Yang gives us a dense portrait of modern life. A whirlwind, encyclopedic tour through Shanghai's varied modes of habitation with characters, numbering 500 or so, from seemingly every socio-economic-political-geographical-historical strata.
Of course, the narrative isn't simply about interior furnishings. By turns poignant, (melo)dramatic, even comical, Hu Yang documents 500+ tales of the Chinese diaspora (actually, every sort of displacement conceivable), globalism, loneliness in supra-dense Shanghai, Shanghai itself, thwarted dreams, dreams fulfilled, foreigners abroad, and the post-Communism neo-Communist Party for good measure. Certainly much more. And with the everpresent television as a marvelous leitmotif. Or perhaps even the main protagonist.
Truly a remarkable piece of work.
We imagine excutives and the creative directors of Barneys, Wal-Mart, Home Depot, even the LOT-EK gang studying each photograph closely, taking careful note of that homemade wallpaper, those gadgetries, the extraterrestrial plants and ancestor shrines in the corner, the ad hoc architecture and interior design, the bedroom-kitchen-living room-bathroom “prefab fabulous“ combo aesthetics. All part of a concerted strategy to enter the lucrative Chinese market and make 1+ billion people stark raving consumerists. May heaven help us.
Meanwhile, more Shanghai living.
Clearly, next stop for Hu Yang should be Beijing, Hong Kong, and Tokyo.
And then, obviously, to Lagos (it'll be better than Koolhaas!), Pyongyang, Baghdad, and New Orleans.
POSTSCRIPT #1: Cf. Michael Wolf's 100 x 100.