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Monday, October 18, 2010

Bodies without Organs?
Got back finally to London.  It was two months of hectic work ending with a week of rest and play in Salvador de Bahia, where the sun shines more strongly and the wind blows more gaily than most places I know. I'd gone there for this year's Arte Mov festival, which took place in Bahia following events in Belem, which will be followed by activities in Porto Alegre and Sao Paulo as well as Belo Horizonte. The scale of the programme is highly impressive and the topics and themes well-chosen for each site and place. In Salvador, I was on a panel discussing strategies and negotiations undertaken by artists and designers in the context of increasingly 'hybrid cities' where participation and interaction in and with media is commonplace.  It was a fascinating discussion and one which gave me a rather sad feeling - with only a dozen or so people in the room - whilst outside in the throbbing heart of Bahia there were countless acts of negotiation ongoing in the city and along the Bay of All Saints (which I could incidentally see from my bedroom window in the morning).  The festival as a whole worked though. The mix of performance, exhibition, installation and debate combined in one environment (in this case the atmospheric Museu de Arte Moderne) provides a platform for genuine offline exchange among the participants who get to sit on low walls outside the beautiful gallery buildings, drink strong coffee and go around in a minibus together much of the week and to hang out together til late in the evening, in Rio Vermelho and the Pelourinho listening to Geronimo's impro music and grooving to the sound of the waves. I'd been quite in the mood for a Bahian sojourn following completion earlier in September of the summer school in Beijing - about Design and Ageing - which I'd been working on for, it may have seemed, aeons of intensive time throughout the summer in London.  In any event, the summer school - aptly named DARE - as it required lots of courage to get it on the road - took place and produced enormous insights for those of us attending into the realities of living and working even in one of the most privileged parts of China. One thing that struck me most clearly - following two weeks of hearing how challenging it is to live there, even for eg on an academic's salary (with two sets of parents to look after in their old age and given the impact of rural migration and the one child policy on the infrastructure for old age support) was reading in the China daily newspaper about how two men had recently been sentenced to several years in prison for selling their own organs....a step they had embarked on in order to pay for operations for their parent in his old age.  Having decided to live without certain organs themselves (health care costs being what they are in communist China) they then started up a business in trading livers and such things.  Till they were caught and imprisoned. I am not sure design could play much of a role in helping with such social challenges.  The more one gets to know China the more one knows one does not know. 
2:09 pm edt 


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