Category Archives: spatial politics

Guangzhou Delta Haiku – exhibition text at Observation Society

pearl river delta region - showing current sea level

Pearl River Delta region. Light blue colour indicates current land below sea level.

Silty river delta,
Fishing, farming, trading –
Everyday life.

Of all the world’s cities, the great Guangzhou “megalopolis” is now considered the single place most likely to suffer catastrophic damage from rising sea-levels. The maps shown here indicate some possible future scenarios for the Pearl River Delta. Much of the land in the Delta is already below sea level, so industry and housing are vulnerable to flooding:

Factories, shipping,
“Special Economic Zone” –
Everyday life.

Sea level rise is influenced by a wide range of factors. The most obvious causes are associated with global warming: the thermal expansion of the oceans, and the melting of glaciers and Antarctic ice sheets. More complex local factors include tidal variations, warm and cool ocean currents, the building of sea-walls to hold back the water, and the damming of rivers further upstream.

pearl river delta region - showing one metre sea level rise

Pearl River Delta region – light blue colour indicates potential flooding caused by a one metre sea level rise.

The screenprinted maps shown here cannot show the full complexity of this situation. Rather, they employ “bathtub modelling” – a simple way of showing what might happen if seawaters were to creep up onto the land in a uniform way.

Although it is nearly impossible to predict the local extent of sea level rise with any precision, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggests that a global sea level rise of 98cm by the year 2100 is very likely. This corresponds roughly to the “one metre” maps presented in this exhibition. A “five metre” map is also shown – which is entirely possible if polar ice deposit melting continues to accelerate.

pearl river delta region - showing 5 metre sea level rise

Pearl River Delta region – light blue colour indicates potential flooding caused by a five metre sea level rise.

Massive migration.
“Mega-projects”. Modernisation:
Everyday life.

The animated map depicts a massive “60 metre” sea level rise, which is a possible scenario if all the world’s polar ice was to melt.

Pearl River Delta Flood Animation from Luca Zoid on Vimeo.

The prosperity of the Delta has always been based on water. And the future of Guangzhou is going to be increasingly watery:

How will the city evolve?
What kinds of decisions will the city make to survive over the next hundred years? What does “survival” even mean?
And what do the people who live here think about all this?

Habitat, transport,
Sustenance, trash disposal:
Everyday life.

guangzhou haizhu area - current sea level

Haizhu area of Guangzhou – this map shows current river arrangements in this heavily populated zone.

guangzhou haizhu area - showing one metre sea level rise

Haizhu area of Guangzhou – light blue colour on this map indicates possible effect of one metre sea level rise.

This investigation is ongoing, and your correspondence is welcome.
Email: lucas@guangzhou-delta-haiku.net

Guangzhou’s watery future

Yesterday at Observation Society, I was describing the Waterways of the Illawarra project to Anthony, Trevor and Hanting. At home, the seepage from the escarpment is a major part of the “character” of the region. It’s what creates the more than 50 creeks which make their way through the landscape into the sea.

It wasn’t something I had considered before I arrived, but a major part of the “character” of Guangzhou and the Guangdong region is the Pearl River Delta. In the delta, waterways flow in a crisscrossing matrix wherever you find yourself. Maps of the delta are beautiful and confounding – they don’t look like “normal” rivers which have a clear directionality:

pearl river delta

This map also shows the massive urban development in the Pearl River Delta over the last 30 years.

So – one thing that’s been haunting me recently is the future rise of sea levels. In the Illawarra, it seems clear that sea level rises will immediately affect the areas surrounding creeks, since these are the lowest parts of the landscape. Like in the big floods of 1998 (when the extra water came from the sky), houses with creeks running through their yards will have to think about how to protect themselves from serious land erosion and property damage.

Here’s a map I saw of Brisbane a few years ago, where the future sea level rise totally transforms the city’s useable spaces:

brisbane sea level rise
This is the first image I saw which showed future projections of the impact of sea level rises on low-lying cities, and I imagine we’ll be seeing these maps with ever more frequency now.

So what about Guangzhou?

Anthony, Trevor and Hanting didn’t know what the future prospects of the city will be. So I googled it.

Uh oh. Of all the cities in the entire world, Guangzhou is listed at number one. The most likely to be caused massive damage due to sea level rises:

In terms of the overall cost of damage, the cities at the greatest risk are: 1) Guangzhou, 2) Miami, 3) New York, 4) New Orleans, 5) Mumbai, 6) Nagoya, 7) Tampa, 8) Boston, 9) Shenzen, and 10) Osaka. The top four cities alone account for 43% of the forecast total global losses.

OK. So, what can be done about this?

In a rudimentary search, I couldn’t find much specific about Guangzhou’s plan for the future of sea level rises, but hopefully something will turn up. Meantime, here’s some research from 13 years ago: a paper called “Coastal Inundation due to Sea Level Rise in the Pearl River Delta, China” in a journal called Natural Hazards, by geographers ZHENGUO HUANG, YONGQIANG ZONG, and WEIQIANG ZHANG, from 2003. The authors mention 193 flooding events in the last 40 years (that’s about 5 per year!) and make some calculations based on the idea of a 30cm rise by 2030. Their conclusion:

The potential rise in sea level during the 21st century will pose a severe threat to the communities in the deltaic area. In order for the current and future investments and communities to be protected from potential threat of marine inundation, preventive policies need to be formulated and implemented as soon as possible.

And here’s something from 2005, where plans were mooted to upgrade the Pearl River Delta’s flood defences (no mention of climate change though in that article).

Here’s a more recent article which describes the threat to GZ from Climate Change, but without any mention of what measures could be taken to mitigate it.

This article seems to tackle the heart of the matter, and it’s more recent (2013): “A Review of Assessment and Adaptation Strategy to Climate Change Impacts on the Coastal Areas in South China“. The strategies discussed include:

  • improving the monitoring and early warning systems;
  • fortifying coastal protection engineering;
  • working on ecological restoration to buffer the effects of climate change on biodiversity;
  • and strengthening salt tide prevention to ensure the water resource security.

This last factor was one I hadn’t considered. With rising sea levels, salty water will start to infiltrate areas where fresh water had been drawn for drinking.

This jaunty piece discusses the threat to Guangzhou in connection with China’s apparent turnabout on Climate Change policy.

Even though these articles present some practical ideas, they still seems to be operating at the level of generalised recommendations.

Surely work is already underway? Surely?

It seems to me that the options for adapting to the future for GZ are the following:

  • build defenses against flood events (sea walls? dykes? will these work in the future??);
  • smarten up evacuation plans (how do you evacuate a city with more than 15 million people?);
  • begin radically re-designing the city with higher water levels in mind (what, like lift it up on stilts? what other ideas are there?);
  • start relocating the city to higher ground based on future sea level projections (abandon current Guangzhou and move it inland??);
  • Stop burning coal and oil.

Similar ideas (and some nice maps) are generated in this project which was presented in the 2011 Shenzhen and Hong Kong Bi-City Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism.

What have I not considered here?

Keep on….

In San Diego, I went with Alex to visit the Centro Cultural de la Raza. There was an exhibition themed around the bending and remix of pop culture imagery for Chicano politix.

At the back of the gallery, both Alex and I were attracted to this silkscreen work by artist Perry Vasquez. The poster responds to the ever-present problem of border crossing in San Diego / Tijuana, where the two sister cities are divided by a massive fence which goes right out to sea:

keep on crossin

It was unmistakably adapted from R.Crumb’s famous Keep on Truckin’ image:

keep on truckin - robert crumb

I did a bit of looking around to see the original context for Crumb’s graphic. Created in 1968, it has been stolen and reused many many times. One account has it that this became an “iconic image of optimism during the hippie era.” To which, the ever restless Crumb responds:

I became acutely self-conscious about what I was doing. Was I now a “spokesman” for the hippies or what? I had no idea how to handle my new position in society! … Take Keep on Truckin’… for example. Keep on Truckin’… is the curse of my life. This stupid little cartoon caught on hugely. There was a D.J. on the radio in the seventies who would yell out every ten minutes: “And don’t forget to KEEP ON TR-R-RUCKIN’!” Boy, was that obnoxious! Big feet equals collective optimism. You’re a walkin’ boy! You’re movin’ on down the line! It’s proletarian. It’s populist. I was thrown off track! I didn’t want to turn into a greeting card artist for the counter-culture! I didn’t want to do ‘shtick’—the thing Lenny Bruce warned against. That’s when I started to let out all of my perverse sex fantasies. It was the only way out of being “America’s Best Loved Hippy Cartoonist.”

The Great West Brunswick Goat Walk

goat pennant

Thursday morning, 6:55am – Bob The Goat trots into our goat-deprived lives, thanks to the power of good old fashioned broadcast radio. In all the excitement, I almost forget my commitment to the West Brunswick Sculpture Triennial. I’m supposed to make a pennant to commemorate the festival!

Friday night, 10:30pm – at Kylie and Damien’s place, Lisa and I set up a little fuzzy-felt sheltered pennant-making workshop. With sharp scissors flashing, the corner of my tongue sticking out of the side of my mouth, and the help of some stinky craft glue, I put together the goaty pennant you see hanging proudly alongside its buddies in the photo above. (The reverse side says, simply, BOB).

(I was quite pleased with this craftily constructed artwork, especially given that I only began making it just before midnight, and after consuming a few glasses of a very good wine Damien cracked open. However, I cannot take all the credit – a big shout out to this website, from which I pinched the basic goat-face formula…)

Saturday afternoon, 3:30pm – under the hanging pennants, at 135 Union Street, West Brunswick, a tribe of goat enthusiasts gather expectantly to await Bob’s arrival. We’re about to start the Great West Brunswick Goat Walk!
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Artivistic Fragments

keg and luca at artivistic
[keg and I present at the final round-table discussion]

Keg and have been attending Artivistic here in Montreal. It’s a DIY kinda conference about the junctions between art and activism, and this particular edition seems to be about occupation and space and nature. Big topics and sometimes the delegates struggle with large theoretical issues – the best sessions are grounded and case-study based. See a few pictures from the conference here.

Some of my favourites from the conference:
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Participation, Experience, Public Art, Radio

…what I’ve been up to lately…

– – –

Together with Eve Vincent, presenting at this conference at COFA:

http://www.cofa.unsw.edu.au/newsevents/news/news_0115.html

our abstract:

Participation and Experience: Redfern Waterloo Tour of Beauty

The desire for an active spectator-participant was a key goal of avant-garde art during the twentieth century. Rhetoric surrounding such art practice often connected “aesthetic interactivity” with the ideal of a wider participatory democracy. During the 1960s, in an attempt to overcome the separation between “art and life” which characterised the museum-based practice of much modernist art, artists like Allan Kaprow developed “Happenings” which occurred in the everyday places and rhythms of city life. Utilising the tools bequeathed by Kaprow’s Happenings, artist group SquatSpace now runs the Redfern Waterloo Tour of Beauty — wherein the “work of art” is to facilitate discussion about neighborhood life and community organising in inner-urbanSydney. This paper moves through the perennial question “but is it art?” in order to examine the Tour of Beauty as a case study of “Art as Experience” (John Dewey). This co-presentation engages two perspectives — SquatSpace collective member Lucas Ihlein talks about the making of “the tour as art”, and Eve Vincent speaks from the perspective of a participant-audience member.

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Ian Milliss

Ian Milliss has just uploaded his new website. True to character, it’s information rich, but lacking in images. I like this a lot.

Ian is a legendary Aussie conceptual artist and an inspiring activist, having been involved in the defence of Darlinghurst’s Victoria Street squats in the early 1970s. There are some terrific articles about all his activities at the site.

Here are a few of my faves:

  • New Artist. Around this time, Milliss stopped exhibiting art altogether. This document gives an idea why…(1973)
  • The Barricades. In which he takes an aesthetic approach to describing the construction of barricades at Victoria Street. (1974)
  • Don’t moan, organise! (with apologies to Joe Hill) by Ian Burn and Ian Milliss. In which Burn and Milliss call for the restructuring of the Sydney Biennale along artist-run lines. (1979)

There really is a lot of great stuff on Ian’s site. It will become essential reading for many of us involved in art and activism, and who are interested in finding new ways to be artists (rather than just content providers to an existing system).

Beginning Bilateral Petersham

[nb: the following is the first blog entry for the project Bilateral Petersham. For the rest, head on over to http://thesham.info]

Petersham_04_04_06

The clock ticked round to midnight and I sat in the kitchen watching it. When all the hands pointed to twelve, I took two photos. Without the flash, the clock looked yellow and blurry. Flash-frozen, on the other hand, it looked like it had been caught in the act. Embarrassed at having been sprung doing something vaguely shameful but essentially harmless.

That’s how I brought in the third of April. The beginning of “Bilateral Petersham,” aka “my Petersham project,” aka “The Petersham Lockdown.” There was no tangible difference between one moment, where I was not “on the job,” and the next, when the “project” had officially begun. No fanfare, no ribbon cutting, no glass of champagne. I went to bed and read a bit and then fell asleep.
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