Urban China Magazine: "An Encyclopedia of Chinese Cities in a Time of Junk"


"Urban China: Informal Cities," at the New Museum, New York. Photo: Benoit Pailley
Urban China magazine may not make sense of China's rapid, mind-boggling urbanization. But the groundbreaking Chinese publication, which is featured in an exhibit at the New Museum ending Sunday before moving on to LA and Chicago, replicates on paper China's metropolitan phenomenon in impressionistic style, with academic-ish articles, fascinating infographics and captivating photographs. Each issue has a theme, like Chinese migration, "Green Leap Forward" and energy. "This formula won't simply turn us into gold diggers or alchemists for information garbage," says editor Jiang Jun. "But it can turn this medium into an encyclopedia of Chinese cities in a time of junk." Check out the slideshow below the fold to see why this magazine, which can hardly be found outside China, is making waves around the world.While the exhibition at the New Museum leaves much to be desired — essentially the rear wall of the museum's first floor has been plastered with graphics about various phenomena of urban China ("Dirtitecture," "the city of sneakers,") with nearby tables covered in magazines — it hints at the valuable local and irreverant perspective behind the publication. Without a global distribution and more English translation, the magazine must rely on foreign exhibitions like this, as well as its nascent online presence and its partnerships like the one it has with C-LAB's Volume.

The newest issue of Volume, for instance, is a "bootleg" collaboration with Urban China on the timely topic of "Crisis." The issue ranges across topics like heritage planning, refugees and mass migration, the future of Biosphere 2 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biosphere_2 , Newark, and post-disaster architecture in China, like Shigeru Ban's paper tube houses and the Retumu project. Find it at the New Museum or buy it online.

"Urban China: Informal Cities," at the New Museum in New York ends April 29th. It continues at the Hammer Museum, LA, April-July, 2009 before moving to The Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, September-December, 2009.
Urban China (城市中國)
Urban China blog at New Museum
Interview with Jiang Jun and curator Ben Godsill at Architectural Record

Some articles from the new issue of Volume/Urban China, "Crisis":
Space in Crisis by Mark Wigley
Design for the Apocalypse by John McMorrough
Systems Gone Wild: Infrastructure After Modernity, by Kazys Varnelis

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