Part of Qiu Zhijie: Journeys without Arrivals
Door: Jie Yu

07/06/2017  6.30 to 8.30 p.m.

I joined Yao on a midsummer evening for the “Mapping your world” workshop, which was taking place in the Van Abbemuseum for the second time. There were 20 participants. This workshop was different from the last one in that none of the participants were Chinese. It is quite exciting for the organisers to see that an artwork from China can attract the interest of such a diverse group: men and women, young and old, and Dutch and international visitors from different professional backgrounds. 

This time Yao went straight to the map and asked the participants whether they had any questions. The first questions were about Zhongshan Park. After providing some background information about the park, questions were raised about the map. “The letters have different sizes, what is the author trying to differentiate here?” “Does the map try to suggest ways of improving the city?” “Are the distances in the map important? Does it reveal the relevance of each area?” “Is it a work by Qiu himself or a joint effort?” “What does ‘from family to country’ mean?” “Is this work originally in Chinese or English?” “Do the parks form a pattern of crossroads?” Yao did not intend to give definitive answers to these questions, but rather encouraged the participants to express their thoughts and inspire one another. They discovered that bigger letters have a more conceptual character, while smaller ones have a more factual character. They also discovered that social research had led to the creation of this map; the relationships between different parts of the map, the change in the social structure in China and the Chinese philosophy embedded in the map. 

While everyone was still taking their time reading the details on the map, Yao shared her memories of Shanghai Zhongshan Park, as a local from Shanghai. She described the changes in the way in which people use the park and in the surrounding landscape over the course of time. The “birth of leisure” was her key phrase. She showed pictures taken at the same location in the park at different times.  There are people taking wedding pictures in 1998 in the corner of the park and an older man playing Tai Chi in front of a Western-style statue in the same corner in 2016. The skyline has also changed dramatically with all the skyscrapers and shopping malls built around the park. To a local like Yao, these differences are obvious, as Zhongshan Park, the city and the country developed new social classes, new activities, and new capitals in our globalized world.  Yao’s message was that the interpretation of the map can never be isolated from its social context, as indicated in Qiu’s words: “Things are not taken on their own, but in the context of where they are in relation to each other.” 

Yao asked the participants, who were divided into four groups, for their own key words on the map. They shared their key words and how they related to Qiu’s map themselves. Although some details on Qiu’s map might be difficult for the participants to understand, the art form is universal.  Eventually, four fascinating maps, representing who the participants were are and where they were from, were presented. 

Group 1 took the idea of Qiu’s work and decided to draw a “map” of Eindhoven. From both the local and the expat perspective, it describes the changing demographic and social networks in the city, raises questions about migrants and their economic situation, and how changing family structures and new forms of social interaction affect the loneliness of urban dwellers. To do this, they picked a few key words from the map of Zhongshan Park and introduced comparable concepts in Eindhoven: “Matchmaking corner” to “tinder” and “speed dating”, “Leisure” to “bier”, “bitterballen”, “frites” and “Bijenkorf”, “Statue of the great man” to the Philips family statues, “Festivals” to “King’s Day”. Eindhoven landmarks were also integrated to provide a framework for the map. The map showcases the high-tech environment of the city by asking questions related to blockchain and our unknown paths in the future.

Our second group drew a map of the Stadswandelpark. They picked four main themes: landscape, leisure, society and innovation. First, they outlined the park and then they started to add activities, places and items of interest, such as Daan Roosegaarde, Pokemon-Go and the High-tech campus. They used different colors to represent each theme and circled the items that fit them. With this park, their work depicts Eindhoven city life in a colorful way.

Group 3 comprised six people, all from very different backgrounds and with different ages. They came up with the innovative idea of rotating the map to create personal interaction. They sat around the paper and decided to start by taking one corner each. The “workshop” is at the center and the map is roughly divided into six parts. Their first drawings started with personal stories, depicting their own places, locations, objects, attractions and activities. After the first round, they rotated the map and worked on someone else’s part. In this way, they interacted with each another, and established relationships between places. Quite a few of the places displayed on the map with have identical items, Tulum in Mexico, San Francisco and New York City in the States, Cologne, Lisbon, Glastonbury, Tilburg, and of course Eindhoven in Europe. Places have different meanings to different people. In the “Mexican corner”, Tulum is a holiday paradise for Western tourists, and a “home for the homeless” for locals. People’s everyday activities, from going to work, going on business trips, having some food, playing sports or music take place in multiple locations and the map clearly shows how these locations are connected. This creates ways for people to interact in our global village. The group continued rotating the map until the time was up. The possibilities in this creative work seemed endless.

Group 4 had the biggest age difference between the participants. They took a different approach and drew a map to depict their own journey. The life course started with “the basics”, with questions about the reasons for being who they were.  This was followed by Looking within (“Binnen kijken”) to discuss the inner self. In the “future” section, two bridges signifying “intention” and “action” connect together people in our international community, creating possibilities. Finally, “IDEA” puts forward questions regarding the confusion between living a modern life and the old life, and the dilemmas confronting people during their lives.

The four maps that were created are different yet similar to the works we received in the previous workshop. We see the same themes in different places, expressed in different ways.  The time and space we live in now are truly ‘glocal’.

After the presentation the participants started to chat, and I got to know them better as well. Some are here because they are interested in the map and in art, some came with family and friends, and some wanted to make friends. A work of art brings the community together, creates rich dialogues and has inspired the participants to create four intriguing artworks. In today’s event, art is like a global language, without boundaries, and connects with people’s everyday lives. I think this is an echo of Qiu’s initial idea of the  “Zhongshan Park project”, opening endless new spaces for social interaction. “Mapping your world” will continue in this vein and the territory will continue to expand.