Student Profile: Chris Teagles Mr Thunder

Third year student, Chris Teagles, recently completed a trip to China with fellow UCLAN students as part of the Universities Travel Bursury scheme. Below is a short piece Chris produced during his time there.
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Mr Thunder

During my visit to Guangzhou I had the opportunity to visit Mr Thunder. Simon was his first name. Conor and I visited him with Tony, one of the Chinese students and we talked with him in the comfort of his home. We found that he has visited 140 countries in his lifetime and as you can imagine he has plenty of stories. I sat in awe as he told a few. I was overwhelmed. Is it possible to document this all in one sitting? Luckily the cameras were rolling so some of these fascinating stories were captured. My pen was poised over my notebook, but I wrote nothing, listening intently and taking it all in. After talking for some time and hearing about his life travelling talk turned to growing up in Guangzhou and how this mega city has transformed and evolved around its residents. Again, nothing was written but a lot was learned. Before we left I asked to take a portrait of him, he gladly obliged and sat in his chair and allowed me to document him, relaxed and at home.

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Day two and I was up early, stood outside a metro station with Tony and Conor waiting for Mr Thunder. A few moments later, he arrives smiling and greets us before telling us that we are a short walk from the first location. We set off walking – this is what we are here for. As we navigate the streets of Guangzhou he points out buildings to us, talking about the changes that have affected his past home. We arrive at a grand looking house, stood tired from many years of neglect. He removes a small photograph from his pocket and shows us: “this is my first home”. A house that was once a home to him and his parents now is home to 15 families, the hallways lined with washing, bikes, buckets and stools. Our footsteps echo around the walls as we climbed the stairs in the darkness. On the first floor we go to the balcony and he removes another photograph. This depicts him, as a young child sitting on a chair, sunlight catching his face. I take the image from him and we set about re-photographing the same scene 60 years on. We continue up the stairs to the roof. Here the contrast and diversity of the city becomes instantly apparent. The new city sprawls out around us, skyscrapers towering upwards whilst buildings that stood less proud but for many more years are nestled in their shadow. Trees snaking upwards from the pavements making the place a true concrete jungle. Here on the roof we stood and re-create another image. Simon gives himself to the camera with great ease and goodwill, his desire for this change to be documented as much as myself and Conor.

IMG_1795We carried on following this fantastic man through the streets of the ever-changing city as he took us through memories of his childhood. He and his stories documented forever will always remain some of my fondest memories of Guangzhou.

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Staff Profile – John Aitken

Exhibition in Guangzhou, China

My partner Jane and myself were invited to take part in a group show at the Guangdong Museum of Art in mid April. The exhibition was entitled Issues of Urbanisation. All the artists chosen were either from China or U.K. based and had work that investigated the impact of urbanization on individuals and communities. We went to Guangzhou to install the work and do a series of talks with local students, journalists and artists.

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The work Jane and myself have been undertaking since 2004 is a longitudinal study of the council housing estate I’ve lived on since 1993 in Pendleton, Salford. The project has been documenting and archiving a landscape in change using observational reports, photography, video, audio recordings and archival based research.

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Our exhibition piece, a three channel video installation, focused on the effects of Media City on the surrounding area. Media City was once the former dock area for Manchester and Salford that has now been transformed into a global media hub, housing the BBC and a growing army of high-end apartments blocks.

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The areas dramatic economic development has meant that the once undesirable land of the housing estate next door has suddenly become attractive to real estate speculation. As a result people are slowly moved out, houses demolished and the land prepared under a number of ‘legitimate’ guises. A new type of urban prairie momentarily emerges awaiting new lucrative investment. A host of informative pamphlets, persuasive council strategies and user- friendly community focused websites emerge to mediate the evictions and changes.

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Talking to students in the Guangzhou gallery many related to the things we were discussing. Guangzhou has transformed at a dramatic rate over the last twenty years and some of the changes they felt weren’t for the better. The pace of change and the lack of justice in who benefited from these developments particularly disturbed them.

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As in Salford, communities who had inhabited the city for generations are being evicted to make way for high-density lucrative apartment blocks to house the new wealthy. In our own wanderings near the river we came across such several sites of demolitions where displaced people were living in liminal public spaces.

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Below is a link to a great article examining some of the issues this blog entry touches on:

http://newleftreview.org/II/53/david-harvey-the-right-to-the-city

My own article on the housing estate in Salford can be found in the UCLan Library:

http://goo.gl/AHwz0