As cities go, Shanghai seems about as contemporary as they get. It is known for its sky scrapers and shopping, rather than its history and culture. Proving this point, the Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA) has been recently refurbished. It stands shiny and proud in People’s Park, whilst its neighbour the Shanghai Art Gallery glooms in its shadow with eerily empty walls, the few pieces shown often only accompanied by those fatal words: ‘artist unknown.’
However, artists themselves are no longer current enough for MoCA’s impressive new exhibition called ‘Mock Up.’ In their place are ten teams of architects that have been invited to create ten different living spaces. The installations consider Chinese living spaces and the relationship between people and their contemporary living environments. Microwaves, magazines and plastic furniture replace traditional Chinese interiors.
There is no hint of art being intended for the academic. In fact the spaces interact with the viewer by encouraging them to sit, climb and even play. People of all ages were playing in ‘The Kids Room’; a room that hangs from the ceiling so moves with you and is filled with big yoga balls that complete strangers end up throwing at one another.
At the end if the gallery it explains that the room is designed to imitate the rocking that we feel whilst in our mother’s womb and then the cradle, although most the people inside are having too much fun to bother reading it.
If it weren’t for the mysterious gathering of people opposite MoCA, one could be fooled into thinking Shanghai has turned its back on all tradition. However, stray a little from the entrance of the museum and you will stumble upon the Marriage Market.
Personal advertisements litter the pavement and trees as parents try to find suitable matches for their child. Parents spend their weekends sat next to their laminated piece of paper which contains information such as their child’s age, job, achievements and whether they own a house or car.
They sit hoping that another parent will find their offspring suitable, if this joyous moment happens then a date is arranged. The marriage market is a last resort for some parents as traditional arranged marriages are becoming harder to organise due to the uneven demographics of the population caused by the one child policy. A problem that will only get worse with an estimated 24 million bachelors in China by 2020.
In Shanghai, marriage is obviously still an indicator to success and parents using a market to achieve this leaves the MoCA viewers questioning whether Shanghai is as contemporary as they once thought.