The Chinese term shanzhai (山寨) refers to counterfeit consumer goods. This includes imitation, trademark infringement, parody, lookalikes and improved goods, particularly in the field of electronics. A shanzhai (literally shan: mountain, zhai: stronghold) denotes a remote village in the mountains where bandits had once recreated their own form of society, far from the rules of the emperor.
Shanzhai Archeology presents an extraordinary collection of mobile phones from this technological interbreeding Made in China. These are hybrid products developed at an incredible speed merging piracy, reverse engineering, unique creativity and self-taught skills.
Exhibition launch: Wednesday 21 March, 6.30-8.30pm
Free and open to all, but please book your space here as numbers are limited.
Join the artists in a conversation from 6.45pm to 7.30pm in Watermans Studio 1 followed by drinks and a chance to see the work.
In this collection, a Buddha Phone, becomes a virtual altar by pressing a special key. The “smallest in the world” or Prisoner Phone is made of 99% plastic and is barely detectable by the authorities. There’s the Taser Phone, marketed as a self-defence weapon, or the Sound System Phone, catering for China’s pensioners as it can broadcast loud sound outdoors, being heard above the din of the public dances they love. It also comes with several gigabytes of old-fashioned communist songs that Chinese pensioners are particularly keen on. Other curious devices include strawberry or car-shaped phones, devices with in-built electric razors, lighters, power banks, video projectors and other impressive features.
A profitable business produced by small companies, shanzhai mainly happens out of Western sight, due to regulations that forbid most of these hybrid products to circulate legally across borders. Nevertheless, shanzhai devices fulfil a bespoke need or desire for hundreds of thousands of consumers in countries around the world, not just in China.
At a time when shanzhai might be under threat – following the Chinese government’s decision to clean up the country of its counterfeiter reputation – this project casts a critical eye at the results of unfettered technological innovation, through the relatively unknown history of the shanzhai.
Positioning this project at the crossroads between art and anthropology, the artists explore the cultural value of shanzhai and the radical otherness on its creative process; an open manufacturing model resulting in singular design solutions outside streamlined market forces and global innovation myths.
With the support of CNC Dicream, Design Trust – Hong Kong, Institut Français de Chine, Le Cube – Art3000
DISNOVATION.ORG is a working group based in Paris. At the crossroads between contemporary art, research and hacking, the collective develops situations of disturbance, speculation, and debate, challenging the ideology of innovation and stimulating the emergence of alternative narratives. They recently edited The Pirate Book, an anthology on media piracy. Their work has been presented internationally at venues such as the Museum of Art and Design in New York City, Palais de Tokyo in Paris, transmediale, FILE and the Chaos Computer Congress.
Nicolas Maigret exposes the internal workings of media, through an exploration of their dysfunctions, limitations or failure thresholds which he develops sensory and immersive audio visual experiences. As a curator he initiated the Disnovation Research Group which conducts a series of deviant strategies and symbolic activities facing the ongoing propaganda of technological innovation. He teaches at Parsons Paris and develops a research on “Black Boxes” with V2_ Rotterdam and UCL Louvain.
Maria Roszkowska is a Polish graphic designer based in Paris. She has been associate researcher at EnsadLab Paris. From 2010 to 2014, she worked for Intégral Ruedi Baur, one of the leading cultural graphic design studio in France. In 2013, she designed and coordinated for Lars Müller Publishers Don’t Brand my public space!, a three year research on the issue of cities applying branding strategies.
Clément Renaud is a French researcher, artist and writer specialized in innovation in China, social network analysis and data visualization. After living in China for several years, he is now based in France. His work evolves from the practice of fine arts, social sciences and creative coding. Fluent in Mandarin Chinese, he has founded several international initiatives related to urban, visual and digital cultures. He holds a doctorate in Management of Information Systems from Telecom ParisTech.
Hongyuan Qu is a Chinese designer documenting new forms of production of fashion and design. She works in France and China, and builds relationships between designers and artists.