‘Kaleidoscope’ By artist Jennifer Yang

My heart tinkled with delight when I marveled at artist Jennifer Yang’s work in the Chinese Arts Centre, Manchester. The work consists of large-scale sections of paper origami, which through the clever use of light and colour interact with the viewer depending on their viewpoint around a stairwell. It gives me reassuring comfort and delight in encountering artwork which is familiar but yet offers so much space for surprise and wonder.

The work challenges our current perception of traditional craft. In a world where contemporary art can mean everything, crafts are still being viewed as inferior to ‘fine’ art. It is artworks like this and others that remind us of the enchanting powers of traditional craft – just like any other art approach.


Artist’s impression of the Sky City One in Changsha

The Sky City One in Changsha, China, aims to be the tallest skyscraper in the world, rising 202-storeys into the hazy Hunan sky. The skyscraper will be located smack in the middle of the Hunan countryside, roughly 16 kilometers (10 miles) northwest of Changsha downtown in what is currently a wetland along the banks of the Xiangjiang River. It is due for completion in June, 2013. Sky City One, according to environmental architect Lloyd Alter, will be taller, greener, faster and cheaper.

We are by now used to huge, tall skyscrapers dotting China’s cities and even the countryside. It is almost standard practice to transform China from its shady past to glamorous modernity. It seems as long as China has the biggest of everything in the world, surely it must be the best place on earth. In the meantime taste, style, culture and tradition are often lost in this simplified pursuit of size.

However this attitude is deeply rooted in Chinese culture. In China, size matters! Chinese people compete to have the biggest gold rings, the biggest jade stones, the biggest diamond…. Now the whole car industry benefits from China’s never ending demand for ‘something bigger’.

I am glad China has thought about building an environmentally friendly building but I hope one day we can go one step further to understand what is impressive about being Chinese rather than focusing only on size.

My upcoming exhibition explores the dreams, goals and ambitions of factory girls working in the main Chinese manufacturing hubs. Over the last month I have been based in the town of Humen – which is the capital of China’s clothes-making industry. This sneak preview from my making-of documentary introduces the town and its population.