Friday, 24 October 2008

Market Passage

Noone needs to hear about how I spent a week reading and shopping. It's an odd thing about Shanghai, I love it here but it's very western, and completely unchallenging in the way Beijing was. I could be in any city right now, which is why there's so little I'm feeling the need to write about, but I'm having a fantastic time anyway. I've spent my days exploring the city, and especially the art street (50 Moganshan Lu, a set of gallery spaces in old warehouses) and the fashion and technology markets. The art street was interesting, but there was little that really grabbed me. The most engaging piece was a work by Liu Bolin at Eastlink Gallery, although the website sadly doesn't make any mention of him. His photographs of chameleon-like people, who are painted to fit into their background, are powerful and reflect a general sense of the removal or ignoring of the individual in a lot of the works I saw. Another, less successful, show featured 21 artists' self portraits, none of which featured the artist themself, at least not in any kind of obvious way. One featured a screenshot from a google search of the artist's name. I do want to return, since a lot of the bigger galleries were closed on the day.

Apart from time spent with Charlie and his Mandarin course friends, I've spent most of my time in the markets, bargaining and checking out what they offer. Shirts are tailored for about 12-15GBP, whilst a tailored suit is around 50. Wandering around is fascinating, and makes you entirely reassess the value you attached to clothes since everything is so cheap.

Walking through a market yesterday, a woman started to offer me her wares - watches, handbags and DVDs. Having not yet encountered a proper fake DVD seller, I was intrigued and asked her what she had. She led me through her shop to a back room. There, on shelves, stood stuffed animals, which she removed. She grabbed a magnet from the side and attached it to the back wall. With a 'click' the whole thing came away, revealing thousands of tiny plastic slips, each containing a fake or copied DVD, each costing a pound - and I'm sure I could have got them for less. Having looked through hundreds of options, and picked out five to examine, she asked me if I was interested in TV shows. China does not show most American shows on TV, so it is down to the fake DVD sellers to keep the eager Chinese market up to date with Gossip Girl, Heroes, Prison Break, 24 and the like.

"What do you have?" I asked.

'Click'. Back went the back wall, and off came the stuffed animals from another shelf. 'Click.' Off came another panel and here again stood hundreds of boxes, brightly coloured, each one containing full series of TV shows. I paid for my purchases and made to leave. "Better take this", the shopkeeper told me, handing me a black carrier bag and putting the DVDs inside. "So the police don't see."

No comments: