Mr Democracy

A written constitution for the UK (made in China)

  • Welcome to Mr Democracy, the story of a British artist who set off to get a written constitution for the UK made.
    Understanding the changing balance of power in the world, and with a nod to Britain’s ‘democratic’ ventures across the world, he chose to get it written in China, and ship it back to the UK.
    Read more under 'about' and in the many blog entries.

Posts Tagged ‘2008 Beijing Olympics’

Second official visit

Posted by mrdemocracy on 08,08,2008

Back in Guangzhou, I got a knock at the door from the Police in the new hotel too. There were some attacks in the north (see here), so its fair enough that any foreigners in any part of China may be terrorists, despite the attackers being Chinese. This at least, is what my Chinese art student helper said. It is always amazing and scary just how easy and lightly people will bow down and take a bit of totalitarian government, with just the faintest of excuse. ‘The Olympics’ really was the reason for any abuse of Police power. I was more used to it now, after last time, and I do think people here are more used to the Police inviting themselves to any occasion than in the UK or Germany, but I still hate it. The came with a young woman interpreter. I like it that the police don’t actually speak English, it slows the interrogation right down. He pointed at the tripod and asked what it was. I said it was a tripod, I am a tourist. This just exemplifies the pointlessness of police interrogation anywhere in the world – harassing ordinary citizens. I say pointless, it does keep them in check, adding that little bit of fear which discourages us from protesting. ID cards in the UK should bring us that bit closer.

It also brings to mind something a friend who studied in Russia. She recounted how Russians said the difference between their system and ours was that they knew they lived lived in a system (a designed system) whereas it seemed we didn’t. Having said that it seems the Chinese, the Chinese I met, aren’t too aware of how much their system is designed, and how different it could be. Indeed, the writers in Shanghai asked me ‘so which human rights do you (all) think we so desperately need? I’m fine, my life is not interrupted by the police on a regular basis’. This was interesting if a little saddening, but it shows that the propaganda works. In another conversation with someone who worked with me in Gaungzhou, he asked if I could make one change in China, what would it be. We talked about it and agreed it would be one relatively simple change: press freedom. Press freedom would allow the corruption to (start to) be reported, bringing exposure and shame.

Since looking up an article about the terrorist attacks, google returns an update – that the attack now seems less black and white than first mentioned. Now its out of the (narrowly focussed) media spotlight, but I remember at the time a BBC ‘From Our Own Correspondant’ reporter commenting on how quickly the scene was tidied up, and there was little evidence of the attack. Have a look here.

Posted in China experiences, Chinese Politics, Olympics | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Do you do politics?

Posted by mrdemocracy on 26,07,2008

The next day I visited the British Council, in one of the poshest buildings I’ve visited in my life, although it was attached to a mall. I met Veronica Wang, from Guangzhou, who had studied in the UK for a year and a half, which seems to be in the biography of most of the Chinese people working at the British Council, which does give them an insight into how Britain works. We discussed what had to be done, it was good to have that support, I was impressed. I hope it wasn’t inappropriate, but I tucked straight into the politics, asking Veronica what she thought of the Olypmic flame issue, of what had happened (see London protests here). Interestingly enough, her first and only recollection of the event was of a Chinese torch carrier in a wheelchair who was attacked in Paris (see here) and the reaction it ’caused’ (see, noted on the Chinese Embassy’s website, though of course not officially condoned). I asked her regarding the subject of China feeling criticised, and my project inviting a reversal in the direction of comment.

Part of this reaction manifest itself in the form of protests in China. I’m here and start to see that this reaction is genuine, but it is also very frustrating that many Chinese people, as far as I can see, simply don’t see that most protests are banned, and some are condoned. It does I have to say, remind me of the willful ignorance of people who think protesting in the west is a walk in the park – look what happened here: (updated link) – Republican National Congress and the police state that was the twin cities for those few days, nearly 1000 arrests, most for little or no reason, and the widespread indiscriminate use of tasers, smoke bombs, tear gas, etc. See:
Protester arrested for falling off his bike
And here his testomony to the torture he suffered in custody
Here and here journalist arrests
Sorry for the deviation!

Back to China: Chinese truck drivers block carrefour.
Later that day I met Tom Shi at his studio not far from my hotel, the British Council had also put me in touch with him. Tom (who’d also studied in London, industrial design) had started to help before I arrived in China, looking up some factories and giving me some more tips about what would be possible. He then invited me to use his studio as my work place, which was so kind and helpful – comfy, good internet, and friendly people there. Tom has had the studio under a year, and would like to find some other interesting people to share it with, I think to give give him sounding boards and some shared creative energy as it were. There are 2 students who work for Tom too.

Posted in Chinese Politics, Nationalism | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Criticism in Berlin

Posted by mrdemocracy on 06,04,2008

Here in Berlin I’ve received much essential support, suggestions and astute criticism from peers and colleagues, but also some ‘woooo, hang on’ criticism, especially this week during the Olympic flame’s rather unhappy travels. Suprisingly, otherwise liberal and supportive professors have shown great caution and wanted to really avoid the project. I’m always very hesitant to think of myself as radical, certainly too radical. In my experience, this is rarely the case, and those who think they are too radical are often simply missing something, some experience that someone else has.

See Clashes along Olympic torch route

A Chinese artist and curator colleague has also been cautious, claming up when I asked her if she knew any writers, teachers or political science students. She reacted in a way I’ve never seen before, laughing nervously and saying, ‘no, of course I don’t know anyone involved in these areas, only artists’, but almost as if there were a thrid person in the room, checking her response. I think this was my first experience of the effects of an all-knowing dictatorship, though I suspect my colleague was more cautious than absolutely necessary. She, I now understand, is most likely a party member. She suggested I do something less confrontational, more concillatory. I don’t find the project that critical, but as the media spotlight turns to China, and Chinese hackles raise, I’m happy with the concept -rather than a westerner looking across and opinionating about China, it enables a reverse, of sorts. The project appears to be becoming more relevant with current events, not less. And I don’t think its an artist’s job to make things that are necessarily ‘nice’.

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