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 ‘China’

Local Press

Posted by mrdemocracy on 14,11,2008

Just a quick link to a feature in the Daily Post, here. Not sure about the title, but overall its pretty positive about the project, and I hope it raises some interest.

Posted in China, Constitution, Introduction, toy production | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Liverpool

Posted by mrdemocracy on 17,09,2008

The rest of the journey was fairly uneventful, apart from discovering I’d left my coat in Hong Kong, and arriving in Terminal 5 to be harrased by Airport security – the bottle I bought after passing security in Hong Kong (in duty free), had to go in the hold due to the restrictions on liquids. OK, but the staff should somehow be trained in dealing with travellers who’ve been awake for days being asked to do ridiculous things – if it was good enough for Hong Kong airport staff and the BA flight in, it should be good enough for the domestic hop up to Manchester.

Straight on to the exhibition. The exhibition is at The Royal Standard, an ‘artist-led studio, gallery and social workspace based in Liverpool’. I first visited exhibitions of theirs in Arena studios, and then later in their namesake pub, The Royal Standard. The studio member’s rent subsidizes the rent of the gallery space, and they invigilate the exhibitions for free. They have spent much of the last six months being told they could move in ‘next week’ to a buidling in the ‘Baltic triangle’, near Greenland Street. In the summer they moved into a new building 10 minutes walk north of Moorfields, about 15 minutes walk from Lime Street, and have made the ground floor into an amazing exhibition space, with similar standards as a high end commercial gallery in London (reminded me of Modern Art in Vyner Street). The Royal Standard is run by a team of 6 directors, who between them have a great complementary mix of skills and experiences (writing, organising, exhibition construction). The Arts Council should be greatful for their value for money!

The plan that developed was to rent a container to house the toys outside the gallery. I wanted to hold onto the container in which the goods were to be delivered, but this would have been too expensive. It would also have been too expensive to get the goods delivered directly to Liverpool by sea. At first I was told it wasn’t possible, then Hamilton (who made the ship tracking system) searched and found there were sea routes to Liverpool (via Le Harve). Its not reassuring when googling something provides better information than the people you’re paying to do this (the shipping agents). It was a pleasant suprise to find that renting a container is quite affordable – just £1.50 a day, plus £120 delivery and pick up. The container will house the ship tracking system displayed on a laptop for the first half of the exhibition, in the same space in which the 1000 ‘New Constitutions’ -toys will be held. In a separate room inside the gallery is the 3 screen video installation.

The container mentioned, has arrived!

Kevin Hunt

Photo: Kevin Hunt

For the next 4 weeks it will house the ship tracking system you can see above, until the 1000 dolls arrive.

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Huang Pu, wuh-hooo!

Posted by mrdemocracy on 09,09,2008

They’re off. Today I relaxed for the first time in two months! It was a stressful day though, completely Challenge Anneka.

Our deadline was 11am at the warehouse in Huang Pu, Gaungzhou’s main port. Despite everyone telling me it would be easy to find a truck and driver (man with a big van), we … had some trouble finding a man with a big van. Fearing that one wouldn’t be enough, we got two trucks (Jackson’s friend recommended them for us), and we met them at a metro station. From there we tried to get to the installation factory. I say tried to, we were again struck by the no-maps-no-directions-curse, loosing us valuable time. In the end someone came to meet us on a bike, after a few circles and many phone calls. Arriving at the installation factory I seemed to be in more of a rush than anyone, but Marco got the idea pretty quick. As the boxes started coming downstairs, I went upstairs to pay up. As this wasn’t Marco’s place, we settled using some plastic chairs to count the cash, I’ve never counted to much so fast!

The pressure only increased as we got back on the trucks to speed off to the port. I was concerned about traffic and getting lost, particularly not being able to find our warehouse. Jackson and I were on the phone all the time to each other and Laura from the shipping company. Arriving at Huang Pu, we were told we had to go to a counter to hand in a form, and get another one. I don’t know what people normally do, I can’t imagine many people do so much themselves. The queue at the counter was long and slow, and we noticed that the counter closed at 11:30 for lunch. Lunchtime in China seems to be as strict as France and Italy (used to be), and it also has nap time built-in, I approve. We made it! We were the last ones before the little counter window was slammed shut, that was lucky. We then went off to find our warehouse, 8c. We then discovered that it was closed for lunch, I don’t know why we weren’t told this by Laura beforehand. We unloaded onto pallets next to the warehouse, thankful that it didn’t rain, and paid the drivers. Lunchtime gave me a moment to start some filming – coming in with the goods had given me the opportunity to get right into the port, and it was the container base, cranes and all. I hadn’t known this before, I had thought we might have left our boxes at a warehouse owned by the shipping company, but they were not around.

After lunch the pallets were driven into the warehouse, boxes bouncing around, I don’t know how they are supposed to get to England. They had a piece of string to hold them together. And they were marked with chalk. We’ll see.

The filming opportunities got better still. A little wander round the corner and we were at the waterfront, with the cranes dropping the containers onto barges set for the short ride to Hong Kong, where they will be transferred to bigger cargo ships. Amazing. I still can’t believe we could get in and get so close, what happened to all the Olympic security? One guard told us we weren’t allowed to film, and asked us who we were. It did help that we were customers. We couldn’t really argue that we were lost (we were a long way from our warehouse), but maybe just curious customers. I tried to be discreet, and although he could still see we were there, he never come back. Jackson started to get a bit nervous with the huge cranes moving tonnes of container above our heads and rolling on their train tracks next to us, so we called it a day. Walking out of the container base in search of a bus or taxi, I really felt like I’d done it, the toys were on their way. Thanks Arts Council England, thanks for believing I could do it.

Posted in China experiences, toy production | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

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 »

Writers

Posted by mrdemocracy on 03,08,2008

Today I met the three people who have drafted the conversation, and we talked about it and the whole project. It was satisfying – we had farily in depth discussions that I’m not sure we would otherwise have had. Since recording the voices of the writers, they decided they would prefer it if I didn’t use their real names. Actually one of them was much more cautious than the other two, who I think wouldn’t have minded. It does seem a shame to do this, it actually reinforces the idea that there isn’t political freedom in China. Now, this is of course the case, but it is changing, and most of the Chinese I met are keen to change China’s image. To add to the cultural gap, some of the people I met also had an out of date understanding of our impression of China, I explained that the main impression repeatedly given by the western media is breakneck development and a lack of human rights. I described our impression (dare I say ‘our’?) of China as it being like a train, a little rickety, travelling at great speed, not all the track layed out in front of it. They found this a nice image, and not unaccurate.

Posted in Constitution | 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 anti-cnn.com, 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 »

Why democracy?

Posted by mrdemocracy on 04,04,2008

Check out this great project! From the website:

“Democracy is arguably the greatest political buzzword of our time and is invoked by everyone – but what does it mean? Can it be defined, measured, safeguarded? Can it be sold, bought, and transplanted? Can it grow? Can it die? What does it mean to people who can’t even talk about it? What does it mean to people who don’t believe in it? What does it mean to you?”

They have a point, don’t they? This has confused and worried me for some time too, the use of the word democracy as if (a)it was understood the same by everybody and (b)its a battle between good and evil. The hypocrocy of its use is also troubling (bear in mind I’m British – see SCOPA).

Check the project out here:

www.whydemocracy.net

Unfortunately, part 1 has dissappeared from you tube.
Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Click the video to go to youtube, from there you’ll be able to search for others.

Posted in Other places and projects | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »