The wide-scale destruction impacted upon many cities during the First and Second World War and the project of rebuilding that followed prompted a period in architecture and urban planning defined by aspirations towards a better future. The ambition was to re-build in ways that would improve the lives of citizens, with emphasis placed upon industry, energy, leisure and housing.
Today, a new set of challenges, questions and perhaps values is affecting the ways in which the future of our cities is being envisioned. The rise of the Digital Revolution now rapidly reshaping modern life extends to the urban sphere, too; cities no longer being simply a composition of physical space, geography and architecture, but also ‘smart environments’ built around automated vehicles, screens and systems. As the pace of technological advancements continues to accelerate, these considerations become ever more pressing.
In response, Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art (CFCCA) prepares to launch a five-month season of exhibitions, talks, screenings and events that explore the future direction of cities and the dynamic changes occurring within them. The programme begins with Future Cities: Technopolis and Everyday Life, a group show that exists at the intersection between art and architecture and will be housed within a specially constructed architectural setting.
A second exhibition of work by artist collective Jiū Society will be presented alongside in CFCCA’s Gallery 2 featuring their ambitious multi-media installation, Lost in Shenzhen. The piece seeks to offer a fresh perspective on life in Chinese megacities by celebrating their seldom-seen night-life, illustrating the marvel and chaos contained within some of the world’s most rapidly developing regions.
As cities are increasingly becoming not just cities, but ‘global cities’, ‘tech cities’ and ‘smart cities’, Future Cities at CFCCA seems to offer an important opportunity to stop and consider what a utopian future really looks like? After all, as Paul Rotha asked in his landmark 1947 documentary about the redevelopment of post-war Manchester, and the opening ceremony of Manchester International 2017 reiterated; What is the city but the people?