Biography: Bill Aitchison is an inter-disciplinary artist and researcher who divides his time between China and the UK. He has presented his work in galleries, theatres and festivals in Europe, Asia, America, Australia and The Middle East. He holds a practice-based PhD from Goldsmiths College, University of London, is a graduate of Ecole de Mime Corporel, has published critical, creative and journalistic texts in several countries and has made a number of works for radio. He teaches Performance Studies at Nanjing University and is currently developing projects at the intersection of art and tourism with the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He has presented his research as a keynote speaker in such contexts as SOAS China Institute, Cambridge University Asian Studies Forum and Edinburgh University’s Confucius Institute.
Topic: ‘Quick-Fixes’: a Human Design Perspective
Abstract: This talk proceeds from an examination of the photographic archive ‘China Quick-Fix’ that the author, and selected collaborators, have assembled between 2014-2017 and which has featured in 2 solo exhibitions and 2 group shows. These images document make-shift repairs and constructions, and related phenomenon, offering a sympathetic treatment of this common feature of the Chinese urban landscape. Following a necessary methodological description of this form of embedded visual research, the fixer’s actions are considered within a historical and contemporary context. Quick-fixes are then categorised first according to material and then by broad functions such as transportation, architecture, utilities and interior design, in order to map out both diversity and relatedness. A consistent concern is the highlighting of the practical design intelligence they display, often at the expense of aesthetic considerations, and how this offers a nuanced understanding of the total design process. By paying close attention to this organic, bottom-up design process, I argue, we can find some strikingly innovative solutions which can be of use within more formal systems of planning and construction. Looking forwards at the ongoing modernisation of infrastructure and the progressive marginalisation of these quick-fixes, aspects worthy of preservation are identified such as their role in harmonising the human relationship to the built environment and the place of recycling within environmental protection.