Shanghai Frolic

By Andrew K├Âtting

I was an artist-in-residence at the studios on Suzhou Creek in Shanghai. Artists Links, The British Council, Arts Council England and BizArt were all involved with the residency and the work expressed is in no small part thanks to them. Hereunder is a statement of artistic intent developed during my stay and which to date has been mostly realised.

Close-Up Film Centre · Shangai Frolic


Shanghai Frolic might be seen in the context of a Situationist derive or wander but this work is meant to be read as a frolic. It would be an unmediated spectator-visitor meander.

I would make a series of eight bicycle trips: North, North East, East, South East, South, South West, West, North West. The flat in Brilliant City near Suzhou Creek would act as the start-finish point for these forays. I would travel the highways and byways, daytime and night time, hither and dither; serendipity would be my master.

Using a small Dictaphone I would record to tape my first impressions and contemplations of the city. With an ‘Olympus Trip’ 35 mm stills camera I would also snap pictures. Wherever possible I would stop to investigate and record the ‘music-concrete of the place: from the banging and drilling of the construction to the hooting and tooting of the traffic, from the whistling and shouting of the people to the becking and calling of the wildlife.

I would then extract my voice observations and contemplations to produce a book. These first-hand impressions would be translated into both Chinese written characters, (pictographic symbols of spoken words) and Rebus, (a simple pictographic text-based symbol system used for people with communication difficulties in the West).

The book would be modelled on the traditional Chinese Calligraphy books that are found in stationers all over Shanghai and would include carbon-copied drawings taken from the Olympus Trip snapshots.

A CD would also accompany the book, and this would contain edited recordings from the cycle derives’ as well as any other found sounds that were deemed apt. The final component to Shanghai Frolic is dependent on being able to present the book, the CD and the drawings within the context of an Installation.

A two screen video projection would be produced. On one screen a panoramic view of Shanghai (shot from the 34th floor of the flat in Brilliant City as a large storm builds over the skyline), on the other, close up footage of people’s apartments at night time. All shot from the 34th floor of the flat in Brilliant City and reminiscent in part of Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window. The sound filling the Installation would be taken from both the CD and the “ field’” video recordings.

Translation : Zoé Wang Jué

NB. ‘Shanghai Frolic’ is inspired in part by Woody Guthrie’s ‘grassy grass grass, tree tree tree, leafy leaf leaf, 1 2 3, birdy bird bird, fly fly fly, nesty nest nest, high high high’.

NBB. Whilst making the cycle trips I would leave in my wake a series of Xeroxed ‘LOST’ notices. They are produced in a style normally associated with pets that have gone missing. They would be placed in phone boxes and ask for information that might lead to the whereabouts of my deadad or any other deadads for that matter. This is a continuation of a project instigated a year ago in London. There is an email address for replies and I am curious to see whether they might elicit a response from the people of Shanghai. If so then these might also find a way into the book.

NBBB. Text and pictograms generated using ‘Writing with Symbols’.

NBBBB. Henri Michaux IDEOGRAMS IN CHINA (pub.New Directions).