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Ting Bu Dong Beijing

Simon Zangger

“Ting Bu Dong” means “do not understand”, the words more often heard by Simon Zangger during his one-month-long self-assignment in Beijing. The language barriers and cultural differences he experienced are certainly not much distinct from other Westerners’, but the expression also refers to the lack of a true comprehension of China’s rapid social-economic development.

The starting point of this project was the perception of the ways Western media covers Chinese topics, such as living conditions, economy and politics, usually based on generalised assumptions. Numerous photographers have depicted the repetitive motifs of the demolished houses, new skyscrapers, nail houses and ghost towns in contrast to China’s manifold scenic landscapes. They pass by to make pictures and soon leave.

Zangger, on his part, decided to delve deeper in the signs and signals of the urban transformation of China’s capital, engaging with the inhabitants of a Beijing neighbourhood who will be forced to leave their shantytown homes in the summer of 2015 to make place for a building site of modern high-rises.

Zangger lived for thirty days in the already sealed-off quarter. His voluntary work in the neighbourhood kiosk enabled him to establish tight relationships with the residents, sharing their concerns about their mandatory relocation, and the hopes about their near future, translating it all through photography, film and writing.

Awarded with the Zeugin Design Award 2015

Nanqu neighbourhood, Beijing 2015
The making of
Kitchen, Beijing 2015
Streets of Nanqu, Beijing 2015
Tian’anmen Square, Beijing 2015
Screenshot video portrait Sun Yaqing, Beijing 2015

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