Hu Yang began wandering the streets of Shanghai, especially the nongtang (the narrow alleyways of old Shanghai), in the 1980s. He has taken a lot of photographs that capture the dramatic changes in nongtang life.
Viewers can glimpse the unique life of the nongtang, such as no clear-cut boundary between public and private space. In the past, when air-conditioning, refrigerators and television sets were not available or affordable, people had to share cooking and water facilities. Residents went about their many daily activities, such as doing the laundry, cooking, brushing, washing and even taking a shower, in the common space. Since the rooms in the homes were very small, residents would move many family activities from indoors to the streets, such as having meals, taking a nap, reading and playing chess.
The special features of the nongtang have profoundly shaped people's manners, lifestyles and cultural habits. Unlike living in modern apartment buildings, life in the nongtang is far more transparent with very limited privacy. Yet, on the positive side, neighbors are more familiar with and intimately involved with each other.
There is neither worship for modern life, nor emotional reminiscing, in Hu's photos. They are just an invitation to a trip back in time.
Time and Date: 1-6 pm, closed on Sunday and Monday, until Oct 15
Venue and Address: ShanghART Gallery, Wu Jiao Chang 800 Art Zone, 800 Guoshun East Lu, #401, Shanghai
(China Daily September 26, 2008)