Wednesday, April 19, 2006


Bond, my undercover agent in Shanghai, writes with the hideous news that they (you know who they are, right?) are assaulting trees in Jing'an Park.

"A group of dust-covered workmen were busying themselves rebuilding a tree. They were plugging the God-given gaps with polyfiller and then painting the bark brown before coating it with a nice thick varnish. I'm sure you've seen its like, but it filled me with rage. What have we come to where the Shanghai Municipal Government deems it acceptable (and necesary) to paint its trees brown. It's like the whole city is a billboard canvas that needs a bit of photoshopping here and there. Of course, the only people batting an eyelid at the spectacle were those who were staring at me, working out why I should be interested in a tree that was only half-built. Of all the things I've seen in this city (bearing in mind that I recently saw a tethered monkeys being led (alive) into the kitchen of my local la mian resturant) this was one of the very sickest. I'm looking forward to coming home."

(Words and picture Copyright (C) G. Bond 2006)

I have to say that I was nauseated by the painted trees, but only slightly: I have been hardened against this sort of minor affront to good taste by the altogether more repellent news that the streets of Lhasa are now lined with plastic palm trees. If the Powers that Be find a way to stoop any lower they should give up pretending to be Cawmuniss1 and become limbo dancers instead.

1. Cawmuniss: Communists


  1. Ed,

    Your undercover informant brings up a very interesting issue. However I would be more cautious about jumping to conclusions about any purely aesthetic motives behind the 'varnishing' of trees in Shanghai.

    The question is, how much intervention should humans do in order to protect heritage trees (or any trees for that matter)?

    Looking at the other side of the coin, one could say that the Shanghai Municipal Government is being very proactive in protecting important trees in the city through thorough anti-pest coatings and management. This in a day when only one tree is being planted for each four chopped down in urban areas in the US.

    A tree's bark is not alive, therefore special coatings to further protect the tree underneath do not affect the tree in any adverse way. Furthermore, plugging up holes in the trees's natural armour is surely a benefit when the tree is already fighting hard against the harsh pollution of the urban environment.

    Considering the magnificent benefits that mature trees give to urban areas both 'atmospherically' and socially, every effort to keep already-mature trees healthy seems to be jolly good idea.

    Benefits of trees

    Shanghai Tree Protection

    Shanghai Tree Regulations

    My two (uneducated) yen for the day.

    - Rob

  2. Plastic palm trees sounds very saftey consious think about it, there's no chance of have an accident with a coconut falling off and hurting anyone. Unless they bought the ACME mega delux palm with detachable nuts. I commend my commie brothers for such a well thought out and visually interesting spectacle. I may send them a small donation to get some pink flamingo's as that would I believe just make it tops...

  3. I'm no tree hugger but trees of any description (painted, plaster filled or plastic) are great for cycling. They don't half shelter you from those bloody incessant headwinds.

    Try a bit of bike riding in the Outer Hebrides (or maybe Tibet) and you'll see what it's like in the wind with no trees.

    Having read Ed's earlier comments about headwinds (whilst I was censoring the content for Google China) I'm sure he knows about endless headwind on unsheltered roads, a few trees might have helped him.

    Long live the 'Shanghai Municipal Government!!!'

    Let them keep up the good work.

    Hu Jintao
    (On behalf of The Peoples Republic of China)

  4. I've just had the strangest of days so seeing painted trees or plastic ones is nothing out of the ordinary. Actually I would say that's tame in comparison to what I've just seen.

  5. Carl, don't do this to us. What have you just seen? The suspense is killing me.

    - Rob

  6. firstly I'd like to thank rocksie the police dog, from a previous thread on this blog about presscott and his naughty behaviour several weeks before I read about it in the papers.

    secondly I have to go back today to complete this piece of so called installation art. So need to be focused on the task inhand I'll post a report on the strangest thing ever and there will even be a mention of rubber gloves for our "specialist" in these matters.

    Have to dash mission impossible awaits.

  7. Rubber gloves!?
    What color are they?
    Where is Ruth?
    She said she had yellow gloves.

    Oh, all this suspence!


  8. Perhaps the chinese authorities are taking ideas from installation artists such as Susan Hillier. If that is the case expect to see more wierd things.

    I've just completed a commission of hers aswell as assistant on several others. Here are some of the things I've just seen and it's in order of strange to wierd to just wrong.

    1. Shop dummy (of no particular importance) dressed in wedding dress made from steak! (steak from the butchers) Ok sounds abit odd and looks kinda strange. It was apparently to say something about forced marriages and your just a bit of meat under the dress. Here comes the good bit people making it used green gloves and the piece is valued at 20K

    My comment ok it's odd, smelt abit fresh then changed colour as it dried out verdict ? up to you.

    2. This one I worked on big room white walls, video projector on each wall projecting onto the opposite surface. As you enter and the piece is running, you become part of the installation. The client would not let me have the footage so I set it up with some of my DVD's (it was alright made no sense but then what do I know) Lady walk's in says it looks great, gives me the disc's and goes to lunch.

    I setup her discs playing it's all computer controlled the images move clockwise around the walls. All are indexed this is very complex stuff as everything has to run exactly in sync to work. The control room is a good way from the room so I go back to have a look. Well I've never seen video like it it's all grainy, over-saturated (too much red) and looks to have been made using a diffusion filter so you have Newton rings(rainbows) around everything. The audio my god it's several distinct voices and background noises of screams that move around the room. (NICE!)

    So I went back reset the colours tried to tidy up the audio, I think I did a good job! The artist comes back starts to screaming at me and walks out. I think her exact words "what the *uck have you done to my work!" So I asked whats wrong pictures 4 walls all in sync that's it I thought?

    OOOOhhhh no! she wanted it all to look shit and ghostly with shitty audio and in her words "Image your in the middle of a really bad acid trip" I've had such a sheltered life! this expirience only costs 150K ?!?

    Final piece puts both in the shade, big white room same as before in the middle is a big cyclinder about 15 foot across and much the same in height. It has two opening narrow slits which are a squeeze to get in and I'm just average. Once inside well it's pitch black there's a cicular white (projection surface) on the floor the walls are soft to touch black there's speakers hidden behind the walls. My job setup projector and audio stuff, easy enough learnt a lesson ask the artist what the piece is about before setup!

    Today I use the all-time fav The Clangers for setup, artist bird turns up we squeeze into her for want of a better word "Pipe" she says how nice and clear the video is as we watch the clangers getting soup from the soup dragon (very 1970 kids puppet show)

    I say "have you got your disc?" She says "yes" I ask having learnt a lesson "is there anything speacial about it?" she says "yes but just play it and we'll see what if anything it needs!" Very agreeable no swearing and no mention of acid trips from the past. Seems alright I thought!

    Of I go same control room so a good walk, play disc and loop 3 minutes 43 seconds 12 frames (easy money). Wander back did think there was abit too much audio and it sounded odd like moaning oh well. The once empty white room is now full with people trying to squeeze into this pipe thing for a look (odd I thought?) but what do I know

    So she comes out takes my hand drags me in there and says "look it's brilliant!"

    There now follows something which you might find wrong and disturbing, read it at your own risk.

    Right it starts with an image of a gigantic eye ball on the screen. very high resolution! easily broadcast quality! you can see the veins on the eyeball! This camera then moves around the face, oh there's the ear all crinkly and wrinkly. It's off again around the nose well a hole with lots of hair in it, must be a nose. (I was wondering where's this was going, not a bad video so I watched it) So the camera is in the mouth, a few teeth with some fillings. To be expected I thought she's in the mid 40's.

    Oh by the way there's loads of faces peering in.

    So the camera disappears down this pipe, I saw the tongue and I guess the camera's one of these endoscope things with a little light on the end. So it's whizzing down the pipe you can see allsorts bits and pieces. Nice enough camera comes back out and it's off again. I'm a video engineer and to be honest had not worked out where this was going, It's very disorientating being in this blacked out room, sound all-round strange round screen on the floor.

    So where did it go well the camera went up the old cha-cha and even got dipped into the fu-fu. Your all grown ups replace the above with words more familiar to your demographic. So plastic palm trees are nothing varnish trees as much as you want to... It don't mean nothing! this piece of art cost the museum 300K

    I'm still in shock now what was that all about I just selfishly wanted the money. It's just work so it meant nothing to me. I'm only a poor country boy and don't know about all these fancy city ways.

    Please discuss amongst yourselves while I hide in a darkened room for a while.

  9. sounds like a great day! If only I some sort of useful technical skills, I'd be there. Extortionate endoscopes dipping in and out of the elderly: it's the future.

  10. hang on, mid-40s probably isn't elderly, though in endoscope close up I'd guess most people are pretty heavily textured.

  11. Let's just say there was plenty of wrinkles and stuff (like stuff) you can't imaging what sort of stuff and it was in colour.


    and she was smiling and telling about about it. AARGHH!

    I can still see it all

  12. Carl,

    Whoa. I never knew being a media engineer could be connected to such immense occupational hazards.


    - Rob

  13. When I trained I never thought that my job would be what it's become over the years. I'm lucky in some ways as I've been all over the place doing jobs and working with people. Who on the whole have been nice. Every now and then you do get confronted with something that is totally off the scale and hard to judge. So I say bring me some varnish and trees and I'll be right there doing a fine job.

  14. GREEN rubber gloves?

    Now that is really discusting!!!


  15. They looked very professional and medical. Not like "marigolds" with cloth lining that seem to to be the weapon of choice for Asmund's special interest.