USC Asia Architecture & Urbanism Study Abroad Program

Shenzhen: A Print of a Cultural Negative

Authenticity is not reproducible.  “The presence of the original is the prerequisite to the concept of authenticity” is the main hypothesis of the article “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.”  A work of art is a unique entity which cannot be reproduced under different circumstances from the original and still be considered an identical copy.  An identical copy of a piece of art can never exist.  For instance, there cannot be an authentic print of a photograph because the original conditions in which the photograph was initially taken can never be reproduced.  Does the same apply to a society’s culture?  How might an instant city go about attaining a culture which is truly their own?

Due to its rapid development within the last thirty years, the city of Shenzhen is essentially without a strong tie to any historic sense of a culture.  Shenzhen is struggling to not only define its culture, but to also create its culture from scratch.  Shenzhen’s current culture is just a print of an initial negative.  If Shenzhen is attempting to adopt China’s culture as a whole as their own, this will not be fully realized.  As “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” states, “the authenticity of a thing is the essence of all that is transmissible from its beginning, ranging from its substantive duration to its testimony to the history which it has experienced…the technique of reproduction detaches the reproduced object from the domain of tradition.”  China’s historic and traditional culture will never be a part of Shenzhen’s identity.

The sense of humanity which is typically found in a city is missing in Shenzhen.  Streets appear to be barren.  A multitude of preemptive skyscrapers remain empty, waiting to be programmed and populated, and yet land is being cleared for more developments next to these desolate structures.  It is possible that Shenzhen does not require a culture in the traditional and historic sense.  Culture does not come inherently with a  newborn society, it must be developed over a period of time.  Without a culture is a society’s existence denied?  With the lack of a true human aspect, a culture is even harder to recognize.

Just like the goods being sold in the tiny, hidden market stalls of Shenzhen, the city’s culture is attempting to become a copy of a combination of China’s cultures.  Whether or not this copy is a “real copy” or a “fake copy” is yet to be determined.  If a culture is so unique that it cannot be reproduced, can a culture of reproduction become a culture in its own sense?  If the goal of a society is to fabricate a culture based on others, this culture then becomes a real culture in the sense that the society’s goal was to create  this fake culture.  Shenzhen has succeeded in attaining a culture of its own, albeit a real “fake copy” of a culture.

Sara Tenanes

Filed under: Architecture, Authenticity, China, Culture, Shenzhen, Uncategorized, ,

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AAU FALL 2013:

University of Southern California
School of Architecture
Asia Architecture and Urbanism
Study Abroad Program

Andrew Liang
Bu Bing
Steven Chen
Yo-Ichiro Hakomori
Andrew Liang
Yuyang Liu
Neville Mars
Academic Contributors:
Thomas Chow, SURV
Bert de Muynck, Movingcities.org
Manying Hu, SZGDADRI, ITDP, Guangzhou
Clare Jacobson, Design Writer, Editor, Curator
Laurence Liauw, SPADA, Hong Kong
Mary Ann O'Donnell, Shenzhen Noted, Fat Bird, Shenzhen
Paul Tang, Verse, Shanghai
Li Xiangning, Tongji University, Shanghai
Daniel Aguilar
Hong Au
Michael den Hartog
Caroline Duncan
Nefer Fernandez
Christian Gomez
Isabelle Hong
Jin Hong Kim
Ashley Louie
Javier Meier
Paula Narvaez
Ashlyn Okimoto
Tamar Partamian
Samuel Rampy
Luis Villanueva
Krista Won
Tiffany Wu

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