1. Cities on the Move is an exhibition project on the move. It has been travelling from Vienna to Bordeaux, New York, Humlebaek (Denmark) since November 1997, before coming to London in May 1999. Then, it is going to tour to Bangkok and Helsinki, and probably Seoul, before the end of the year. And it will probably go to other citiesÖ what is more interesting is that, focusing on the speedy urban expansion in East Asia and South East Asia, it is being continuously re-invented, renovated and reconstructed, like the complex, stimulating and theatrical process of mutation of Asian cities in the 1990ís. The exhibition aims to present the dynamic and highly creative situation of contemporary architecture, urban planning and visual culture in the region as the strongest manifestation of the process of modernisation in the region, which is not only regionally important but also globally significant, especially in the age of globalisation at the turn of the 21st century.

2. As we all know, today, economic, cultural and political life in East and South East Asia is shifting rapidly. Apart from the already established economic powers such as Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan, new economic powers are being developed in China, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam and other countries. It is a spectacular process of economic and social progress and profound restructuring of society. The most visible "peak" of this rapid development is the pace of construction in cities of different scale. Connected to this is the pervasive expansion and explosion of urban space and metropolitanization. All cities are pushed towards unprecedented movement and transformation. A considerable number of new cities have emerged all over the Asian Pacific Region. Typical examples are China's "Special Economic Zones" such as Shenzhen, Zhuhai and, most remarkably, the Pudong Area of Shanghai. Hundreds of thousands of high-rise buildings have been erected from grounds which were agricultural fields or abandoned land until a very recent past. Similar situation can been seen pervasively across the whole continent. The urbanisation and high speed construction in Asian cities are also a process of international exchange of architectural and urban ideas and practices between Asian and foreign professionals. Many internationally known architects begin adventuring in such a dynamic context while Asian architects are increasingly exposed to international influences. This process of confrontation and exchange, which represents perfectly the Global operation of architecture at the turn of the millennium, has generated some very special, innovative but also controversial models of architectural/urban conception and practice specific to the particular context of Asia. Rem Koolhaas observes on his research trips to China that "some architects can design a skyscraper in three days or four in Shenzhen". This proves to be an unprecedented, new system of speed and efficiency. The suddenly emerged urban areas are often situated in between the original agricultural land, coexisting with its immediate past and expanding themselves violently into Nature. Koolhaas coins this as -SCAPE, or a new genre of urban situation which is in-between the classical city and landscape(countryside), or a new kind of post-urban condition. No doubt, such spectacular transformations are also a process of re-negotiation between the established social structure and influences of foreign, especially Western, models of social structure, values and ways of living. A kind of mixture of liberal Capitalist market economy and Asian, post-totalitarian social control is being established as a new social order. Culture, in such a context, is by nature hybrid, impure and contradictory. Accordingly, the new architectures and urban environment are being renovated and transformed into a sort of "Theme Park" orientated cityscape. Signs of different cultures are emphasised to celebrate the Globalisation. Again, to use Koolhaas' term on his comment on China's urbanisation, the new urban growth is bringing about a kind of Cities of Exacerbated Difference (COED), which "is not the methodical creation of the ideal, but the opportunistic exploitation of flukes, accidents and imperfections". It serves as a prototype of Rem Koolhaasí idea of the ìGeneric Cityî.

3. Such a process of urban transformation causes inevitably contradictions, contests, chaos and even violence. It lays bare a fundamental paradox behind the pragmatic conviction, promoted as an official ideology of development in Asia's modernisation, which believes in the co-operation between Asian lifestyles and social orders and a globalising liberal consumer economy. Meanwhile, this incarnates perfectly the image of the post-colonial and post-totalitarian modernisation in the region, and in our world today: the impulsive and almost fanatical pursuit of economic and monetary power becomes the ultimate goal of development. In Asian cities as well as our exhibition itself, there are coalitions of these differences, and what is also relevant is that there are mutations. This tension generated from the mixture of the capitalistic economy with the Asian culture reveals an interesting historic reason for Asian modernisation. In most of the Asian regions people have adopted to modernisation in very specific ways which prove to be highly radical. It has to do with the colonial past and de-colonisation in the region. Most of Asian countries have chosen to modernise themselves. Such a specific modernisation has been based upon the conviction that by modernising the national economy and culture one can obtain a veritable and reliable national independence. However, very often, such a frenzy desire often leads to a paternal or even totalitarian structure of social management and pervert pursuit of hyper-Capitalismî. This is a period of chaotic but exciting transition. Nothing is established, harmonious and "normalî. Everything is in permanent transformation. Or, one can even coin it as ìFrenzy Cityî: the highest urban density, uncontrollably rapid development of economy, money chasing, explosive exploration of natural and human resources, and lost of social, cultural and political stability are becoming new conditions of existence in the Asian city.

4. The most frenzy aspect of such an explosive way of modernisation is the pervasive conquest of consumerism. The Asian urban society, be it traditional or communist in terms of political system, has been turned into a consumer society in which values and human relationships are increasingly inscribed in material and monetary exchanges. To acclaim the triumph of such a hyper-Capitalismî, almost every major city in the region as well as every national, municipal and corporation authority intends to construct monumental edifices of commercial complex, which often consists of offices, shopping mall, entertainment centres as well as international hotels (ex. Time Square and Pacific Place in Hong Kong, Sunway Lagoon in Kuala Lumpur, The Raffels City and Great Wall City in Singapore, The New Dongan Centre in Beijing, etc. ) The ultimate goal for the authorities is generally to offer their cities the tallest building in the world in order to show their pride and miraculous force in modernisation. Thus, Kuala Lumpur is now holding the tallest building in the world ìPetronas Twin Towerî (450 m) designed by Cesar Pelli while Shanghai will surpass the record with an even taller Shanghai World Financial Centreî designed by KPF associates in some months from now. With this kind of symbolic creatures that one can qualify as Asian corporation architecture (which is perhaps excellent examples of Rem Koolhaasí architecture in the Generic City), Asian cities are becoming new key points in the ìnetworkî of Global cities which are the very central forces influencing, controlling and even dictating the new world order. In the meantime, the urban spaces are being fast expanded, as that fact that new towns like Pudong, Shen Zhen, etc., are being planned, constructed and developed across the continent. The political, economic and cultural authorities also share a long term vision of modernisation. In spite of the search for typically Modernist symbols such as the tallest skyscrapers, they also conceive projects and strategies to develop the future industry represented by new technologies. In many cities, new areas are planned and developed to become ì Asian Silicon Valleysî. The Malaysian Multimedia Super Corridor (planned by Kisho Kurokawa), among others, is the most mediated example while most of the computers in the global market are produced in Taiwan, Malaysia, Korea, Singapore and China. What is also remarkable is that the most advanced telecommunication technologies have become a natural aspect of everyday life in Asian urban societies. Mobil phone, internet and video games are not only trendy gadgets for young people to show off but indispensable ìsurvival kitsî for the urban inhabitants. (Interesting is to point out that, form the beginning of 1997, different steps of the touring events of ìCities on the Moveî have been essentially organised via email, leave along the artistsí diverse exploration of multimedia interface as art language.) As a natural part of the ìsuccess story, the pressure of the growth of international travels makes all cities invest in new commuting infrastructures: Bangkokís sky train and Guangzhouís subway are tow recent examples while Osaka, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and Shanghai have seen the newest airports in the world constructed in their suburbs, designed respectively by Renzo Piano, Norman Forster, Kisho Kurokawa and Paul Andreu

5. On the other hand, as a result of such a spectacular process of urbanisation and economic growth, a new Asian middle class are emerging as the core of the urban society. They embody the most typical urban identity of the Global City. They are the most dynamic in action, ambitious in politics, open towards the new, looking for a kind of ìcultivationî by absorbing the most trendy cultural products in the global market. However, they are often profoundly conservative in terms of values since for them the
first generation of modern middle class in Asia the priority in life is to establish a secure economic, social and familiar statues. Also, as products of post-colonial economy and culture in the region, they are contradictory hybrid of ìWesternisedî modern knowledge/culture and nationalist sentiments. As the dominant influence in the configuration of Asian cities, their aesthetic orientations are the main foundation of the new urban space and image. One of the main obsession for them is to combine the most advanced in-betweenî architecture to incarnate the Asian, non-Western modernization which is also a decisive element of the current globalisation of culture . The typical result is the Disneyisation of Asian urban spaces: many Asian cities introduce systematically the Disney or Las Vegas style of artificial and imaginary reconstruction of signs of history and indigenous cultures to conserve and ìrefurbishî historic area, and reality. Contradictorily, the result is the final disappearance of real historic areas and the appearance of ìmore than realî, highly sterilised simulacres of history and tradition. Notions of authenticity, originality and (good) taste, etc. become inefficient and even obsolete. It is second reality par excellence. Obviously, these reconstructed props of history are aimed to attract tourists. However, even more interestingly, they have also become an integrated part of real urban life itself. It is perhaps the most global side of Asian urban life and the guarantee of the ìglobalityî of the Asia city. The Singapore China Town is an ultimately ìtypicalî example of such a practice. The entire district has been restored and painted in dazzling colours to ìrecallî the fantastic, exotic ìpastî so it shows no difference from any ìmain streetî in any Disneyland. As a part of it, the recently built Far East Square, conceived upon the Feng Shui principle, interweaves stiffly the refurbished old elements and the most high tech glass-steel construction, making it an intensive point of ìcrash of civilisationsî as well as a strangely charming entertainment centre. What is also important to point out here is that, in spite of their perfectly polished finishing, these artificially reconstructed urban sections are never finished. Instead they are always under new construction and expansion, constantly negotiating with their surroundings as well as with their own established status quo by involving further adjustments and ìimprovementsî. Like the cities, they are always on the move.

6. Asian cities have indeed a rather established history of urban planning and urban development strategies in the last fifty years. The post war generation of the Japanese Metabolism and later the Singaporean urban planners, among others, have developed innovative philosophies and practices of urban transformation in order to fulfil the demands of the upcoming consumerist Capitalist society. On the other hand, in the 1950s and 1960s in China, Liang Sicheng and his successors had elaborated and practised an entire ideology and strategy to construct Socialist cities which blend the Soviet urban planning and architecture principle and Chinese traditional urban structure. However, many of these projects remain highly idealist and humanely and economically inefficient although they have been indeed realised in a handful of cities. Most of Asian cities, with their incredibly high density of population and unbalanced economic developments, are essentially ìunplannedî. The urban spaces are uncontrollably expanding while new buildings are being constructed upon both useful and useless speculations. Some extreme examples can be seen in areas like the Kowloon Walled City and other crowded districts in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Bangkok, Seoul, Tokyo and Taipei. In the eyes of some commentators, this kind of ìunplannednessî of urban explosion is result of economic necessity whilst for others they are simply "entropic" or ìdystopianî. Anyway, typical problems of urban (over)developments are generated in almost every city in the region hand in hand with the euphoria of Modernisation: density, gentrification, traffic jam, pollution and degeneration of social relationship. Obviously, such a contradictory and explosive situation is being largely intensified in the 1990s when economic ìmiraclesî are blossoming everywhere in the Asian Pacific region. New solutions are to be found. In fact, the Asian architectural world has had a tradition dealing with the tasks. The central concern shared by many architects and planners from the 1960s is how to adapt the most advanced modern architecture and local conditions in different areas of Asia. This tradition of thinking is now being turned into practice in different manners and different contexts. One of the early projects is Tay Kheng Soonís eco-city. From the 1980s Ken Yeang has been promoting his idea of tropical skyscrapers. Toyo Ito, Itsuko Hasegawa, William Lim, among many others, are searching new solutions to integrate ecological interests in the most high-tech constructions. Some recent major projects such as Rem Koolhaasí Hanoi New Town planning, Isozakiís Mirage City and so on are looking for boundary-breaking openings towards new utopia: a humane ìGeneric Cityî satisfying the demand of ultimate globalisation and a ìtourbillon in which the West wind and the East wind encounter each otherî. On the other hand, some younger generation architects concentrate themselves on more realistic and flexible strategies of negotiation with the tremendous pressure of urban density and hybridity, without losing the chance to enjoy the excitement and pleasure provoked by the pressure itself: Chi Ti-Nanís Z House, Yung Ho Changís concept of miniature city in a building and Aaron Tan/Louise Lowís in-depth studies of the Walled City and Sohn-Joo Minnís project for Seoul as well as Katuyo Sejimaís projects are among the most innovative projects conceived in such negotiations.

7. As we have emphasised above, the explosive booming of free-market economy and consumer society in Asia as well as Asian economyís integration into the Global economy as a new major power not only bring the region to a much higher level of development and everyday comforts. Also, they bring about new problems, pressures and social conflicts because the introduction of the dynamism of Hyper-Capitalism causes systematically competition, frenzy desire, frustration, restructuring of social classes, and, eventually, establishment of a new totalitarian power of the Capital itself, let along the problems of the separation between the urban rich and poor, between the ìelectronic havesî and ìhave-notsî. The City becomes a Locus of Conflict. As resistance to this new totalitarian power of Hyper-Capitalism, claims for new freedoms, and social, cultural and political justice are made by the society itself. These new claims are pushing all the social actors to reconsider our society's structure and order, artists are no doubt among the most sensitive and active in the struggle. Artists from different cities such as Chen Zhen, Cai Guoqiang, Zhang Peili, Geng Jianyi, The Big Tail Elephants group (Lin Yilin, Xu Tan, Chen Shaoxiong and Liang Juhui), Huang Chin Ho, Lee Bul, Choi Jeong Hwa, Ahamaiani, Shen Yuan, Oscar Ho, Zheng Guogu, Liew Kung Yu, Manit Sriwanichpoom, Wang Du, Zhou TiehaiÖare handling critically with the issue of the conflicts between the consumer society and human existence as well as the frenzy schizophrenia of the new urban life, often with irony and humour. Other artists, to search the freedom of artistic action in cities, where there is too little space for artistic expression, invent their own spaces and channels of expression in the heart of the dense urban space. Like urban guerrillas, Navin Rawanchaikul, Surasi Kusolwong, Lin Yilin, Zhang Wang, Yin Xiuzhen, Tsang Tsou-Choi, Yutaka Sone, Judy Freda Sibayan, Tsuyoshi Ozawa, Shi Yong, etc. are transforming the street and construction sites into their action ground. They explore the forgotten zones of the city, the urban void, making it a formidable opening towards freedom and freshness in the heart of the density and intensity of urban life.

8. In the last two years, Asia has seen the most serious financial crisis in its post-war history. Some people even describe it as an economic melt-down. As consequences, some cities and nations are enduring political, social and cultural instability and even turmoil. Also, it causes serious effects on the whole global economy. Again, many artists react to the situation by recalling the political consciousness of reforming the economic and political systems which are the real origin of the crisis. Andar Manik/Marintan Sirait and Heri Dono are exposing the political conflicts in Indonesia. Wong Hoycheong goes even further to appeal active resistance to the degeneration of democracy in Malaysia. In fact, such a crisis reveals the real crisis -- the crisis of the ìbubble economyî which has been introduced as the fastest way towards modernisation. Ruyji Miyamotoís photographs of Kobe earthquake and cardboard houses for the homeless not only show the reality of the crisis but also imply an revelation of the structural problem of the economic system itself. However, such a revelation is by no means a negative one. On the contrary, more and more people living in Asia start understanding the necessity to reconsider their ìsuccess storiesî and look for more relevant, long-sighting strategies, policies and new systems of economic, political and social developments. As to the urban future, the architectural world in the region is debating intensely on the question of changing the mode of modernisation. Bangkok was the first city in Asia affected by the crisis. Numerous constructions of skyscrapers were interrupted when the developers found themselves short of money. Now, one of the main topics among thousands of Bangkok architects who have lost their contracts in the crisis is how to transform the half-built empty skyscrapers into more useful and humane constructions. Some young architects provide fantastic ideas. For example, someone proposes to get inspiration from the homeless people living under the highway: they change their cardboard house constantly in order to fit the different places on their nomadís routes. Now, itís the time to think about truly flexible, relevant and constantly evolving languages of architecture and art. Our urban space as well as urban life itself, should be able to deal with all kinds of movement, change and mutation, including crisis. The only possible strategy to succeed this is to keep the city itself always on the move.

9. Cities on the Move is such an ever-evolving event city: it is constantly changing, re-inventing, renovating, adapting itself to different venues while transdisciplinary and transnational collaborations are being practised, just like in real city life itself. After Vienna, Bordeaux, New York, Humlebaek (Denmark), London and before going to Helsinki, it is now coming to Bangkok. For this, we decide to apply a totally different strategy in order to make the touring of the project back to Asia, the very ìoriginî of the project itself, more relevant. Instead of continuing to bring the previous exhibitions to present in major art institutions as we did in the West, we have come up with a specific version conceived for Bangkok. Considering the fact that the people, works and projects involved with the ongoing Cities on the Moveî are originally produced for the context here, it becomes obvious that simple ìartistic presentationsî in art institutions wonít make any sense at all. Thus, it becomes necessary to articulate that the whole project should be re-adapted to direct dialogues and collaborations between ìoutsidersî and the local art, architecture and culture communities. In the meantime, direct interventions into everyday life and social contexts embodied in different kinds of urban spaces and edifices should be encouraged while a larger audience is to be involved in the process of producing the event itself. Streets, shopping malls, rivers, university campuses, caf?s, small galleries, commercial and residential buildings, construction sites are now the very ìcentralî venues for the event while mobilisations of the local art-architecture-culture communities to open themselves up to common citizens are being organised. In the meantime, all kinds of mass media, from publicity billboards to newspapers, from magazines to televisions, from radio to public transport system, etc. are also providing particular and continuous spaces for projects of envisioning the urban reality and future of Bangkok and Asian cities in general. What is more significant is that the curatorial process has been fundamentally changed into a veritable ìglocalî negotiation and invention. As the curators of the general project, we prefer to ìretreatî ourselves into consultants while a local team consisting of people from both Europe and Bangkok, including Ole Scheeren, Thomas Nordanstad, Albert Paravi Wongchirachai, Francine M?oule, Edouard Mornaud, Aline Sam-Giao, Mathilde Boulo, c?dric Alvani, Michael Thouber, Phataravadee pataranawik, Mongkon Ponganutree, Air, Jibby, Supinda Bridget, Ing orn Ö , along with Bangkok participants who have been involved in the previous steps of the project, has been the main organizing force for the realization of the event. Many participants of the project have been invited to conceive and produce site specific projects for the Bangkok step. Their answers to the demand of the urban reality in the city are highly pertinent, being mobile, flexible, ephemeral and vital. On the other hand, the project also opens itself to contributions of new comers both from Bangkok and outside. Some projects like the exploration of the situation of the rivers as an important urban element in Bangkok, conceived respectfully by Rachaporn Choochuey and her colleagues from the city and the Italian Fabrizio Gallanti and ìD-Projectî are extremely interesting examples of this ìglocalî negotiation and collaboration.

10. At the end, we should emphasize: Cities On The Move Bangkokî is a
collaboratoriumî, a veritable collaborative adventure into the Asian urban
reality. Itís outcome will challenge many established understandings of art,
architecture, urbanism and social life

25 September 1999