Further trans-actions

I like to spend money locally if possible, as a holistic notion, so the exciting Changqiao Huaniao Market was again the ideal collaborative partner and source of materials for Further Trans-actions.

Market movement

Market movement

When The Cycle – as an overall framework – was being developed, the migrant community within the Square Mile was high on the list as a target locale for Saturday’s intervention.

Restrictions had not been an issue at any stage so far and I was encouraged to take this further. Here, although residential, the boundaries between private and public were as blurred as in the Botanical Gardens Extension or Kangjian Park. But where to choose? Deep inside the migrant community, at the far end of the main street, I remembered an open space. However, on a return visit it proved to be not large or public enough, and close to a sewage outlet. The dynamic main street itself was too narrow, so this left the boundary road, which has a name, Yonghcuan Road. And if the location for Further Trans-actions was close to the corner of Luocheng Road then it would be easy to find. And there were enough possibilities here: a square of grass adjoining the river, a thin rectangular concrete island, a space used for storing roadwork materials.

Concrete strip at corner of Yongchuan and Luocheng Roads

Concrete strip at corner of Yongchuan and Luocheng Road

Trans-actions would be something between an installation and an interaction, a visual give-away centred around the market-trimmed daffodil bulbs, passing on a living thing, and explained by a text panel.

But then there was the other group of people that I felt a strong  connection with, the Botanical Gardens Extension community, the incredible diversity of morning park users. Wouldn’t it make sense to compare the experience of Trans-actions in the two locations, the two communities?  So, although this second site didn’t appear in the publicity, the prospect of this engagement was far too tempting and it became the morning venue.

I laid out the bulbs and other donated items as a tableau and then began to take photographs. People gathered around and I realised that this made me into some kind of exotic photographer, assembling his items within this faded horticultural setting. It had a certain logic to it. No-one tried to stop me. Once again I could not imagine getting away with this in any UK botanical gardens. Maybe we were recognised from the previous day’s filming of the head man on the tricycle.

And then the shift happened when the written invitation in Chinese was added. It went from passive to active. If people didn’t quite believe what they read then Clara was on hand to explain. ’Please take one item’.

Was this where it became a more universal act that transcended language and culture? Or a transaction guaranteed to raise a smile?



And then at the migrant community the outdoor snooker tables had been overlooked as a potential site for investigation.


Until the sign went out.

Give sign


2 comments to Further trans-actions

  • Chris Seeley

    Hi Richard – and greetings from the Italian Alpini where is has snowed all day long today. Its the shift from showing, offering the bulbs to really offering them – please take one – that I like so much. And not because of the giving of the bulbs in and of itself as the conversations that it must have triggered. Lovely. Thank you.

  • Kathryn Edwards

    Dear Richard and all,

    I agree with Chris’s speculation that the conversations must have been rich. And yet I love the visual presentations, too: those clumping bulbs on the ground, each a little universe . . . those fish-in-bowls on the bridge parapet . . . yumtious!

    Here in London it’s frosty and cold. Bulletins of Shanghai strangeness are, as always, very welcome.


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