Telescope: China | Ma Qingyun

October 9, 2014
– By James Elaine

Ma Qingyun, considered to be one of the most influential designers and architects in the world, presents new sculptures at Telescope of pink neon entitled Lite-urbanism. Ma suggests a new urbanism by reducing form and function to simple calligraphic lines in the fragile light of neon. These works, "whimsical" yet "alien," are based on Ma’s un-built architectural projects. Perhaps it is fitting that this work is based on ideas for buildings and not the buildings themselves, as impermanence is extremely important in Ma’s philosophy and in Chinese culture in general.  Ma states that Confucius basically said, "It’s gone. It’s gone," that all in life is impermanent and that life itself is a flow, in flux, you cannot hold onto anything. Architecture is based on strength and long-term stability, but in Eastern thought it is understood that ‘everything’ changes. The west is obsessed with preservation of all they have built, while the east allows for decay and ultimately replacement. Ma asks the question, should we consider "temporary buildings instead of eternal monuments?" For Ma to move from massive city planning and large scale building projects to Telescope, a small non profit art space in an old massage parlor in Cao Chang Di, and from powerful architectural materials to fragile tubes of glass filled with pink ether is a testament to his basic creative philosophy. Ma states, "In the end, for me, architecture is not about buildings, it is actually about creating everything, that environment can be anything or everything; a conversation even," or an ephemeral line of glass in space.  

In Telescope, Ma has installed several one-foot square aluminum box neon signs. They are small in scale, the lights are fragile and thin, but their hot pink glow dominates the room from floor to ceiling and fills the air. They are abstract, adaptable, and have the power of “swiftness” states Ma. Stepping into the room it is easy to lose your breath and sense of place and time as you are suddenly enveloped in pink light. The sensation is profound, mysterious, and indescribable. It has the strange allure of a siren, a beauty that is irresistible, but alien and possibly dangerous. This is a new place where identities are challenged and boundaries and traditions are broken. A place where you don’t know what comes next? Lite urbanism represents a new city, one that can be turned on and off as needed, adapts swiftly to the changing needs and desires of the city. It is a new non-substantial, non-obstructive, yet pervasive city. Lite Urbanism at Telescope is just the beginning to Ma’s vision of the future, to make an entire city of these lights. "A city of never built projects, a space of ever flowing energy, whenever, wherever and however," proclaims Ma. Lite urbanism sprawl is headed your way.