Article written by 2008 DPDF Urban Visual Studies fellow Jia Tan, featured in the Journal of Chinese Cinemas:
The abstraction of space in ‘new’ media theory, together with the preoccupation with space in Asian studies, demands a rethinking of the time–space relationship in terms of Asia and digital media. This essay explores how spatiotemporal consciousness is articulated in the locational aesthetics of contemporary Chinese digital media, specifically the thematic interest in examining everyday space; the self-reflexive and experimental aesthetic that locates the media practitioner in the social space; and the creation of the independent artistic space. To accomplish this, this paper scrutinizes the practices of two art/film groups, Big Tail Elephants and u-thèque, in particular a digital documentary project Sanyuanli, for a broader consideration of their narrative experimentations, locational styles, site-specific practices, and negotiations with the spatiotemporality of the so-called Special Economic Zones. Specifically, this paper looks at how the locational aesthetics employed in digital filmmaking confirm and contest spatiotemporal constructions the Special Zones that reinforce the pre-existing urban-rural divide, naturalize the biopolitical management of the migrant workers, and contribute to a new developmental narrative of the state that endorses linear and progressive temporality.