I found graffiti in mainland China, but it wasn’t easy. Over the years, I’ve heard many explanations for the lack of street art there, from the stereotypical (orderly Chinese society) to the sinister (fear of reprisals). We had little luck in major urban centers like Beijing, Shanghai, and Chongqing (besides tiny bits like this). So, imagine my surprise finding these big ‘ol tags under a bridge in the quaint canal town of Suzhou.
Alongside a homeless camp are two pieces. On the left is a fairly traditional western tag. At right is an angular, less traditional Chinese tag. East meets west on the same wall. (close up here)
Since the artists are unknown to me, I often wonder what the story behind this meeting is. Did two writers from opposite sides of the world meet up in Suzhou and decide to make their mark together? Or, is it a call and response, an argument, with one piece angry at the other? What story does it tell us about China and Chinese graffiti? What does it tell us about how the Chinese view the western world?
No matter the story, I love this kind of cross-pollination. Artists from one part of the world influencing another, and the other echoing it back inside out and sideways. Culture is a beautiful thing but intercultural communication — that’s something else.