White houses with traditional roofs, a bookshop and a caffè with wi-fi connection. Those who visited the village of Bishan, a prototype of a return-to-rural-life community in the South-East China, conceived by the artist and intellectual Ou Ning, tell the stories of an unexpected place. A place created by an artist that has put together the intellectuals, other avant-garde artists, designers and students of the big Chinese metropolitan areas, architects, musicians, writers, directors and craftsmen thanks to the same vision. A vision that quickly became a reality that contaminates the antique traditions with the future of the new China.
But the most curious thing is that the whole project is born out of a notebook. Ou Ning started to conceive the utopian community (Bishan Commune) for the Detour Shanghai event on a Moleskine notebook in 2010, which he then donated to lettera27’s collection. The notebook traces the ideas of the artist and of the authors that have formed the Bishan community together with him. Page after page, the imagination takes a hybrid form, between the history and the present: traditional constructions next to vectorial graphics, iconographic motifs of the rural tradition and pop culture.
Yet the story doesn’t end here. The notebook and the Bishan Commune are now the protagonists of Bishan Project: The New Rural Reconstruction Movement, Ou Ning’s solo exhibition on the evolution of the Bishan community. The exhibition is hosted in one of the historical symbols of knowledge in Italy, the Central National Library of Florence, and is part of Momenting the Memento, the 2015 edition of the annual conference of the International Foundation of Fashion Technology Institutes, which unites 46 fashion institutes around the world and for the first time in Italy is organized by Polimoda.
For the event, Ou Ning goes back to work with the pages of the notebook during the AtWork workshop taking place on May 14th and 15th, together with a group of Polimoda students from various backgrounds. “How to make ideas happen” is the theme of the AtWork workshop that Ou Ning has chosen to explore in the conversation with Maria Sebregondi- the original Moleskine brand creator. The conversation will stimulate the self-reflection process among the participants, which will find its creative expression on a notebook that each of them will personalize during the workshop.
From an idea to the reality. From a utopian inspiration on the pages of a notebook to a real creative community. As in the case of Bishan and in the creative and activist process triggered by Ou Ning, also in AtWork the notebook becomes a mental and physical place that gathers the ideas born in the moment, putting together a group of students, which become another small community “at work”. The community that continues to grow, to evolve and to create inspirations that could bring to the most unexpected places and realities. As we like to say at lettera27 “the spirit creates the matter”, so we keep on dreaming to materialize and materializing to keep on dreaming.