Beijing: The cutting edge of capitalist nihilism.

An impenetrable gray haze so thick that the sun is but a dull red glow, a candle in the mist. Gas and electric motorcycles jerry-rigged with steel tubes and plastic film to shield would-be passengers from the wind and cold. Garbage strewn about the streets by daytime, gathered into piles and then lit for warmth at night. Street urchins with blank faces, shredded clothes and tattered shoes, eyes empty from drugs, despair and malnutrition. Women available for rock-bottom prices, bored faces on couches, watching television and smoking Zhongnanhai cigarettes under pink lights. They file their nails and prattle on in a scene that verges on the domestic, a far cry from the titillating theatrics of an Amsterdam alleyway and somehow more perverse for it. Signs and billboards promising breast implants, liposuction and abortions vastly outnumber those pushing soda pop and shaving cream. A radically altered vision of the mundane. Constant construction and deconstruction, rubble and rebar and empty plastic paint cans. Construction and reconstruction and deconstruction and renovation and antiquation occurring again and again at an ever-faster pace with no discernible beginning or end. The various “uctions” and “ations” creating such a conceptual blur that their distinctions collapse into mere “work.” The resulting disorder constantly reshaping the landscape of one’s experience, day in day out new fences are erected and penetrated, walls of corrugated steel painted blue prevent access to favorite shops, sidewalks are torn up and brick walls are built, destroyed and rebuilt in a matter of days with no apparent functional motive. A complete loss of any context or meaning, nothing but a frantic motion to create the illusion of movement, to hide the glaring truth that nothing is happening.
Wang Ningde/Galerie Paris-Beijing
This is Beijing, 2010. Where have I seen this before? The sights are like some dream that I’ve had since childhood, an experience of the uncanny, a recollection at once comforting and terrifying. Where have I seen these street vendors, the umbrellas, the steam rising, the wrappers tossed in the rain-slick streets, the fluorescent lights reflected on them? Where have I felt the fear of official power, where even the university gate-guard dressed up and playing policeman, king of his anthill, is an enemy I am always trying to placate? When have I felt that anxiety that the fire inspector might be looking to turn a profit from his “safety inspection” of my concrete-block apartment? Why is this all so familiar?..
And now it dawns on me that what draws me to Beijing is the way the real crashes through, connecting with a virtual experience I’ve had time and time again. Beijing is the apocalypse I’ve seen in films like Children of MenBlade RunnerMad Max and others. Not an apocalypse of asteroids, lava and melting ice caps, no explosions and tremors but a psychic apocalypse, a collapse of order and reason driven by the very social logic meant to bring it about. An apocalypse that leaves a skeleton of social order intact and hives off individuals into their own private hell. This is the edge of the Capitalist Apocalypse, the final realization of the nightmares of modernity. Beijing is run by the logic of Reflective Reason warned against by Kierkegaard, an Orwellian nightmare populated by Nietzschean Last Men who can no longer even dare to dream of a Marxist, Leninist or, in the ultimate irony, even a Maoist social utopia. This fact is captured tragically in the story of a young boy who 30 years ago asked his mother, “Mom, when is Communism coming?” only to be slapped and scolded for asking such stupid (and politically dangerous) questions.
Recently, the man, now over forty years of old, was comforting his dying mother, who on her deathbed in an overcrowded and poorly staffed public hospital, broke down in tears of despair at the scene she was witnessing as she left the world and asked, “Son, when is Communism coming?” China is often portrayed as a backward country that seeks to “catch up” to the West. The sad truth is, China is already far ahead of the curve in one major way – the Chinese have internalized the horrifying truth of basing social organization on a linear economic model of capitalist growth – there is no Messiah in global capitalism. There is no end, no hope, no dream, no purpose, just ever-greater motion without movement in any discernible direction. Development without progress, change without context, work without purpose. This is the end of our psychic world, the death of our stories, and Beijing is ground zero... 

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