Accepted Paper:

Ripple Ripple Rippling  
Jingru (Cyan) Cheng (Royal College of Art) Chen Zhan (Independent) Mengfan Wang

Paper short abstract:

The project aims to devise a transdisciplinary framework across anthropology, architecture, performance and filmmaking that recognises, articulates, and communicates the non-discursive, bodily knowledge embedded in the everyday practice of the dissolved household in contemporary rural China.

Paper long abstract:

With the middle generation missing from more than 80 percent of contemporary rural families in China, these families form indeterminate and resilient assemblages at the edge of capitalist apparatus. The dissolution of families is a survival tactic that contests the hegemony of the essentialised model of the modern nuclear family and its associated domesticity. What has emerged is an intergenerational, interdependent way of living—that is, a ripple effect that undoes the former conception of domesticity. By recognising situated knowledge that is highly contextual, largely non-discursive, and bodily, which has often been overlooked by the paternalistic model of ‘expert’ leadership, this project seeks to carve out a space for its manifestation and distribution.

The project builds on a long-term relationship with the village community in Shigushan, Wuhan since 2015. In this latest phase, a team of an architect, an anthropologist / independent filmmaker and a choreographer, we are completing a collaborative fieldwork in the village (Aug-Nov 2022). The daily activities are improvising, together with the villagers, slightly odd scenarios, in which playing, singing and dancing take place. It is one step out of reality but not yet into fiction. With improvisation, we hope to stimulate the villagers’ own performative expressions, story-telling and imaginations that are otherwise hidden.

We have been grappling with contradictions between the academic mode of conveying articulated messages and the experience-oriented artistic forms of communication in art and cultural forums, such as, immersive video installation and durational performance.

Project website:, esp. the section on ‘situated imaginaries’.

Panel W05d
Work-in-Progress: Storytelling
  Session 1 Tuesday 7 March, 2023, -