In June 2010, I travelled to Shanghai with students and faculty from Parsons Design and Technology MFA program. We stayed at the eARTS Center near the South Railway station where we organized an arts workshop for local college students. My group led a toy-hacking workshop. Using simple sensors and basic electronics we hacked various toys purchased downtown to create new uses and interactions without software or additional microcontrollers.
China floored me. It’s been a long-time goal of mine to travel there and it far exceeded expectations. Our trip coincided with World Cup Soccer and the World Expo. We watched live games at British pubs in the middle of the night and explored some interesting media art installations in and around the Shanghai Bund. We stumbled upon Phil Worthington’s Shadow Monsters in one small gallery. A larger exhibition featured Cao Guo-Qiang’s Peasant Da Vincis, in which he curated amazing contraptions built by outsider artists. The World Expo was exhaustive, but a few of the pavilions were beautifully executed—the UK pavilion in particular. Other highlights included exploring back alleys and side streets, locals arguing over the authenticity of my hair, an insanely massive electronics market, fantastically questionable street food, and a weekend trip south to the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou.