Research Centre: Architecture, Urbanism, and the Humanities Initiative
Active Dates: September 2018 - present
Project Team: Xiaoxuan Lu (HKU) and Bo Wang (SVA, New York)
Serving as a boundary between China, North Korea and Russia, the Tumen / Tuman River rises on the slopes of Mount Changbai / Paektu and flows into the Sea of Japan/East Sea. Since the Peking Treaty of 1860, the river and its surrounding areas have become a site of violent conflict and global power shifts for more than a century. Two decades after the trilateral border opened to the outside world in the early 1990s, visible developmental changes have just started to emerge, notably the rapid Chinese funded infrastructure expansion aiming to better connect China’s landlocked northeast provinces with seaports in Russia’s Far East and North Korea.
Utilizing the spatial and visual power of drawn cartography, and the sequential and temporal power of video, this project creates a fabricated and imaged transnational landscape, shifting the gaze from colonial and Cold War dreams to a new way of looking at the Tumen region on the verge of rapid change. Rather than a developable totality, the Tumen region is composed of a set of highly dynamic components that create an ever-changing whole through contingent processes of assemblage and dis-assemblage. More specifically, the project casts new light on water’s role as participant in not only the formation of physical reality of the riparian areas defined by this one river, but also the generation of conceptual relations among states within this transborder region. Each map, image, and video is a visual narrative of interrelationships between contemporary phenomena, historical background, and ever-changing conceptualization of the Tumen landscape.