The Other Shanghai: 凱蒂貓

You have been given entry into the exclusive province of museum installation; as our guest, you are witness to the realization of years of planning and much strenuous labor.  An air of expectation is palpable, as always, in the fleeting days  preceding an exhibition.

What awaits us is a land at once imaginary and real–Shanghai the concept, the dream–and its rise from a divided, shanty-filled port to innovative megalopolis.

But I want to talk about something you won’t see in the exhibition.

hello-kitty-houses

Shanghai’s Hello Kitty House was one of the first images to turn up while I was doing research last year, and although I’ve yet to find anyone who has actually stayed there, I’m willing to believe the place exists.

hello-kitty-houseinside

Thanks to the encyclopedic nature of the internet, I later discovered that the Shanghai subway’s #6 line is also known as the “Hello Kitty Line,” distinguished from other lines by its decidedly femme details (it makes more sense when you see it on the map).

Shanghai represents an imaginary place for me–I’ve never been, but whenever friends return I hear that I’d love the place.  Much in the same way early mapmakers set a course over paper without having seen a land’s shores, I’m doing the same to Shanghai.  Curators and couriers bring us the proof of another world, and we piece together the idea of a place.

I can’t wait to see what the ephemeral city holds for us.

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