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May 2010

e p i s o d e # 23
STENCILS IN SHANGHAI





Videography/Editing: Matthew Nothelfer
Photography/Editing: Alicia Wszelaki


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Chipped paint was on yet another wall leading us deeper into the maze. The narrow alleyways were so cramped and high that any impressive discovery along this path seemed an impossibility. The space was just too modest. The lines of laundry hanging above our heads revealed a working class neighborhood, not a destination worthy of a popular Shanghai museum.

"It's here somewhere," Alicia promised. She was confident of our route. I was less so.

Nevertheless, I was beginning to be charmed by the setting. Soft moss clung to the lower corners of buildings and cobblestones. The green offered an organic gradient when mixed with the blue sign painted on the walls. The large mural pointed left with a faded arrow.

We were deep around the corners now. Clothes hanging from 2nd and 3rd story windows were drying in the breeze. The rustling of the fabric was a pleasant acoustic surprise. A short backtrack along our path would quickly lead to the typical congestion of the city. Yet here, the flap of a sheet corner in the wind was the explicit sound.

Traipsing around these gentle corners of Shanghai was already a worthy effort.

Then, through a small gate at the end of the alleyway: a courtyard. The expanse of stone and concrete terminated onto a patch of lawn; a humble plot aside a sun bleached facade. Patterns of blue fabric hung from clotheslines. They gently sang in the late morning breeze, just like the earlier collections of laundry. The canopy of fabric covered the entire yard. It flowed toward a tiny museum. A final sign announced unobtrusively "Nankeen Exhibition Hall."

"This is it!" said Alicia as she disappeared under the blue sheets and walked to the entrance.

For me, I found a short stump and sat between the draped fabric outside. Before I even ventured inside the Nankeen museum, I had found my perfect spot in Shanghai.

--Matt