Rings of Desire

Hong Kong, June 6-7, workshop titled “From Chicago to Shenzhen: ‘The City’ at One Hundred International Workshop on Urban Research and Theory,” at City University of Hong Kong, I presented the paper “Rings of Desire – Beijing as an ordinary city”.


“The city,” so does Park argue, “shows the good and evil in human nature in excess.” Which inspires him to read the city as a laboratory to study human behaviour. In my paper I want to connect the notion of excess to the significance of the ring roads in Beijing – an excessive city par excellence, too big, too polluted, too crowded, too ugly, and changing too fast, making one lose his way time and again. The ring roads function as a symbolic device to keep a sense of control over this excess; they help to locate people and places, they function as the highway in the center, and they create the mental map of the city. How do Beijing citizens relate to the ring roads? What projects have emerged around the ring roads – such as the 5+1 art project in which artists engage with the migrant communities located between the 5th and the 6th ring road? Based on my experience of living in the city of Beijing and the daily encounters, I hope to reveal that despite its excesses, Beijing remains above all quite an ordinary city.