Eight page single-sheet folded book in slipcase.

As China emerges from the economic wilderness to become the most dominant 21st century superpower there are still pockets of resistance across the world's most populous country that will be 'forever England'.

In the far eastern Chinese province of Piàn, building is underway on another of modern China's 'new-town' developments - the rather quaintly named 'Coxwold Village'. Originally conceived back in 2002 at the height of the property boom in China - which saw an estimated 1.5 million new homes built in a little over two years - this current building project lies just 30 miles from the massive urban sprawl that is the city of Huàyàn, where a population of over 3 million inhabit a space four times as densely populated as Mexico City. Just as the 'One City - Nine Towns' plan has sought to ease overcrowding in Shanhai, 'Coxwold Village' takes its architectural inspiration from a place literally half a world away - namely the home counties of southern England. The German architects employed to fulfill this vision of 'little England' have, as some have rather cruelly observed, left no cliché unturned in their desire to create their utopian 'theme park' - from red telephone boxes and village green to traditional pubs and mock-tudor facades we are unmistakably in middle England, albeit in the heart of China.

Unheimliche / Untitled One

Unheimliche / Untitled Two

Unheimliche / Untitled Three

Unheimliche / Untitled Four

Unheimliche / Untitled Five

Unheimliche / Untitled Six

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Unheimliche / Untitled Lucky Eight

Adopting the role of passive observer one moves through this sterile landscape encountering a seemingly pre-fab building site, devoid of animation or intimacy. This is a depersonalised facsimile of an alien town scape that gives the photographic image a sense of unearthly desolation. Occasionally residents can be spotted wandering aimlessly through this flat-packed environ looking as out of place as the buildings they walk amongst, perhaps pondering the liminality of their present situation as they move from China's traditional past to a more Western-influenced future. The series of images presents a seemingly abandoned townscape - it could almost be that we are on a film set before, or just after, the cameras have rolled - pensively waiting for something to happen. Other streets end abruptly with half-constructed houses, the occasional builder can be spotted excogitating by an empty doorway, as if the whole country is taking a  'photographic pause' before deciding whether to continue unabated with its frenzied pace of urban housing development, safe in the knowledge, or hopeful expectation, that further millions are heading to the cities from the countryside.

In this rather sinister suburban sprawl, devoid as it seemingly appears of inhabitants, the images suggest we might be looking at an architects model or indeed 'photoshopped' computer realisation devoid as it is of any real life. The buildings might be copies of traditional ones half a world away and yet they lack any social or cultural heritage - seemingly architectural follies, devoid of life and social interaction and therefore somehow at odds with the apparent intention to create the 'perfect place' - a utopian suburban dreamscape - instead perhaps giving rise to a 'non-place', lacking history or culture where no real social-life is possible. In the same way that Marc Augé has described the 21st centuries airports, supermarkets, motorway service stations and multi-storey car parks as non-places, then these new suburban utopias might appear as such - places in which the user has no interest or emotional connection. 

Whilst this juste-milieu utopian suburbia appears superficially flawless - presenting the creature comforts of modern suburban living easily within reach - one only has to look beyond the construction site to see that all is not as paradisiacal as it might first appear. The vast expanse of tarmac that links this development, and those like it, to the main cities they feed, clearly map man's encroachment (ne. invasion) into nature but they still can't help but appear as fragile impositions into nature's vast landscape. As the mountains loom menacingly in the distance there is no escaping the dominant force of nature - the development subtly out of kilter with its immediate localé, giving rise to a sense of unease where cracks begin to appear in our sense of place. This pseudo-simulation of humanity raises polemical narratives for the viewer - the conflation of political and ecological issues heightening our protracted observations of these delusionary auspicious spaces. As the title of the work suggests there is an obvious parallel to be drawn here with Ernst Jentsch's concept of 'the uncanny'. Where Jentsch was primarily concerned with the uncertainty one feels trying to decide whether a particular character in a story is a human being or in fact an automaton, in this non-pace one's sense of the uncanny is evoked trying to decide if it is a real town we are looking at, a fake model, or as suggested earlier, just a photoshopped montage?

This almost deadpan germanic approach to image making - viewing the world as it does with a detached, cool and 'neue sachlichkeit' aesthetic - moves the images beyond photography's traditional monocular view of the world towards one of infinite permutation and vicissitude. Pertinent question regarding the cultural anthropology of such non-places serve to hyperbolise our relationship to the past, challenging our perceptions about the history of social space and its ability to evoke history. 

As China gets richer the rise in it's new middle class feeds the need for these new suburban tracts - its better educated masses now demanding the high-life and accompanying paraphernalia that those in 'the west' so clearly benefit from - private education, exotic holidays and self-owned homes to name but a few. But what is it about this new urbanism that feeds the desire to live in a place designed to look like a completely different country?