visualising my observations of emerging URBAN worlds.
“Enter Pyongyang” is another stunning collaboration between pioneering artists JT Singh and Rob Whitworth. Blending time-lapse photography, acceleration and slow motion, HD and digital animation, they have produced a cutting‐edge panorama of a city hardly known, but one emerging on the visitor’s landscape as North Korea’s opening unfolds.
North Korea was the last country seemingly immune to change—but no longer. Recent years have witnessed mobile phone penetration, a surge in tourists, and even a marathon. Numerous special economic zones have been launched in cooperation with China, Russia, and South Korea, with railways planned linking all countries in the region. “Enter Pyongyang” captures not just the city, but this dynamism and sense of potential.
This video is the single most significant multi-media contribution to transcending clichés about North Korea as a society defined by reclusiveness and destitution. To travel there is to witness a proud civilization, though one caught in a Cold War time-warp. Korean cultural traditions are meticulously preserved and displayed in authentic richness. Anyone who has witnessed the awe-inspiring Mass Games knows that, with great sacrifice, North Koreans can pull off a performance unparalleled in its precision.
“Enter Pyongyang” captures the reality of North Korean citizens as earnest and humane, not automatons. The infamous traffic ladies and subway guards stand stiff and sentinel—but today they share a smile too. The more North Koreans one meets, the more one sees an organic society that wants to be a normal country. If you travel there not to judge but to appreciate, you will come away with a better understanding of how challenging national transformation can be.
"Enter Pyongyang" is above all an invitation to explore. Few places in the world have been as hermetically sealed as North Korea, but Koryo Tours has made it possible not just to see North Korea but to engage with it in ways that were impossible until very recently. This is a window of opportunity not to be missed. If Pyongyang is no longer off limits, no place is.
--Foreword by Dr. Parag Khanna, Director, Hybrid Reality
'Urbanization ethicist and media artist JT Singh has captured the vibrance and massive scale of Shanghai’s skyline, streets, and infrastructure through a series of experimental projects viewed by millions (This is Shanghai, Walk in Shanghai, etc); hence, contributing greatly to the city's growing global status. With this new film, he turns to the Shanghai of its residents, the lives that revolve not around the city’s 4000 skyscrapers, but around the simpler ways of living, the local charm, and the familiar corner.
Amid the chaos of millions of people living and working with one another, the rich textures and smells, the voices and faces young and old, and the signs of tradition and change dwell behind each door and around each corner. With JT's riveting visual storytelling, viewers experience a series of impressions around historic shikkumen neighbourhoods, which foster a network of real-life experiences, memories, and encounters with locals, which are the tender heart keeping the city alive. Shanghai’s iconic skyline is symbolic of its presence as a premier global city, but below the towers, the intimate, and human story that unfolds is what will always be part of the city’s core DNA.
Forward by Lane Rick, an architect based in NYC
In 1980 Shanghai had no skyscrapers. It now has at least 4,000 — more than twice as many as New York. ‘This is Shanghai’ explores the diversities and eccentricities of the metropolis that is Shanghai going beyond the famous skyline.
Photographer Rob Whitworth and media artist JT Singh joined forces combining deep city exploration and pioneering filmmaking. ‘This is Shanghai’ is a roller coaster ride seamlessly weaving between the iconic, sparkling and mismatched buildings of the financial district travelling by boat and taxi touring Shanghai’s impressive infrastructure whilst glimpsing some of the lesser-known aspects of Shanghai life such as the lower stratum areas or the stunning graffiti of Moganshan road. And of course there is the opportunity to try some of the vast variety of street food and Shanghai’s most popular homegrown delicacy, the pan-fried pork dumplings, the shengjian bao.
Wherever you travel in Shanghai the cities skyline is always present. The looming silhouette of the almost constructed Shanghai Tower now dominates and perfectly encapsulates the new heights this city is yet to reach. Once completed, in 2014, it will be the tallest building in China and the second tallest in the world after the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.
To understand the city, the team carried out rigorous urban exploration. In the words of JT “we walked, walked and walked, the Jane Jacobs way”. Weibo, China’s main social media platform was used to ask local Shanghainese people to share ideas of different vantage points and what they thought were the over-riding characteristics of the city. Stealth and curiosity were required to find and gain access to rooftops and locations. It became addictive for the team discovering breath-taking vantage points of the city. There was always an adrenaline rush upon reaching the top of a different building to see the vast urban jungle of Shanghai.
With its futuristic skyline and sprawling network of streets, subway lines, and highways, Shanghai represents not just China’s unbridled dynamism, but also the rapidly maturing global economy. The bustling city of Shanghai, however, holds a further, complex and equally exhilarating narrative nestled at the feet of its towering skyscrapers. ‘Walk in Shanghai’ tells the story of the lively, multifaceted and above all else, very human experience unfolding at the street level of this massive city.
To guide you through the streetscape is JT Singh. As he leads the viewer on his curious adventure through central Shanghai, he glances around corners, weaves through crowds, and with a barely perceptible pause here or an impulsive turn there, stumbles into the unhinged entropy that flows through the hidden alleys, accidental views, and captivating scenes embedded in the city’s vibrant street life. The peculiar reversal of the city’s movement against his own distinguishes his story from that of the other 24 million people taking 24 million walks in Shanghai. It’s through a heightened focus on one man’s seemingly unstructured journey that we discover the ultimate protagonist of this story: the transcendent power of using your legs for discovering a city.
‘Walk in Shanghai’ is only an introductory tour of Shanghai's urban streets. The remaining story of Shanghai’s suspense and beauty can only be experienced in person, and through using your legs as the main mode of transport. Shanghai in particular is a great city for walking as its downtown maintains its extensive walkable neighborhoods through the historic preservation of its urban fabric. Above all, JT Singh’s playful artistry is a celebration of the beauty of walking in cities. A visceral pleasure made possible by walkable and human scale urban environments. Walk on!
Forward by Lane Rick, Architect