South Korean philosopher Byung-Chul Han writes: “‘Shanzhai’ is a Chinese neologism that refers to the appropriation of a form or an idea, dismissing its original status ... this concept today encompasses all areas of life in China: there is shanzhai architecture, shanzhai food, and even shanzhai entertainment stars. Its appeal lies precisely in the functional and ingenious variation ... Its innovativeness ... is not defined by genius or creation ex nihilo, but by being part of an anonymous and ongoing process of combination and mutation.” (Shanzhai: The Art Of Falsification And
Deconstruction In China, Byung-Chul Han, 2016)
In Architecture and the Arts, the cult of novelty is relentless. At schools, we are taught that copying is dishonest and lazy. Ironically, no work of art comes into existence without either a conscious or an unconscious link to what was created before. Ideas are nothing but the cumulative result of an amalgamation of thousands of sources of culture, produced by millions upon millions of human beings throughout history. We find this fetishization of originality inherent in Western capitalist values, and the consequential discouragement of collaboration, deeply disturbing. We looked at this panorama and we were, to say the least, uncomfortable. Therefore, we proposed to ‘Shanzhai’ EASA.
In SHANZHAI EASA there will be no new workshops. Through “Shanzhai” methodologies, we will promote a process of social and cultural collaboration and disruptive creativity that challenges and deconstructs dominant notions of authenticity and authorship in art and architecture; using systematic copying of previous EASA workshops as a democratising tool for architectural education.