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Stratums and Erratics



This is a series about roads in Yunnan. Yunnan is a landlocked, mountainous province in southwestern China, bordering Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam, and connected to the Chinese provinces of Tibet, Sichuan, Guizhou, and Guangxi. In the present, after the formation of nation-states, we usually imagine a place by its boundary lines, and the area surrounded by these lines, which are closed and clear, providing a precise, abstract and exclusive division of the earth. In pre-modern times, however, perhaps more important is another set of lines: mountains, rivers, and the many roads that run parallel to or through them. These lines are embodied, fluid and elastic, formed and continually changing over time, thus generating and connecting places. They are not closed; they extend, cross boundaries, and form new connections and aggregations.

It is this latter set of lines that are the focus of "Stratums and Erratics", looking at these roads formed in different chronological contexts and technological environments, and how they interact, overlay, and unite with each other to form a stratum of time and materiality. At the same time, the project also focuses on the actors on those roads, seeing how they strategically place themselves in and across places, shaping new discourses and new possibilities.

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