Past, Present, Future Bund
United States, 2017 | Ellie Beaudry
Although China is known for its aggressive investment in renewable energies, it is also notorious for its pollution and environmental devastation, particularly as a result of strip mining for coal. Ellie Beaudry’s short video Past, Present, Future Bund analyzes everyday concerns about air quality as it affects residents and visitors in Shanghai.
Divided into three panels on the screen, the video opens with joggers and walkers moving across the uppermost plane of action. In front of the joggers, a young woman strolls along the Shanghai Bund on the Huangpu River. Between the joggers and the woman are layers representing good, fair, and poor air quality. The young woman goes to the left, every movement showing excitement. She points at the Lujiazui skyline and poses for selfies in front of the iconic Oriental Pearl Tower.
As she moves into the central panel, she covers her face with a mask. She coughs and takes less enjoyment in her experience of the city. In the final panel, she opens her knapsack and unfolds a bright yellow hazmat suit, which she puts on. She then moves quickly to the edge of the screen.
As she moves, the figures walking and jogging behind her move with indifference to the rise and fall of pollution. In this way, the video reveals how Shanghai’s residents habituate themselves to a smog that is often thick enough to inhibit vision. Less visible changes from day to day. The young woman in the nearest plane of action foregrounds the less visible changes from day to day that might otherwise get lost given the regularity of poor air quality days.