olivier laude : window of the world
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   During World War II Mao Zedong, 
   plagued by a crippling lack of
   information about the outside world created
  "Reference News", a party rag reporting distorted 
   and poorly gathered international news from 
   the little his lieutenants could pick up 
   from weak radio receivers. 
   Mao was ignorant of most international affairs 
   and made foreign policy decisions with the help of 
  "Reference News" and a healthy dose of misconceptions 
   about the World. 
  "References News" was his window on the World.

Historically China has never been well informed 
about the World beyond it's borders. Even after 17 years 
of Deng Xiaoping's economic reforms and openness to the West 
the average Chinese's understanding of the outside
world is still very sketchy. Nevertheless, in recent years, 
the Chinese are looking outside China for entertainment 
as well as investments and
opportunities.

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Before Deng Xiaoping's economic reforms, 
only high level cadres were allowed to travel within China. 
Most did so on "official business" and to
traditional sites like the Great Wall or Guilin. 
However in recent years the Chinese have become 
more prosperous and travel restrictions have been
eased by the central government; 
allowing ventures like "Window of the World" to flourish.

In the intellectual tradition of "Reference News", 
the Chinese tourism industry is now catering 
to a burgeoning middle class eager to broaden 
its horizons. Banking on this trend it is building 
miniature Worlds theme parks all over the country 
and reaping huge profits. In Shenzhen, 
after a year in business "Window of the World" has admitted 
over seven million visitors, while another park opened 
in Canton in October 1995 and another
in Beijing is under construction. 
As yet unable to travel abroad (mostly for economic reasons), 
they flock to "Window of the World" to travel
vicariously amongst miniatures of the World's great sites. 
The resulting mix has created a theme park rife 
with ironies and metaphors worth exploring.

In this Lilliputian world where international landmarks 
have been shrunk for easier consumption, 
the main activity of each visitor is to record
friends and family members on film. 
It quickly becomes obvious that the
creators of this park designed the grounds with this in mind. 
Each monument is strategically placed to allow visitors 
easy access to a perfectly composed snapshot. 
A picture perfect world, sanitized of its unsightly realities 
and daily turmoil.        It is a collapsed vignette of
reality, a place of surreal juxtapositions.

In the shadow of the Eiffel tower 
(courtesy of the Major Bridge Engineering
Bureau of the Ministry of Railways 
of the People's Republic of China),
smartly appointed workers prune shrubbery 
while others repaint 
the onion domes of Moscow's Saint Basil cathedral.
Only a few paces away are Notre Dame cathedral, 
    the Arc de Triomphe, and the Vatican. 
    The Great Sphinx of Egypt squats 
    near the Sydney Opera House, 
    the Taj Mahal, and a diorama of the Serengeti, 
    teeming with tiny wildebeest and mating elephants. 
Across
the way, and beyond Niagara Falls, 
Manhattan sits alone in a pond,
complete with a Statue of Liberty 
accessible only by inflatable canoe.

Hidden speakers play appropriate 
soundtracks for each locale. 
The Cologne Cathedral bakes in the South China sun 
to a sound track of solemn medieval
choral music. 
Sousa's "Stars and Stripes" loops on Capitol Hill. 
The signs urge visitors to keep off the grass 
while others try to educate the masses about the sites; 
typos and all.

Revelers at Window of the World, 
looking down on creation from the top of the Eiffel Tower 
(100 meters high, a 1/3 of the original), 
see stretching
before them an even more remarkable sight, 
that of the changing Chinese landscape. 
Everywhere new skyscrapers replace bamboo groves, and office
towers and shopping malls fill in for estuaries and rice paddies.

From above, "Window of the World" 
looks like a miniature golf course, 
a satellite composite of a world brought together 
by savvy business men with their finger on China's pulse. 
Unlike Mao, they rightly understood that "Window of the World" 
would satisfy a need he had so forcibly kept from the
Chinese people. His small World 
will never look the same...


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