Allan Kaprow’s Travelog Reinvented with MOCA

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FERRYTALE: and Lin Yu in Shanghai, China

Song Tao and Lin Yu chose to ride the ferries that cross the Huang Pu River in Shanghai in their project called FERRYTALE. They wrote:


FERRYTALE was a project inspired by Allan Kaprow’s work Travelog. On a single day, 27 April 2008, we, artist Song Tao and journalist Lin Yu, drove to the ferries along Huang Pu River starting in the north and finishing in the south and took each of the ferry lines to cross the river and took pictures during the tour. Since both of us lived by the river (right side) during our childhood, and had rich memories and deep emotions connected to ferries, FERRYTALE was also a chance to return to our roots. Moreover, after the day, we believed that it was a return to the roots of the city of Shanghai as well. It was in the early 20th century, when the first ferries and ferry lines on Huang Pu River were designed to connect both sides of the river – especially for those who were living on the right side crossing to the left side. Later, the first bridge on the river was built and today there are more than 5 bridges, 4 tunnels and several metro lines – crossing the river is easy and quick now, most people no longer depend on ferries as the only way crossing.

However, ferriage is still living in the city. Some people are still taking ferryboat everyday cross the river in the same way as they did in early 20th century, or in the World War II, or before there were the bridges. At some ferry lines, we found the business were still very busy, while we also found some ferry lines were quiet and almost abandoned.

On a ferryboat or beside a ferry station, we saw people quite different from the people we meet in our daily lives. There were poor people, people still living by the river, people from countryside who were unable to access to the mainstream of the society.

On the other hand, we also saw people who were quite like the people we met during our childhood. Those people seemed as if they were just stepping out from our memories and were the typical Shanghainese from the 1980s and 1990s. They remained the typical Shanghainese style of people who had disappeared due to the development of the city.

On the ferryboat of  the “Dong Chang Lu — Jin Ling Dong Lu” line, we found visitors from all over the country and from elsewhere. The boat was quite luxurious with a double floor, cinema-like seats and air conditioning. The line no longer served for local people but for tourists. It was no longer the ferryboat of our memories; it was so commercial and touristy that both of us both sick.

Living or abandoned, busy or quiet, with or without vehicles, for local people or for tourists … ferries have unique beauty as containers reserving the culture and lifestyle of Shanghai. For this reason, we believe that we are right to put our ferry project from tour to a tale.

After a light sleep the night before, I got up at 7am and took a shower, and arrived at Lin Yu’s at 8:10am to drive north. Traffic was quite good on a Sunday morning. After Central Cycle, we missed the Yi Xian Lu Elevated Line, and  had to drive on the ground road among the container trucks. At 9:19am we found our first ferry-station: Wu Song Lu Ferry, where our jeep could ferry across the river. I lived by the river when I was young — at that time there was no bridge but a tunnel, cars crossed the river mainly by means of ferry. Now this ferry line is the only vehicle ferry. But we were shocked when a passenger ferryboat reached the wharf; a staff told us to drive our jeep directly into it! The vehicle ferryboat in my memory has totally disappeared…

We stopped the car in the passenger ferryboat (which I had taken numerous times during my childhood), pulled off the handbrake and switched off the engine, I jumped out of the jeep, passed through the people around me, lit my cigarette and a familiar smell rose into my nose — the smell of the river. Driving towards the south along the river in Pudong, it became hot in the jeep, and then slowly, it cooled down. Ferries. Wharves. Stall-keepers making their living by the ferries. Bus lines started from the ferries. Pink paulownia flowers were in full bloom. The roaring engine of the ferryboat. Abandoned vehicle ferry wharf. Bridge figure irremovable from sight. Some people remained crossing the river by ferry. Lovers were snuggling up together in the foreground…

The river became sexy at dusk on the LCD screen of camera. The giant steamers parking in the middle of the river were illumined by lights. River-water captured at the shutter speed of 1/8 of a second, and lovers were watching the river — all of those matched my mood perfectly. Deep barges connected one by one, floating on the surface of river. Our ferryboat rounded them carefully driving toward the opposite bank. A ferryboat that started from the opposite drove towards us and passed…

It was totally dark now. We were heading for the south, search for the ferries hiding by the river. Those ferries were waiting quietly in the small village by the giant bridges. They were there before those magnificent bridges were built up, at that time they were very busy and noisy. By then it was midnight, we were still driving towards the south. We were on a lampless road. On both side of the road there were giant trees, whose big trees connected together, which made the road like a tunnel in the lights of the jeep. It was nothing but dark in the rearview mirror, and at the end of the light, there was nothing but dark as well. I lost my sense of speed as I was driving, then I could only depend on the number told by the speedometer needle. Lin Yu told me that at the end of the road was the last ferry of the river, and the last of our journey too.

09:19 Wu Song Ferry
09:32 San Cha Ferry
10:59 Dong Tang Lu Ferry
11:20 Neng Jiang Lu Ferry
11:49 Jin Qiao Lu Ferry
12:04 Ding Hai Qiao Ferry
13:22 Xie Pu Lu Ferry
13:44 Ning Guo Lu Ferry
14:04 Min Sheng Lu Ferry
14:14 Dan Dong Lu Ferry
14:25 (Ex-) Min Sheng Lu Vehicle Ferry
14:48 Qi Chang Zhai Ferry
15:03 Qin Huang Dao Lu Ferry
15:32 Tai Tong Zhai Ferry Construction Site
16:01 Dong Chang Lu Ferry
16:20 Jin Ling Dong Lu Ferry
17:02 Yang Jia Du Ferry
17:11 Fu Xing Dong Lu Ferry
17:24 Tang Qiao Ferry
17:42 Dong Jia Du Ferry
18:05 1 Nan Ma Tou Ferry 1
18:22 Lu Jia Bang Lu Ferry
18:35 Nan Jiang Lu Ferry
18:51 2 Nan Ma Tou Ferry 2
19:16 Close to Zhou Jia Du Ferry (Now Construction Site)
19:51 San Lin Lu Ferry
20:16 Gang Kou Ferry
21:17 Xi Du Ferry
21:46 Min Hang Ferry
22:36 Tang Kou Ferry