this edition of framework:afield has been produced in zürich, switzerland with recordings made in beijing, china by jason kahn. for more information see http://www.jasonkahn.net.
notes from the producer:
Jason Kahn // Capital Steel
Long walk from the subway station to Capital Steel. Progressing steadily down vast boulevards, past dilapidated worker slums decaying in the dust and smog. The street ends at a construction site, and coming out the other side traces of Capital Steel loom into view: the wall enclosing the grounds, the huge steel pipes traveling elevated through the outlying neighborhoods. I take a side street, walking past metal workers, auto repair, mom and pop groceries. An atmosphere of quiet resignation. The sun beats way overhead, somewhere above the cloak of smog.
I walk along the wall and find a space between two tin slats, slithering into what’s left of Capital Steel. Right away I see a security guard making his rounds and I duck behind a corner so that he doesn’t find me. I’m trespassing, after all. I wait a while, have another peak to see if the coast is clear and then make a run for it towards the closest gargantuan oven, rising up in the distance like the wreckage from some space landing gone terribly awry.
Plunging into the shadows of a maze of concrete pillars set in a sea of dust, I set up my microphones and start to record. Here too I have to hide from workers coming and going right by me. In the distance jack hammers and the sounds of demolition rage. Capital Steel is being slowly dismantled to make way for another mall, another mega housing complex. Maybe another type of factory this time? Who knows? The square area of Capital Steel rivals that of my home Zürich: a city as steel mill.
I pack up my gear and run across a stretch of open ground to the nearest oven. I’m in the belly of the belly of the beast now. A labyrinth of massive pipes entwine themselves around me. Bits of metal creak and sway in the wind. Rusty staircases ascend to locked doors or catwalks connecting huge rusting tanks. Empty railroad cars stand o to the side frozen in time. Their wheels have long since vanished in the thick dust.
Here beneath the ovens it is quiet in an eerie yet also somehow soothing kind of way. I climb some stairs and a pack of dogs begins to bark and snarl viciously nearby. I’m hoping that there’s a wall or at the very least a fence between us. If they don’t tear me to shreds then they’ll probably at the very least attract attention to my whereabouts. I don’t imagine being arrested in China is such a pleasant experience.
I make some more recordings when the dogs quiet down and then head o to a cluster of gigantic brick buildings in the distance. These were once warehouses, the size of football fields and five stories high. Sunlight filters in through the cracked and smeared windows. In some places here the dust goes up to my knees, which is dangerous as the floor is riddled with crevices and holes. Piles of random trash, broken office furniture and unidentified able metal objects lay strewn everywhere. Many birds live here and their singing provides some respite from the traffic and construction work outside. I record what passes for intervals of silence: when no bird sings, no trucks passing by and the jackhammers have taken their lunch break.
I step out into the sunlight and head towards more of the ovens planted further o in the distance. I could explore here for weeks and probably never see it all. This industrial decay and wreckage seems to stretch on forever, supplanting the world as I’ve known it. Could this be one of many possible futures? The utterly despicable failure of humankind, wasting away on a trash heap of rusting machinery, an endless caustic landscape of dust and corrosion.
I’m right out in the open now. In broad daylight. I’m not afraid of being caught anymore. I want to make a recording of this panorama, a vista of time frozen, ground to a halt in mid-sentence. The sun has conquered the smog now and shines down brilliantly across the wounded landscape. A guard appears across the huge field of dust and walks towards me. He says something to me in Chinese but I don’t understand him. I cup my hands to my ears, somehow trying to say that I’m listening. He looks at me quizzically and makes a motion for me to go, pointing o in the distance to a gate leading outside.
The guard escorts me across the grounds. Before leaving I turn around and take one last look at the end of civilization as we know it. The guard walks away into the dust, vanishing in the glare of the bright afternoon sun. The feint sound of dogs barking travels across the wind. I find a bus stop and wait for my ride back to the subway station to catch a train home.