• Ripple Ripple Rippling
    Jingru (Cyan) Cheng, Mengfan Wang, and Chen Zhan
    Architectural Association School of Architecture, London
    Oct 10, 2024 to Dec 07, 2024
    Jingru (Cyan) Cheng, Mengfan Wang & Chen Zhan

Chen Zhan, “Situated Imaginaries: Group Dance Improvisation,” 2022. Digital photograph, Shigushan Village, Wuhan, China. Courtesy Chen Zhan

Ripple Ripple Rippling works closely with the village community in Shigushan, Wuhan, China, who are part of the country’s 295 million rural migrant workers. A site of both labor supply and resource extraction, the mundane village life and landscape embody the social and ecological consequences and dependences of China’s urbanization. For rural migrant workers, known as the floating population, the dissolution of their families is a survival tactic that fundamentally challenges the nuclear family model. What has emerged is an intergenerational, interdependent way of living—that is, a ripple effect of domesticity. The project attunes to how villagers make worlds—from opportunistic reparation of scarred landscapes to networks of care that extend and transgress familial bonds. Such attunement entails a process-oriented method at the intersection of architecture, anthropology, filmmaking, and performance. From participant observation to performative improvisation to collective happening, Ripple Ripple Rippling represents a long-term commitment to a place and its marginalized community—especially their agency, complicity, and resistance rooted in precarity. The solo exhibition at the Architectural Association in London creates multisensory experiences to share the project’s transdisciplinary work and methodology over the first ten years of the initiative, forging transversal alliances.

Jingru (Cyan) Cheng works across architecture, anthropology, and filmmaking. Her practice follows drifting bodies—from rural migrant workers to forms of water—to draw out latent relations across scales, confronting intensified social injustice and ecological crisis. Cheng was awarded Harvard University Graduate School of Design’s 2023 Wheelwright Prize for Tracing Sand; received two commendations from the RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) President’s Awards for Research in 2018 and 2020; and also won the Architecture Short Film Award at the Milano Design Film Festival in 2024 and the Best Short Film at the Venice Architecture Film Festival in 2023, all as part of Ripple Ripple Rippling. Cheng’s work has been exhibited internationally, as part of Critical Zones at ZKM Karlsruhe, Germany (2020–22); and International Architecture Exhibition—La Biennale di Venezia (2018); among others. Cheng holds a PhD by design from the Architectural Association and currently teaches at the Royal College of Art in London. She is also a Canadian Centre for Architecture’s CCA-Mellon Multidisciplinary Researcher (2024–25) on field research as a land-dependent practice.

Chen Zhan is an architect, anthropologist, and independent filmmaker, trained at the Architectural Association and SOAS University of London respectively. An Architects Registration Board (ARB) registered architect, Zhan worked on various award-winning projects across scales and sectors internationally since 2011, including the Maggie’s Cancer Care Center in Leeds, UK. Since 2019, Zhan has been using film as a collaborative medium to conduct long-term research-oriented projects, winning the Architecture Short Film Award at the Milano Design Film Festival in 2024 and the Best Short Film at the Venice Architecture Film Festival in 2023. Her projects include Orchid, Bee and I, a fictional ethnography that reflects on personal and collective experiences of living through the climate crisis and the Covid pandemic, and Ripple Ripple Rippling, a transdisciplinary endeavor that attunes to how Chinese rural migrant workers make worlds. Zhan is currently part of the Canadian Centre for Architecture’s CCA-Mellon multidisciplinary research group—In the Hurricane, On the Land—looking into field research as a land-dependent practice.

Mengfan Wang is an independent theatre director and choreographer, with training in the history of art at the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing, and dance studies at the Hochschule für Musik und Tanz, Cologne. Seeking to explore performative expressions of ordinary people, her dance theatre practice engages middle-aged women and children through a collaborative rework of daily acts and recently focuses on ageing bodies by working with retired ballet dancers. Wang is selected as “Dance Hopeful (Hoffnungsträger)” by German dance magazine tanz in its yearbook 2018. Her dance works have been invited to VIE Festival Bologna, Beijing Fringe Festival, Wuzhen Theater Festival, among others. Commissioned by the Centre Pompidou and the West Bund Museum Shanghai, her latest work Narrative Fountain was shown as part of Women in Motion 2023. Wang’s artist residencies span across Shanghai, Berlin, Copenhagen, and Zurich, including working with Theatre HORA supported by the Swiss Arts Council.