Route 3, 2011 (collaboration with David Kelley), 25 minutes, 3 channel video installation
Route 3 is a three channel video installation inspired by a news article detailing the construction of a new highway in Northeast Laos that will complete a modern highway system, uniting China to Southeast Asia.
Fractured into three channels and woven from scripts, interviews, performances and photographs, the video is an audio-visual essay that travels along highway Route 3. This international highway in Laos passes from China into Laos at a Lao concession town, Boten, where the Chinese entrepreneurs have relocated a Lao village and built a casino town. The road continues on through numerous ethnic minority villages, an UNESCO eco-preserve, and now waits only for the new bridge (currently under construction) over the Mekong to complete the link of China to Southeast Asia.
Set in Northwest Laos, the meeting point of the Mekong river, Thailand, China, and Burma, Route 3 sees the pair sharpen their idiosyncratic collaborative project: the geo-political Asian road film. Neat in focus and beautifully shot, the work studies the spatial, environmental, economic and social impact of Route 3, a recently constructed trade route between China, Laos and Thailand. With Chang and Kelley tuned into local routines and rhythms, the sleepy and formerly self-contained mountain villages of Laos appear in some ways unaffected by this major development, but there are many lurking signs that the region is being dramatically accelerated into modernity. The question is whether it is the will of the locals, or an inevitable transformation led by neighbouring economic growth.
Chang and Kelley wring together a range of contrasting elements into a cohesive and thoughtful project, deftly and fluidly mixing explicit political sentiment with moments of psychedelic absurdity and humanist poetics. China is the real subject, however, with Route 3 a testament to the way China’s economic power translates to political power and regional (not to mention, global) dominance.