A sign of the times? I think so, yes. The rather dilapidated Chinese Chamber of Commerce in Penang, being spruced up as part of the change over to a Volkswagen dealership office. The old face of commerce painted over and replaced with modern commerce – big global brands and consumerism.
I felt that much of Penang seemed faded and more than a little bit sad. I’d been led to expect interesting architecture and food experiences, and had gone expecting to be wowed by ‘the Pearl of the Orient’. But I confess I was quite disappointed. Many of the heritage buildings were decidedly unloved and shabby, and there was shocking city planning in evidence, with towering concrete behemoths cheek by jowl with the decaying old buildings, mixed in with an overly generous measure of fast food outlets. Soul and culture seemed to have been ripped out of the city altogether. The whole place left me feeling vaguely on edge and depressed.
Commerce and consumerism survives and evolves – it always has and always will. Together they make the lifetime of even something as permanent as a building look fleeting; crumbling away whilst commerce and consumerism continue to flourish.
I liked seeing that this old building was being restored; it gave me a glimmer of hope that perhaps Penang wasn’t entirely beyond redemption. The Penang Chinese Chamber of Commerce may be no more, but the sign was being preserved, alongside the addition of a newer, more global take on commerce.
The juxtaposition of the dominance of commerce and all-powerful big industry – in this case VW – brought into shape in this one corner of the world by a couple of guys with tiny paint rollers on rickety scaffolding, really struck me. I just had to share it for this week’s Wordpress weekly photo challenge, all about sharing signs we have seen, ‘from the signs you encounter on the street to more personal, less obvious signs that hold meaning for you’.