We performed our duty as loyal residents of Shanghai and visited the Expo the other day. Deciding to avoid the crowds and sweat-conjuring midday heat, we traipsed along in the evening with a half-day ticket (£9). It was still mobbed and it was still hot. Here are the pavilions that we managed to visit:
Spain – This featured a long entrance tunnel with booming music, crazy visuals and a hot Spanish lady doing some moody flamenco dancing. In the next room was a giant 30-foot robot baby. I have no idea what this was about. 4/5
Italy – A little more concerned with what their nation was actually about, the Italians’ effort featured a Ferrari, an expensive pasta restaurant and loads of classical instruments attached to the wall. The introductory video in the queue seemed promising, going through all the artists, architects and innovators of the place, but inside it seemed to me they didn’t want to alienate any foreigners whatsoever so opted for big visual statements that didn’t really make a statement at all. 3/5
UK – My buddy and I got to skip the queue as British passport holders, which is a good thing as our pavilion was a box made up of glass tubes. Inside, the tubes had some seeds in them. That was it. However, it looked very cool and in retrospect I think the British planners may have dodged a bullet by going for a piece of art rather than a watered-down museum/national advert like everyone else. Maybe they were burned by the multi-million compromise in a tent that was the Millennium Dome? My mate thought it was just a lazy cop-out however (the pavilion, not the dome, the dome was just crap), and this could very well be true. 3/5
USA – Horrible. Hilariously horrible. Try to imagine what the most clichéd American pavilion would be like. Now double it. “Ni Hao! I’m Kobe Bryant.” This was the opening line of the information movie. In the next movie, Hilary Clinton talked about children being our future and how their optimism and lack of inhibitions are so inspiring. Of course they’re optimistic, they’re six! They also piss themselves and cry if they lose a balloon! The final room featured the introductory sentence, ‘And Now a Message From Our Sponsors.’ There followed a series of booths for some of the most evil corporations in the world. Out of any of the pavilions, the US one was at least the most accurate in representing itself and I laughed like a drain for fifteen minutes, so 5/5.
The Netherlands – Bloody weird. They are mental. 0/5
Iraq – Spot the war-torn country! It was hard not to pity Iraq, they didn’t even get their own pavilion but had to share it with Burma and Laos. They featured a couple of dummies dressed as muslims, a rocking alladin on a magic carpet they had clearly stolen from Codonas arcade in Aberdeen, and a giant lamp with a sign that read: “Aladdin’s lamp will grant you three wishes. Do not touch.” I never knew Aladdin was Iraqi so I learned more in this pavilion than in all the others combined. 4/5.
All in all, I was left wondering what the Expo was really about. It’s slogan is ‘Better City. Better Life.’ This is about as vague as a covering statement can be. Billions have been spent on the whole thing and millions are visiting week after week. But it’s just a series of buildings loaded with faff. The faff has been dressed up to look informative and enterprising but really, it’s just faff. Rather than split the whole site into countries, I reckon the next Expo would fulfil it’s promise to inform a little better if it divided itself into different zones like ‘Innovation ‘ (inventions and gadgets) ‘Identity’ (history of different places around the world that could change from week to week) and ‘The Environment’ (I wouldn’t go but it seems every seriously minded endeavour has to feature the E word somewhere or it’s just not legitimate).
So, the Expo then, billions on faffery, but a fun evening if you’re not doing anything else.