That’s the way Western media have been spinning it since a series of photos online showed groups of teens in Beijing trailing the leafy vegetables behind them on leashes.
“And the sight of them out ‘walking’ the cabbages in a bid to battle loneliness is the latest way of meeting someone new – as cabbage walkers use their weird pets as a way to start up conversations with each other” the Austrian Times said in a report, with similar coverage in the Huffington Post and the UK’s Metro (we get it, this photo is kind of asking for it).
“I feel I can transfer my negative thoughts about myself to the cabbage, go for a walk with it and come home feeling better about myself,” 17-year-old Liu Chen was quoted as saying in the article.
The recent reports surfaced after groups of “youths” were photographed walking cabbages around at the Midi Music Festival in Beijing this past weekend. Local media described the scene as a mass performance art piece in the fashion of artist Han Bing.
Han’s “Walking the Cabbage” art project actually dates all the way back to 2000 with a photograph titled “Walking the Cabbage in Tiananmen“. In the time since, he’s produced a number of performative photographs showing him in various parts of the world…walking the cabbage.
His intention in making the art is for “people to see how much of our daily lives are routines that we’ve blindly absorbed”, he was quoted as saying.
On Han’s website, he described the social performance as being “a playful twist on a serious subject—the way our everyday practices serve to constitute ‘normalcy’ and our identities are often constituted by the act of claiming objects as our possessions.”
The same site said that Han conducts this social intervention performance art in public spaces quite often, i.e.: Beijing’s Midi Fest. Tons of on-site fans appeared to be participating and apparently a lot of media interviews went down.
“If I see someone else it’s easy to start up a conversation with them about their cabbage,” 17-year-old Liu was further quoted as saying. “In fact afterwards, I can throw the cabbage away and feel that I have tossed my feelings out with it.”
“I have more interest for my cabbage than I do my parents. I feel it understands me,” another cabbage walker, Da-Xia Sung, told reporters.
Whether this trend is actually being picked up by legions of lonely teens across China or it’s just the reflection of a few wonderful, trolling festival-goers, Beijing-based Chinese psychiatrist Wen Chao has tried his damnedest to piece together for us the complexities of cabbage walking among teens: “The idea is…you feel as lonely and as simple as a cabbage, so you begin to act like one and befriend one,” he was quoted as saying in the Austrian Times report.
“And in that acceptance comes change.”