Zhu Wenbo and Sean Lee: no performance and Okra

Despite the closure over the last few years of a number of live venues that were homes for experimental music in Beijing, the scene—while small—is generally maintaining a level of activity that gives great cause for optimism. By way of example, I’d here like to focus on the activities of two members of the Beijing improvisation scene, Zhu Wenbo and Sean Lee.

"no performance" (Sean Lee and Zhu Wenbo) performing Okra, Meridian Space, Beijing, November 2016, photograph by Edward Sanderson.

“no performance” (Sean Lee (left) and Zhu Wenbo (right)) performing Okra, Meridian Space, Beijing, November 2016, photograph by Edward Sanderson.

Zhu Wenbo has quite a high profile locally due to his activity performing solo as well as in a number of groups, and as the organiser of experimental music events, particularly the Zoomin’ Nights series. Sean Lee has a quieter presence as a performer focusing on computer music practices. They first met through their work at the social media company, Douban, and since 2015 have performed together under the name of “no performance”. Zhu Wenbo has elsewhere described no performance as, “between composition and improvisation, electronic and acoustic, or computer program and instrument”[1], and in 2016 they debuted a new piece called “Okra” combining rule-based composition and improvisation, which has since been performed in a number of forms with different sets of people. I met up with them both at Wenbo’s apartment in Beijing to talk about their backgrounds and what Okra means for them.

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UNCUT TALKS: Three interviews with UK Practitioners in the World

Following the series of interviews I made with sound workers in China back in April, and since I’ve now (temporarily!) moved back to the UK, I’ve taken the opportunity to record a further set of chats with people and groups in this country. Generally speaking these people interested me because of their approach to the way a practice negotiates the social fabric. The relationship between these speakers activities and what one might call a cultural practice is perhaps quite an ambivalent one, in some cases even an irrelevant consideration for them. I point that out because such activities have in some cases been subsumed within an art practice—specifically the “dialogic” approach—but such practices may at times be seen to “work” better when kept at a distance from such a context, a choice of position which in the process calls into question the efficacy of an art-based practice in attempting to come to grips with the world.

A chat with Bianca Elzenbaumer, Paolo Plotegher, and Rosanna Thompson of New Cross Commoners:


A chat with Dr. Lynn Turner on Guerrilla Gardening:


A chat with Maurice Carlin at Islington Mill:

Art Review Asia: Interview with Xu Bing

Introduction

Xu Bing is one of the most internationally recognisable Chinese artists, through his art that for many years has addressed issues of cultural and symbolic communication, and for his role as Vice-President of the Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) in Beijing. Born in Chongqing in 1955, Xu earned his bachelor degree at CAFA in 1981, staying on as an instructor afterwards. He left China in 1990 to teach at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, living and working in the United States for 18 years before returning again to China in 2008 to take up his current position. CAFA is one a set of eight academies that represent the official route to recognition as an artist, in China. Xu’s appointment as the head of CAFA represented a loosening of the forms of art acceptable within the academic system, opening the doors to a more general embrace of contemporary art in China’s academia. In 2008 CAFA opened its onsite Museum in a building designed by the Japanese architect Arata Isozaki, which Xu proudly describes as “the best museum in China,” and it was here that Xu sat down with Art Review to discuss academic life in China and his part in it.

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ArtSlant: Interview with Li Ran

Aike-Dellarco Gallery, at Art Basel Hong Kong (Hall 1, Booth 1D50)

23 – 26 May, 2013

Interviewer: Edward Sanderson
Interviewee: Li Ran

Li Ran is a Chinese artist working with performance and video to create “mockumentaries” around fictional (or part-fictional) characters. Over the last year Li has had solo shows at Beijing’s Magician Space and Shanghai’s Aike Dellarco Gallery, and was included in the Shenzhen and Gwangju Biennales. Li took part in curator Biljana Ciric’s “Alternatives to Ritual” exhibition at the Goethe Institute Open Space in Shanghai, and ON/OFF, a major survey of young Chinese artists in Beijing’s Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art (UCCA). Currently he has new work on show at Shenzhen’s OCT and has just appeared in a group show focusing on reassessing performance art in China (curated by Su Wei at Beijing’s Star Gallery). For Art Basel Hong Kong, Li has been commissioned by Aike Dellarco to create a new piece for the gallery’s space in the “Discoveries” section of the fair.

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UNCUT TALKS: Three Interviews with China’s sound workers

Over the past few weeks I’ve begun a series of interviews for the “Uncut Talks” sound magazine, a project initiated by the artist Ma Yongfeng of forget art. At this point I thought I would pull together the first three interviews which (coincidentally) have all been with Chinese sound artists and musicians. Future interviews will venture into other creative fields. Ma Yongfeng and the Italian curator and artist Alessandro Rolandi have also added their own interviews to the Uncut Talks site, so please take a moment and check them out, I think there is something for everyone there!

Yan Jun talks about his “Living Room Tour”:


Sheng Jie (gogo) talks about her audio-visual practice:


VAVABOND (Wei Wei) and Li Jianhong talk about improvisation:

ArtSlant: Interview with Liang Yuanwei

Pomegranate: Liang Yuanwei solo show

Beijing Commune, 798 Art District, Beijing

21 March – 18 May, 2013

Interviewer: Edward Sanderson
Interviewee: Liang Yuanwei

At first glance, “Pomegranate,” Liang Yuanwei’s solo show which opened recently at Beijing Commune, appears to be a rather radical departure from this artist’s previous solo show in the same space in 2010 (“Golden Notes”). “Golden Notes” amassed a group of paintings of a similar format – canvases with floral patterns picked out from an overall gradation of coloured paint. “Pomegranate,” however, seems to present a rather more experimental proposition, and rationalisation of Liang’s practice. In this new show she seems to be dealing directly with the mutable nature of colour: as it is affected by the nature of materials over time, the nature of individual perception, and the nature of mechanical (or otherwise) reproduction. However, both shows, “Pomegranate” and “Golden Notes,” have strong parallels, and can be seen to represent different aspects of a consistent line of research into the appearance and effect of colour, as it exists in painting and in the world.

Edward Sanderson (ES): Taking the show “Pomegranate” as a whole, am I right in thinking that you are trying to investigate the vagaries of the reception of colour, and specifically the reception of painted artworks understood as collections of colours?

Liang Yuanwei (LYW): I actually treat the exhibition “Pomegranate” as one singular work of art, and, yes, I consider these factors through it.

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ArtSlant: The artist is the Genius of Suffering – Interview with Pei Li

The Artist is the Genius of Suffering

Interview with Pei Li

Interviewer: Edward Sanderson (ES)
Interviewee: Pei Li (PL)

The pursuit of beauty and the artist’s commitment to their practice are parallel concerns for Pei Li, whose solo show closed recently at Beijing’s Platform China space. This young artist holds these pursuits to a high degree of scrutiny and suspicion, regarding the beauty and fame as suspect notions that demand a certain cynicism. In a series of complex and sometimes audacious projects, she has grappled with the ideal of the artist and the relation that art has to the presentation of the body through representation, psychological projection, and performative acts. The following conversation was conducted via email and a face-to-face interview in Platform China’s galleries. UPDATE: Platform China have kindly translated this interview into Chinese.

Pei Li portrait

Edward Sanderson: You titled your show at Platform China “Generation P,” and the catalogue cover shows a text that has been roughly crossed out, leaving only the words beginning with the letter ‘P’ visible. Can you explain this and what is its significance?

Pei Li: At the very beginning I planned to call the exhibition “Generation Pain.” The sound of the word “pain” is close to my name “Pei” in Chinese, and I have a particular interest in pain. But then I felt that, for me, using the word “pain” was a little strange, because I always want to be fun. I like pain, but my character is cheerful and optimistic – and I think there is no conflict between the two!

I have a dual personality: sometimes I am cheerful and optimistic, and sometimes I fall into deep depressions. When I was a little girl I had infantile autism, apparently I would stand face-to-face in front of a wall, for the whole day, day after day. Actually, up until the age of 14 I don’t have much memory of my childhood, my family told me all about this.

When I was a teenager, I used to cut myself – not because of any bad experiences, just because of the pain itself. But I think pain on the body is really nothing. The real pain is the one you feel in your heart, a pain you cannot see.

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