Critical Music 5: Interview with Ambra Corinti and Rong Guang Rong

Critical Music series: This series of posts focuses on individuals, groups, or organisations that have played notable roles in the history of critical music practices in China. These practices appears in many different guises, often related to concepts such as “experimental music” or “sound art”, although neither term is entirely satisfactory in describing the practices which often exist in many hybrid forms. My adoption of the term “critical music” (following the writings of G Douglas Barrett) attempts to avoid the limitations of these terms, while highlighting the active nature of the sound component of the practices. These posts will primarily take the form of interviews, each one aiming to place the subject within the general history of critical music practices in China, and contextualise their current practice within their overall development.

Welcome to the fifth interview in this series. This is an interview with Rong Guang Rong (A Rong) and Ambra Corinti. In 2010 A Rong and Ambra founded Zajia in Beijing, an influential arts space and bar in the Gulou – a very traditional urban area in the centre of town, characterised by the network of hutong (thin alleyways surrounding the imperial palace in central Beijing). For Zajia, these hutong provided an everyday community setting far from the more or less segregated art districts of Beijing. Zajia became an important hub for experimental music performances, amongst many other things. Its story demonstrates how such physical venues appear and survive, and ultimately how they reach the end of their lives – giving insights into many aspects of how the community and infrastructure for critical music is developing in China. In the latter part of the interview A Rong talks about his activity as a documentary film-maker. He recently won an award at the Rotterdam International Film Festival for his most recent film, and he has various ongoing documentary film projects that will survey experimental music and sound practices in China.

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ArtSlant: Pedestrian Potentialities?

19 Solo Shows About Painting (Bi Jianye, Huang Liang, Jia Aili, Jin Shan, Liao Guohe, Li Qing, Liu Weijian, Lin Yen Wei, Ma Ke, Qin Qi, Qi Wenzhang, Sun Xun, Sun Wen, Song Yuanyuan, Wu Guangyu, Xiao Bo, Xiao Jiang, Xu Ruotao, Zhou Yilun)

Platform China, Caochangdi, Beijing, China

12 March – 31 May, 2011

Over the last few years Platform China has established a strong programme of shows, displaying refreshing latitude with respect to exhibition formats and presentation of artworks.

A couple of highlights for me included the extravagant group show “Jungle” from early last year. This expansive show continually refreshed itself over its two-month period, inviting the artists to adapt their installations and bringing in new artists. In what seems to have been a precursor to the current trend in Beijing of withdrawing the curator from the process of the show, “Jungle” eschewed such a figure or even an strong theme leaving the results in the hands of the artists (for better or worse).

At the end of 2010 “The Third Party” (which I reviewed on this site) represented the opposite stance in relation to curation, with Beatrice Leanza taking, if not centre stage as curator, then at least a dominant role, corralling the large collection of alternative practices.

And so we reach the current offering: “19 Solo Shows About Painting” has been produced by the Platform China Contemporary Art Institute as the first of what they propose will be an annual series of shows. Stepping back into curatorially-bereft territory, “19 Solo Shows…” mirrors the format of “Jungle,” with an extended collection of artists and a sprawling layout taking up a large part of both of Platform’s buildings. But this time the focus is squarely on painting and its presentation.

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