This is the second and final part of the interview with Sheng Jie (aka gogoj), discussing her activities as a visual artist and experimental musician in China. Link to the first part of the interview.
This is a new series of posts for this blog focusing on individuals, groups, or organisations that have played notable roles in the history of critical music practices in China. These practices appear in many different guises, often described as “experimental music” or “sound art”, neither of which 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.
Sheng Jie (aka gogoj) is a visual artist and musician based in Beijing. Much of her current experimental music and sound work reflects her study of the violin and cello, as well as of video and performance art. Since returning to Beijing from college in France in 2005, she has been developing various forms of audio/visual performance using these elements. Recently she has begun incorporating a gesture-based computer interface that allows her to “manually” manipulate her video and audio signals on stage. In this interview she talks about her practice and how it has developed, her relationship with the music and art worlds in Beijing, and why she adopted this gesture interface. The interview covers a lot of ground, and so has been split over two days for convenience. Part two will be published on this blog tomorrow.
For the experimental music community in Beijing, each month holds the promise of another MIJI Concert. Organised since 2011 by various members associated with the Sub Jam record label, MIJI Concert is now in its 39th edition. This event has managed to survive in a city that has become less than fertile ground for experimental creative productions over the past few years with the closure of a number of venues that would host such events; MIJI is now one of the few regular events for such practical research into sound and music. Since edition 18 MIJI has found a home at the Meridian Space, located in a small creative cluster behind the National Art Museum of China not far from the Forbidden City in central Beijing. The long, thin, upstairs room in which it takes place is perhaps inhospitable for regular styles of performance, but within an experimental context provides an ideal foil for the artists. The quality of the space helps to work against divisions between performer and audience, so the physical relationship between them is always under negotiation – dependant on things like the equipment being used, the style of performance, and the nerve of the audience members. Last week’s MIJI Concert 39 was a case in point, with four pieces making various uses of the space, setting up different experiences of the performers’ relationship between themselves and with the audience.
“Edward Sanderson speaks with Zhang Wei and Hu Fang about discovering ways of working within a private gallery that fosters an experience of art that is more than mere consumerism.”
An expanded appreciation of the gallery environment and its players, with a particular emphasis on the nature and expression of the physical and perceptual spaces that make up that environment, plays a significant role in the thinking and activities of Vitamin, a Guangzhou- and Beijing-based art organization. In its activities, Vitamin recognizes and utilizes these spaces through interaction with implied psychological and spiritual attributes that create an invisible energy, and that act as productive elements in the relationships among artist, artwork, and audience.
Zhang Wei and artistic director Hu Fang established Vitamin and opened Vitamin Creative Space, in 2002, in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou. Over the ten years of its existence, Vitamin has become relatively well established in the Chinese art scene as well as internationally by its presence at art fairs and through its projects and publications carried out with practitioners from both inside and outside its home territory. Its broad range of activities, exhibitions, events, and publications, and the often idiosyncratic nature of many of them, allow Vitamin to retain a feeling of informality, experimentation, and playfulness within a formalized gallery system.
Stephanie Rothenberg & Dan S. Wang: The Journey West Travel Office
The Journey West Travel Office, 43 Zhonglouwan Hutong, Dongcheng District, Beijing, 100007 China
21 May – 10 July, 2011
As an agent of Spectacle, tourism fulfils manufactured desires, and you can’t get more manufactured—or at least programmed—than guided tours. Tailor-made to your requirements? Maybe so, but within your tightly regimented schedule (value-for-money!) you’ll see only what you want to see, and the tendency to cede control and the experience to the tour company itself becomes part of a demonstration of social and economic affluence. But maybe those restrictions can be put to use to provide a frame within which to re-view our understanding of the sites that we visit, through a critical engagement with the process and assumptions of tourism.
Setting up shop for the last two months in a tiny street front space in the historic Drum and Bell Tower area (once home to Beijing’s time-keeping apparatus), American artists Stephanie Rothenberg and Dan S. Wang have been running their Journey West Travel Office. The Office has been developed as a serious business, from their initial location scouting in this strategic area which sees plenty of foot traffic from potential clients, to the process of interviewing and engaging salespeople, whose subsequent travails as arbiters of the various package tours to passers-by become documentary material adding to the content of the piece as a performative intervention in the area.