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 appear 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 sixth interview in this series, and the last for a while. It’s a real pleasure and an honour to be able to publish this interview with Li Jianhong and Wei Wei, the couple who in their various ways have been central figures in the experimental music scene in China for many years. Originally from Hangzhou, Li and Wei Wei were both involved in the music scenes in that city before coming to Beijing around 2011. Since then they have been highly visible with their solo projects as well as performing together under the names Mind Fibre and Vagus Nerve. This interview concentrates on their early musical development, the 2pi Festival that Li founded in Hangzhou in 2003, and their thoughts about improvisation and the state of the experimental music scene in Beijing.
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.
You Are Not a Gadget: Chen Shaoxiong, Huang Ran, Jin Shan, Leng Wen, Lu Zhengyuan, Yan Xing, Zhuang Hui & Dan’er. Curated by Carol Yinghua Lu
Pékin Fine Arts, Caochangdi, Beijing, China
15 January – 18 April, 2011
Curated group shows reveal the hand of the curator in a public display of their thinking and working process: in some cases they may take a back seat; in others be extremely visible. Curator Carol Yinghua Lu has consistently investigated the latter approach, and the group show You Are Not a Gadget curated by her at Pékin Fine Arts, serves as a point at which to analyse the results.
Review of The Third Party Part 1: How to Be Alone (or nowhere else am I safe from the question: why here?)
Platform China, 319-1 East End Art Zone A, Caochangdi Village, 100015 Beijing, China
November 11, 2010 – November 30, 2010
Developing quite a reputation as a space which encourages experimentation in their shows, Platform China currently have two shows which in their own ways leave some breathing space in the works and the formats of presentation – a rare and noteworthy situation within the oftentimes banal Beijing gallery environment.
In Platform’s Caochangdi space right now their upstairs gallery is devoted to a solo show by Chinese artist Jin Shan, presenting his mercurial series of mini-videos “One Man’s Island” as a scattered installation of monitors and projections, marking out a complex space with these recordings of the artists minor activities. But the focus of this review is actually downstairs, in a smaller room to one side of the entrance, where a rather heartening group show has been installed, which literally and theoretically opens up a space for a physical negotiation with the works on display and for discussion around them.