>>
SEARCH >>
EN
>>
<<
>> randian 燃点 art magazine >> fan randian 燃点 on weibo >> get randian 燃点 on email >> follow randian 燃点 on twitter >> friend randian 燃点 on facebook >>

FILTER FEATURES

SECTION
 
DATE
  FROM:
  TO:
  EX: 1/30/2012
KEYWORD
 
  >> Search features
>> Confirm subscribe
2018.06.14 Thu, by Pan He Translated by: Daniel Nieh
Local Variants

In the last year or so, I worked with Theater 44, Folded Room (折叠的房间), and Transport Interchange (交通站) in Guangzhou, Shenyang, Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen. I became something like a kind of shuttle myself transiting between Shenyang and other places, Guangzhou in particular. I felt like a shuttle not only in terms of geography but also in terms of experience and contextual meaning. This role changed the way I identify myself, as an “on-site worker”. Perhaps one might call it a loss or a kind of “giving up”, but nonetheless I broke through this two-fold illusion common among “on-site workers.” The first was that we understand our localities better than outsiders do; and the second, was that we know better than the locals how things ought to be. This brings me to reflect again on the anxiety caused by On Practice—Northeast Asia (实践论-东北亚) a year and a half ago; it’s relevance seems pretty clear.

New Era in performance in Guangzhou, photos courtesy of 44 Theater 《新时代》在广州的表演现场,图片鸣谢:44剧场

New Era in performance in Guangzhou, photos courtesy of 44 Theater
《新时代》在广州的表演现场,图片鸣谢:44剧场

Like the majority of young people in Shenyang, in order to keep working here, I often come and go from this city, which is not economically or culturally prosperous enough for young people to remain here. Regarding “regarding Shenyang”, I know no more or no less than “them,” for “I” am one of “them.” How should one work under these new transient conditions? How should one relate to and take advantage of work experiences in different cities? The experience of rehearsing and performing New Era (新时代) (a play also known as The First Year of the Reign of Liya 利亚元年) in Guangzhou and Shenyang provided me with some answers to these questions on the microcosmic level.

New Era in performance in Guangzhou, photos courtesy of 44 Theater 《新时代》在广州的表演现场,图片鸣谢:44剧场

New Era in performance in Guangzhou, photos courtesy of 44 Theater
《新时代》在广州的表演现场,图片鸣谢:44剧场

New Era in performance in Guangzhou, photos courtesy of 44 Theater 《新时代》在广州的表演现场,图片鸣谢:44剧场

New Era in performance in Guangzhou, photos courtesy of 44 Theater
《新时代》在广州的表演现场,图片鸣谢:44剧场

New Era is a short play from On Practice—Northeast Asia, originally written for Theater 44 by the novelist Jin Te, who resides in Shenyang. Theater 44 participated in the exhibition “Pan Yuliang: A Journey to Silence at the Times Museum” in Guangzhou, carrying out a certain number of workshops regarding texts and images from the Shenzhen community organization Soeng Joeng Toi (上阳台) at Times Museum; the theater group and also conducted five public education events, including the New Era performance.

At the time, the Theater 44 staff were much too busy, and it was not realistic for them to allot so much time to each performance and activity. They only began preparations five days prior to the scheduled performance, when they publically invited people to come to Soeng Joeng Toi to participate in script readings. But after the readings no-one seemed to feel that they understood the script, partially because they were not fluent in the northern-inflected Mandarin in which the play was written. Most people wanted to claim their roles first and then figure out the meaning of text or alter it themselves. In order to increase participation and reduce the difficulty of the performance, three people of various gender identities undertook the role of “father”: hence, a transgender “father” was added to the script.

I claimed the role of the mute “Son,”—a role that did not previously exist in the script. Because the performance could not fully communicate in full the whole rehearsal process and the views of the participants (in Theater 44, none of the participants are solely an actors), these elements were displayed as scrolling subtitles on the screen (评议弹幕) (the kind of subtitles often seen on videos of popular TV series posted on the Internet).

The First Year in the Reign of Liya. Photo: Zhang Ran 《利亚元年》潘阳演出现场。拍摄者:张然

The First Year in the Reign of Liya. Photo: Zhang Ran
《利亚元年》潘阳演出现场。拍摄者:张然

The First Year in the Reign of Liya. Photo: Zhang Ran 《利亚元年》潘阳演出现场。拍摄者:张然

The First Year in the Reign of Liya. Photo: Zhang Ran
《利亚元年》潘阳演出现场。拍摄者:张然

As a matter of principle, Theater 44 never appoints a director-in-chief and as usual funds were insufficient, but then again, that is the normal state of affairs in theater. Yet we saw each rehearsal as our enactment of the theater of the everyday—a theater of the everyday which constituted an exploration and rehearsal of a better possible world. We are lazy people, and in lazy Southeast Asia (i.e. Guangzhou), a better world must accommodate the lazy amongst us. Our theater took this to heart, vowing to accommodate the lazy as constituent elements, not merely tolerate them.

After more than a year of rehearsals, we had gradually developed a principle: if someone has a suggestion that requires more work from others, then they must build a consensus, even if the suggestion seems necessary to the quality of the performance. A single “nay” vote is sufficient to veto any suggestion. In this way, we lowered the daily investment of the participants and the barriers to participation. Even if we couldn’t make it a true “everyday theater,” we could still make things easier to carry out and carry on. On the second day of rehearsals, the person in the role of “director” and a few of the participants with professional experience proposed an on-site rehearsal at the museum, which was somewhat far away from our normal venue. Another participant and myself, due to our laziness and also our fear of embarking on an irreversible journey in the direction of a more professional theater performance, said that we would go only if everyone else was in agreement. This other opposing participant, who was exceedingly charming, succeeded in persuading the group to abandon the proposal.

New Era in performance in Guangzhou, photos courtesy of 44 Theater 《新时代》在广州的表演现场,图片鸣谢:44剧场

New Era in performance in Guangzhou, photos courtesy of 44 Theater
《新时代》在广州的表演现场,图片鸣谢:44剧场

New Era in performance in Guangzhou, photos courtesy of 44 Theater 《新时代》在广州的表演现场,图片鸣谢:44剧场

New Era in performance in Guangzhou, photos courtesy of 44 Theater
《新时代》在广州的表演现场,图片鸣谢:44剧场

Principles cannot violate the essence of human nature—this is one of the lessons of On Practice—Northeast Asia. A filmmaker who attended the reading on the first day decided at first not to participate after failing to find an appropriate role. Later, the idea occurred to her to create a film response to the play. She invited the farmers from her village, Shenjingcun, to do a filmed read-through and discussion of the play; then she edited this footage into a video in which her pet cat played the role of “director.” On the day of the performance, we decided to first show the film of the reading by the farmers of Shenjingcun, accompanied by real-time subtitles on another screen. In this space, the film acted as the equivalent of a preview, after which we re-enacted the same play. Their post-reading discussion was followed by our post-performance dialogue. Some of them were also among us, but there was no need to highlight the differences or commonalities between our groups; we were all everyday people—two groups assembled for this event.

In Guangzhou, a city with a mature non-official society (i.e. civil society existing parallel to the government sphere), this sort of logic of “everyday life” has a strong foundation. In Shenyang, it has been difficult to carve out “non-official” space in order to sow the seeds of civil society. The young people of Guangzhou can be characterized as lazy in an “everyday” way; in contrast, the apathy of the Shenyang youth is a weapon used to oppose official society but it is also a double-edged sword. When we were rehearsing New Era in Guangzhou, we employed the “Soeng Joeng Toi” method, thinking deeply about the “everyday life” theory, which became a driver of the production. We worried little about productivity. It was a live experiment, from the casting call to the end performance, to determine whether “everyday laziness” and productivity could be compatible.

Rehearsing and performing The First Year in the Reign of Liya (the same play was given a new name in Shenyang) meant exploring the limits of this apathetic and rootless sense of productivity. In order to form a productive structure out of the hollowed-out void of a malnourished society, art must test and verify this fabricated creativity, or the illusion of such creativity. But to seek to influence or even change people on a social and psychological level without any such foundation—this simply cannot be done.

New Era in performance in Guangzhou, photos courtesy of 44 Theater 《新时代》在广州的表演现场,图片鸣谢:44剧场

New Era in performance in Guangzhou, photos courtesy of 44 Theater
《新时代》在广州的表演现场,图片鸣谢:44剧场

New Era in performance in Guangzhou, photos courtesy of 44 Theater 《新时代》在广州的表演现场,图片鸣谢:44剧场

New Era in performance in Guangzhou, photos courtesy of 44 Theater
《新时代》在广州的表演现场,图片鸣谢:44剧场

When we were in Guangzhou, Jin Te and I discussed doing a Shenyang version of the play. From the very start, the play was closer to the “Liya” spirit. Then we received an invitation from a the Tentative Art Community (临时艺术社区) at Qingshuihecun, Shenzhen, where we carried out the “Transport Interchange” project together. After that, the content of the Shenyang version shifted in the direction of “a letter from Northeast Asia,” (东北来信) with production funding as well as a platform for exchange with other places further afield. We returned to Shenyang and hearing that there was funding, the young people gathered at the Wonderland Club (仙境俱乐部) raring to go, because theater with funding was virtually unheard of in Shenyang. Jin Te and I were among these young people. In one year, we had curated an exhibition, organized a music festival, done some publishing, and assembled a band and now the theater project was falling nicely into place.

The Shenyang production had nothing to do with Theater 44, but perhaps because the two of us were long-term participants in the Shenyang scene and exerted a certain influence, everybody agreed to not appoint a director-in-chief and to allow a division of labor based on self-assignment. As for the reflective elements, both social and textual: such as the text study sessions, the scrolling subtitles, and the post-performance dialog, these were deemed to be not worthwhile in Shenyang. After all, reflection comes only after acceptance, and none of us accepted or identified in the least with the “official society” of Shenyang.

New Era in performance in Guangzhou, photos courtesy of 44 Theater 《新时代》在广州的表演现场,图片鸣谢:44剧场

New Era in performance in Guangzhou, photos courtesy of 44 Theater
《新时代》在广州的表演现场,图片鸣谢:44剧场

New Era in performance in Guangzhou, photos courtesy of 44 Theater 《新时代》在广州的表演现场,图片鸣谢:44剧场

New Era in performance in Guangzhou, photos courtesy of 44 Theater
《新时代》在广州的表演现场,图片鸣谢:44剧场

Much to our surprise, everybody grasped the text right away. And no one was surprised by the fact that the Shenyang version was even more abstract than the Guangzhou version, with its demented “director” and three “fathers” each possessing distinct dialogues with society. We had four female “directors,” positioned above the stage, standing as columns or architectural features, but at the same time acting as members of a chorus who put the young “Father/Paternal Authority Figure” on trial. In Guangzhou, all of the disagreements were arguments about principles that threatened to tear the group apart. In Shenyang, disagreements centered more on individual participants wondering whether their own individual personalities were being suppressed in the act of to integrating with others (in Guangzhou, such integration seemed to happen naturally). As long as we do not have the precondition that the individual must integrate with the whole, there is plenty of space for perceptual negotiation; is this not precisely what is needed to fan the flames of civil society or an “anti-official” sphere? But if when the curtain falls and the actors go home, the embers dies out, that is unless one of the participants takes a torch in hand as they leave the theatre. As Jin Te put it, “Once the ground at our feet is thick with ashes, a new soil will be born.”

In Guangzhou, every component of the production fit together seamlessly, and so the overall result was quite good. In Shenyang, each component could be treated as an individual work of art in isolation, such as the background video by Song Yuanyuan and the splendid performance of the “father.” The overall result in Shenyang was was also very good. Evidently it is possible to reach the same destination by different routes. The Shenyang route relied more on individual talent, but did not produce constraints on the individual and one reason that an earlier group of local young people were so doubtful of On Practice— Northeast Asia is that they overlooked this point. Speaking for myself, having experienced the complete process of putting on two versions of the same play, the contrast was intense. Through this practice I came to know this place better and finally began to accept it. But then there’s some ambiguity encoded in this statement, for in such a desolate wasteland, the idea of “this place” is a construct created by the individual himself. Is it not?

Glossary:

1. Theater 44

The participants of Theater 44 come from “On Practice”, which strives to drive authority into a position of inertia to efface the illusion of objectivity; deliberately choosing tonot seek out the efficiencies of a professional division of labor. Rather, it gives impetus to the act of uniting talent and allowing it thus to overflow, and in this an exploration of the possibilities of a united (talent)—a kind of prefigurative practice theory. The first round wasstagedunder the concept of “Urban Nomads” at the end of 2016, and was launched on the streets of Guangzhou surrounding Times Museum. In September 2017, Theater 44 participated in “Pan Yuliang: A Journey to Silence”where it organized “performative forums”to use the methods of the theatre to promote discussion of common issues: these topics included but were not limited to: the way in which female artists are written about, the experience of the body and gender and housework and (re)production….

2. OnPractice—Northeast Asia

Unlike other “residency projects,”“On Practice” is a critical theater which consciously mobilizes according to the specificities of the situation. It tries, through a comprehensive practice and joint work/projects, to perform practice drills to construct different kinds of feasible situations in the aim of building a dynamic thinking community of youth, bringing this into an everyday practice.The participants include writers, artists, curators, and other activists.

At the end of May 2016, with opening remarks and the main points presentedat “On Practice: Second Round” focusing on Northeast Asia, ten participants spent two months touring the cities of Shenyang, Harbin and Dalian putting on the plays “Coldwater Pit: Ghosts in the Pine Grove” and “The Boat”; the latter involved some “methods which we were unsatisfied with/were unstable orrestless”: the basic consensus was that we would organize 19 “two day roundtables,” to establish a “Youth Working Group,”we invited and Hajime Matsumoto, who played the lead in the film and was the author of the book (“Amateur Riot”Tokyo),and Kim Jung-woofrom the film a(“Wacky Revenge”, Pusan), to come and participate in the exchange experience. In July, the project wrapped up and most of the participants left Dongbei, but the work itself continued.

“On Practice” puts emphasis on talent and the “overflow”of talent, and the tension between the participants and the space; on this basis itjuxtaposesmultiple structures, discovering new ways of working and of getting along with each other.

3. “New Era,” Guangzhou Cast:

Performers: b37, Chen Yade, Big Bad Wolf,起司·奥森多·玛格丽,QiuYeyi, Shen Dang, Shi Zhenhao, Yuan Daqi, Consultant: Chen Yuying Script/Music: JinTe backstage:OuFeihong, Feng Junhua Make-up/props: QiuYeyi, Shi Zhenhao Text Feedback: Crowd Feedback on Practice:Wanqing and Wan Minzhu Special Thanks: Huang Jingyuan

4. “A Year in the Reign of Lia”, Shenyang Crew

Participants: Chen Yueru, Big Bad Wolf, Feng Zheng, Fu Xiao, JinSuo, JinTe, Li Leyi, Song Yuanyuan, Wang Pengran, YY and Zhao Heimao Acknowledgments: Theater 44, Transport Interchange

5. The Folding Room

The Folding Room is a nomadic entityroaming through different cities, and though entering some surprising spaces, it tries to promote a mobile network of action experiences and intellectual methods; some of the nodes in this network are flickering, but currently there exist both permanent and temporary “rooms” in Guanghzhou, Shenyang, Guiyang, Wuhan, Shantou, Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen. The foundation of Folding Room’s practice is based on certain presuppositions of values: different contexts (cities, communities, blocks and their respective political environments and economic conditions), with the possibility of two different identical rooms. This presuppositionactsas a better possibility than this mainstream presupposition of “authenticity”; all which poses the question: “How can link up all these points written on a piece of paper in a brisk and lively way?”

6. Transport Interchange

Transport Interchange is searching probing and examining the realm of youth practice in Southeast Asia to create a map of existing models across various cities in the region. Based on historical writings, analysis of identity, and the trajectory of spatial actions (spatial operations), we invite video artists curators, artist collectives, representatives of different social groups, the users of the space, and different creators and practitioners from different cities in Guangdong province, to walk together, hold discussions, and organize screenings and workshops. Through these different routes, and our reciprocal linkages and understandings, Transport Interchange, hopes to establish an open and working template or reference to better understand ourselves and ourworking environment, to dig deeper and be drawn into the possibilities of art, the image and the production of space. At the same time, through the recycling and repurposing of daily surplus materials from the urban villages we created a temporary space for shared participation in the exhibition, including unscheduled presentations of archival materials, art events, records of various processes and making special invitations from practitioners in Northeast Asia for meditations and reflections.

7. Wonderland Club:

Established in 2016 in Shenyang, Wonderland Club is the smallest dance club promoting techno music culture. Recently it has become a kind of fountainhead a new wave of youth culture. Because of their common hobbies and interests, many art and literature workers tend to gather at Wonderland Club.

New Era in performance in Guangzhou, photos courtesy of 44 Theater 《新时代》在广州的表演现场,图片鸣谢:44剧场

New Era in performance in Guangzhou, photos courtesy of 44 Theater
《新时代》在广州的表演现场,图片鸣谢:44剧场

New Era in performance in Guangzhou, photos courtesy of 44 Theater 《新时代》在广州的表演现场,图片鸣谢:44剧场

New Era in performance in Guangzhou, photos courtesy of 44 Theater
《新时代》在广州的表演现场,图片鸣谢:44剧场

New Era in performance in Guangzhou, photos courtesy of 44 Theater 《新时代》在广州的表演现场,图片鸣谢:44剧场

New Era in performance in Guangzhou, photos courtesy of 44 Theater
《新时代》在广州的表演现场,图片鸣谢:44剧场

New Era in performance in Guangzhou, photos courtesy of 44 Theater 《新时代》在广州的表演现场,图片鸣谢:44剧场

New Era in performance in Guangzhou, photos courtesy of 44 Theater
《新时代》在广州的表演现场,图片鸣谢:44剧场

New Era in performance in Guangzhou, photos courtesy of 44 Theater 《新时代》在广州的表演现场,图片鸣谢:44剧场

New Era in performance in Guangzhou, photos courtesy of 44 Theater
《新时代》在广州的表演现场,图片鸣谢:44剧场

The First Year in the Reign of Liya. Photo: Zhang Ran 《利亚元年》潘阳演出现场。拍摄者:张然

The First Year in the Reign of Liya. Photo: Zhang Ran
《利亚元年》潘阳演出现场。拍摄者:张然