Sunday, May 20, 2007

A day out in Dashanzi

Well, this one was long overdue, but we just moved house, plus we've been preparing our next trip, so this post had to wait "just a bit".

These are pics of Dashanzi (大山子), an area which used to consist mostly of factories to the east of Beijing, which have been converted in recent years into art galleries, artists' workshops, book-shops, cafés, performance spaces, etc... About five years ago, younger artists would set up their workshops and galleries there, as rent was cheap and the factories provided an interesting space that could be adapted. As it became more and more popular, more artists, bigger galleries, and businesses catering to visitors (restaurants, cafés, craft-shops) started opening up, and you can also enjoy a number of interesting performances every now and then, like a Mongolian group that mixed traditional throat singing with rock, a group of old Uyghur men doing traditional dances and songs, la Fura dels Baus (which I already posted about), etc. It's a very refreshing excursion, within Beijing but with an atmosphere all of its own, and it gives you a chance to take a look at what contemporary Chinese art is trying to express (whether the individual works are good or bad is not quite relevant, what IS relevant is that they have an alternative space to be shown).

Thursday, May 03, 2007

La Fura dels Baus


I've uploaded all the photos again (and I've probably uploaded some different ones this time, it was impossible to remember which ones I had chosen the first time I posted them), I've updated all the posts, and now the blog is back and running as it should!

So let's celebrate with a post about a fantastic performance we saw on Tuesday: "Imperium", by La Fura dels Baus. It was part of an art festival at Dashanzi, an area that used to be mostly factories and which has been turned little by little into galleries, theatres, book-shops, restaurants, etc. "La Fura" is a group that started doing scenic performances in the 70's, and it's... well, I have a problem here trying to explain what they do because, first of all, I've only seen them once before (in Beirut) and, second of all, I haven't studied drama or theatre, so my vocabulary might be very inadequate. What Imperium is, it's a full aural, visual, dynamic experience, with spectator participation of sorts. Basically, you find yourself immersed in a world (the "stage" was a depot style building) that La Fura creates with moving stages, towers, lights, sound, video... and you experience violence, deceit, manipulation... I can't help but remember a number of turning points in the history of many countries (Western, Asian, Muslim, everybody's suffered this at some point) and peoples where, all of a sudden, ideologies go mad, people turn against each other, committing horrors incomprehensible to those outside the sphere of madness...

Unfortunately, I didn't have a camera that could take videos, but I encourage you to look up La Fura dels Baus and videos of their performances.  They're something not to be missed!