This Week (Part One)
– Performance publishing’ interventions
– Meetings with Beijing based artists
– Visit to the China Printing Museum
One of the aims of my residency is to explore the nature of public space in Beijing through re-enacting some of my performance works. Last year I produced ‘Performance Publishing, Market St. Manchester; which was as an exchange of the private experience of studio work for the somewhat chaotic and unpredictable nature of a busy pedestrianised high street. Whilst in Beijing, I wanted to do something similar to observe how different the actual experience or potential response could be.
Quge from HomeShop filmed the proceedings while I set up on a wide pavement just outside a busy market place. Most passers-by slowed out of curiosity, many stopped to watch. However before 10 mins had passed, a young man from a restaurant on the street came out and started gesticulating at me to move off. Soon after, more people from the restaurant emerged and what may have been the owner pulled up in a car, also asking me to leave. Later on, I discovered that they thought my presence on the street would be bad for their business. When I asked Quge about ownership of public space, he seemed to think that their request was reasonable. He also thought the combination of the black ink I used – black is an unlucky colour here – and a lack of understanding around my actions, resulted in them responding negatively.
From my observations so far, ‘open’ public space seems to be in short supply here. Street sides are often full with parked cars or temporary storage, meaning that pedestrians walk on the street. There are very few open public spaces, leaving very few opportunities to simply pause and look around.
A few days after this, I decided to re-enact another public space work, ‘Camera Performance’, which I made previously with ‘Out in the City’ an LGBT group for older people in Manchester. Using a video camera with several long lengths of elastic string attached, participants assemble into a ring, passing the strings between them, slowly rotating the centrally suspended camera while focusing on maintaining it in an upright recording position. I re-enacted this performance, again with the help of Quge in a public park on a Sunday. Whilst there is an entry fee (equivalent to 20 pence), Beijing’s parks are busy and famous for dancing, tai chi and choral singing amongst other activities. Quge and I started passing the strings between us and before long, a number of groups of parents and children joined us. After a short time, we left them to it and stepped out of the ring. The more positive response in this instance may have been due to Quge informing the parents when they enquired that the purpose of the activity was an exercise in co-operation, no single person having control of the camera and all having to work together to maintain its stability. It occurred to me that if this were in the UK, parents might be more concerned about their children being filmed but not here, the activity was embraced by both parents and children and went on for over an hour.
I will be posting the second part of this week’s blog post on Friday.
Link to documentation of live publishing performance by artist Maurice Carlin, Market St. Manchester July 1st 2012. Filming by Rosanne Robertson.