‘switch on your light-app’ exhibition at Black Sesame

Yesterday I had the honor to do the inauguration exhibition for the very nice new Black Sesame space (heizima Hutong). Part of Institute for Provocation.

 I made the space  dark and divide in two, by a streched diagonal piece of fabric. On the back side (‘back stage’) all the shadow figures I have made so far, where pinned up.  People where invited to use the light-app of their phone to look at the figures on one side of the fabric and while doing  this create a shadow show for the people coming in from the other side. The zoetrope I have been building this last month  (still not finished) was also spinning and needed ‘phone-light’ from it’s spectator to come to life.

During the last hour of the show a musician played and people became much more liberated to play with their light and the figures, all kinds of great things happened. Music set’s you free….

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And during the day it looked like this;

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A day at the country


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Last weekend we went to visit Tian xian and his family not far from Tianshan, 3 hours from Beijing. He has been my partner in making the shadow-puppets for a year now and I had never seen shadowplays in their true environment. Chinese shadowplay is traditionally a rural art. So this was a interesting trip. His whole family are into farming and puppets. Tian and his dad cuts, father also plays and mother paints them. A few years ago he started a program is a small school to teach small children this folk-art. Visiting this school was very touching. It was a saturday but everybody was there to meet the foreign shadowpuppet friends of Tian. Very old farmer have build a theatre in the school and they made special performance for us. It was so interesting to see how raw & hard core it was; Just one light bulb, as a light source, and a worn out dirty blanket that might have been well from before the revolution, as a screen. You can’t get more traditional then this! It was nice to see these old men totally absorbed by their art and very loud music. The voice was done by a man, who pinched his throat to get a higher female voice. Very high pitchy chinese music, a bit difficult for western ears…

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A day in the factory

 I was invited to make a contribution to  Alessandro Rolandi’s Social Sensibility project. (read more about this here) He has been appointed as a curator in a french factory here in Beijing to do art projects. It’s been up for 2 years now and it is one of the most interesting art things happening in Beijing that I’m aware off. I’ve been three times.

I thought it would make sense to do a short shadow-puppet show. This factory makes high end joints for power-plants, oil platforms, nuclear plants, etc. More or less every week a artist comes here to do ‘something’. They go to rather fancy restaurant every day for lunch.  It’s a rather small factory, the people working there seems really happy. (When François Hollande visited China for 36 hours last year, he picket this place to say hi.)

Most of the things they make are being sprayed with blue paint (the nuclear stuff is white). The spray-paint room was perfect to turn into a shadow-puppet theater. Thanks to Zajia (music venue/art space here in town) we found two great musicians, that I had never met before and didn’t spoke a word of english. Improvisation in a place where improvisation is totally unacceptable.  I had prepared a small thing with a comic note, based on two little facts; In china a banana is quite a normal small gift and they also have lame jokes involving bananas; So the banana is globally seen as ‘funny’.

The show went well and the musicians where great; it all ended in a small jam session, with the bosses and the workers playing together. Unfortunately it was not dark enough to create a better shadow.

(big thanks to Simon Kentgens for the pictures)

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