Past participants of Waterland Kwanyin

(Correction Appended, 12:05, Jan 5, 2006) 

In today’s contemporary art scene, it’s quantity that matters, not quality. Many of the great works are the result of repetitive, annoying, torturous, painstaking labor. Inventing a couple of meaningless neo Chinese characters is hardly more than a novelty, but if you invent tens of thousands of them and make them into a dictionary, you are as talented as Xu Bing; doing interviews with contemporary artists sounds not so challenging, but if you do hundreds of them and make them into a book, you are as good as Hans Ulrich Obrist. So the road to stardom is easy: if you come up with a good concept, stick with it! (Just like Ryoji Ikeda sticks with sine-wave, Merzbow sticks with noise, Francisco Lopez sticks with noise-wall in crescendo, Fm3 sticks with Buddha Machine……)

In Chinese sound art, the person that fully understands this hidden rule is Yan Jun. Switching from critic to musician about two years ago, he’s now one of the most prolific touring sound artists of mainland China. In this post though, I would like to observe his role as a curator, namely the curator of Waterland Kwanyin, a weekly sound art event in Beijing. WK happens in a small bar called “2 Kolegas”, it’s conducted in the routine “concert + workshop” pattern. However, if you take a look at the participants list of WK compiled by Yan, you’ll more or less get an idea about the Chinese new music scene in the past 7 months.

718 (Sun Lei), Wu Quan, Wu Ziyi, Wang Fan, Yan Jun, Zhang Jian (of Fm3), Feng Jiangzhou, Xiaohe, Shizi (persimmon), Sun Wei (THX), Jian Cui, Yang Tao, Iron Kwanyin, Pisces Iscariot, Szkieve, Yao Bin, 8GG, Mei zhi Gua, Huzi, Ou Ning + Cao Fei, Mogauwane Mahloele, Christiaan Virant (of Fm3), Guo Long, Li Tieqiao, Zeng Yong (of 21g), Melvin Gibbs, Jin Shan (p.s.o.), sic (Chen Wei), Wang Changcun, Fm3, Cui Jian, Huoratron (Aku Raski), Earweego, Jackson Garland, White, Staalplaat Soundsystem, Wu Na (Mu Liang Wen Wang), Wang Lei, Nara, iLoop, Chu Kim-fai (Double Fish), Liu Xiaoning, Nao, Tang (Sugar), Tie Ziyi, Dead J, DJ OK, me:mo, Sun Dawei, Randomk (e), DDV (from Club Moral), Yi Liqi (of the group Hanggai), Zhou Risheng, Eugene Martynec, A Train Wreck for My Comrades, Xie Tianxiao, 2J, Tatsuya Nakatani + Audrey Chen, Frédéric Blin + Aymeric de Tapol, Pink Twins, Kristian, NASA, Tian Peng (of Supermarket)……

I don’t claim to be familiar with all these names, but here are some of my observation:

1. The styles of these units vary from drone/ambient (718) to electronica/IDM (me:mo, Wang Lei) to Mego-like glitch (Jian Cui) to Max/MSP algorithm (Wang Changcun) to digital hardcore (Feng Jiangzhou, Sun Dawei) to Rockist drum’n’bass (Cui Jian) to free-form improv (Chen + Nakatani) to electroacoustic (Eugene Martynec) to multimedia (8GG, Blin + de Tapol, Ou Ning + Cao Fei). Of course there are a lot of genre-defying units, and many of the musicians make various kinds of music.

2. Some of the names are ambiguous in their national identities. For example, Fm3 is composed of an American expat in Beijing (Christiaan Virant, aka Lao Zhao) and a Chinese native (Zhang Jian); Earweego is one Italian (Hannes Hoelzl) plus one Chinese (Beijing-born, Hong Kong and Cologne-educated Echo Ho); Pisces Iscariot is two mainland Chinese (Yan Jun, Li Jianhong) plus one Taiwan outsider holding American passport (Dajuin Yao), etc.

3. Most of the Chinese units are from Beijing, since WK is non-profit and self-funded hence cannot afford to pay the travel/accommodation expenses of non-Beijing artists regularly. Notable non-Beijing artists include Wang Changcun, Jin Shan and sic from Hangzhou, Zhou Risheng from Datong, Wang Lei, Ou Ning and Cao Fei from Guangzhou. It seems that the complete Guangzhou sound art scene was missing (Wang plays electronica while Ou and Cao are filmmakers) – I’m talking about Justin Zhong, Lin Zhiying, Zafka and of course, the new group 21floor started by the 3.

4. If you read the list careful enough, you’ll see “Jian Cui” and “Cui Jian”, no, this is neither Chinese palindrome nor typo. Cui Jian, as some of you might know, is the big daddy of Chinese Rock’n’Roll, while Jian Cui is a word-play of that prestigious name by a young music-critic-turned-musician in Beijing. Cui Jian has been trying making music with computer in recent years, but most of those efforts has achieved nothing but making people more nostalgic about his old classics.


1 Comment »

  1. somebody said

    It’s easy-understanding and impress-deeply for a layman like me knew mainly about the contemporary music situation.: )
    And remind me of xubing who had been out of my sight for careless,publishing his work in the cover of magazine recently.

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