yang qian early plays

By now you’ve figured out that this week, I’m organizing the blog. Kind of. Anyway, today’s post is a treat from years past, when Shenzhen was and was transitioning from being the world’s factory. During the late 1990s and early 2000s, Yang Qian wrote plays about how dreams took root and reformed in the soil of the Special Zone. Crossroads, especially, gives insight into the lived contradictions of the 1990s, when Shenzhen was considered a city without culture, even as Neolithic sites were buried in the rush to the future. The plays included in Unclassifiable Dreams were translated and published as part of the 2008-2009 Foodscape project, which was funded by Pro Helvetia. (Just an aside, during the project, Swiss artists complained to artists from China and the US that arts funding in Switzerland was limited. In the language of China du web, we call that 烦而赛 or humble bragging. Sigh.) Enjoy:

Unclassifiable Dreams: Five Plays by Yang Qian.

Also, Divine Garbage a video from 2003, when the second line was still operational, Shekou was still a manufacturing hub and Fat Bird was an unregistered group of friends, who did guerrilla performances throughout the Special Zone (we never performed in Bao’an before its 2004 restructuring):

crossroads: staged reading

So, yesterday afternoon we read “Crossroads” onstage at the Mizzou Jesse Wrench Memorial Auditorium. Despite snow days and ice and broken cars, the show went on and Fat Bird had a great time. “Crossroads” is an early play by Yang Qian that looks a the moral confusion and disfunction that have shaped and been shaped by Shenzhen boomtimes. Impressions, below:

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crossroads: a missouri china encounter

Fat Bird has been in Columbia MO, running a theatre workshop at Mizzou. Today at 4 pm we will have a staged reading of “Crossroads” by Yang Qian, directed by Song Jie and performed by Mizzou students. Happiness all around. Updates forthcoming.

Focus on China: Fat Bird on experimental performance

Mary Mazzilli interviews Yang Qian and me about work with Fat Bird. Focus on China: Fat Bird on experimental performance (1/2).

In the Name of Shenzhen Bay

The Shenzhen Bay Fringe Festival begins on Saturday, December 4 at 3 pm with a three-hour parade. The parade route spans from the Poly Theatre in the east to the Wenxin Park Plaza in the west (behind the Nanshan Book City). Should be fun. Also, please note that during workdays, most performances and screenings will take place from 7:30 on.

For Fat Birders, there will be two outdoor performances. The short playAnimals in Motion: Flashing Animals (动物在行动之”快闪动物”) shows on Sunday, December 5 at 4 p.m. on the Shenzhen Bay walk. The second is an ongoing performance piece (5-11 Dec) – Animals in Motion: One Cat, Six Days (动物在行动之”一猫六日”) that takes place throughout Coastal City.

In the meantime, in the spirit of the hopeful creativity, I’m posting a translation of Yang Qian’s thoughts on the Fringe; the Chinese original follows.

In the name of Shenzhen Bay
Yang Qian

During the Pliocene Epoch, over 5,300,000 years ago, black-faced spoonbills already took refuge in the mangrove forrest that grew in the deep and tranquil swamps of Shenzhen Bay. Over the past few decades, the ongoing reduction of the wetlands necessary to their survival, the increasing smog of their skies, the beautiful neighborhoods incesently clammering on their coast, towering glass skyscrapers and the shocking honks of traffic have made it nearly impossible for them to nest and breed here. Nevertheless, spoonbills continue – now as before – to take wing at sunrise and return to their nests at dusk. Like a group of society-forsaking hermits, their hidden but unhurried observation bears witness to and records each and every human action.

The nine days from December 4 to 12, 2010 may bring a sense of prosperity to the human residents of Shenzhen Bay because this is where the first Shenzhen Bay International Fringe Festival is being held. These days, it is more and more difficult to find situations which might be described as prosperous, nevertheless I feel that for this arts festival, we can boast a little.

The first Fringe Festival was held in Edinburg in 1947. It’s purpose was to celebrate and generate conversations about alternative theatre. Today, the Edinburg Fringe remains the world’s most famous and largest Fringe Festival. The word “fringe” refers to the decorative edge of a garment, consisting of hanging threads or cords. In the context of the arts it refers to art that is non-official, alternative, and non-commercial. Throughout the world, many countries and regions have their own Fringe, when residents get crazy happy and artists flaunt their brilliance and creativity.

During the first Shenzhen Bay International Fringe Festival, several tens of thousands of people will participate in the arts parade, independent films will be shown, cutting edge music and theatre will be performed, and performance artists and animal protection supporters will protest animal cruelty. The organizing principals of all this celebratory play are collective participation and individual creativity, equal dialogue and free expression.

In addition, I hope that people will be pleasently surprised to discover that the arts may change one’s habitual understanding of “ecological geography”. The first Shenzhen Bay International Fringe Festival takes place at Coastal City and the surrounding area. For the past three years, this luxury shopping mall has been the destination of upscale consumors. However, during the Fringe, the focus is not anxiously desired namebrand goods, even as the conversation is not about getting a good deal. In an era of ascending consumerism, securing a free space is a battle of life and death. In contrast, during the Fringe business defers to the people, and if even for a few days, this breathing space is the kind of prosperity worth lauding.

Finally, I cannot but comment that in practice the themes of this year’s Fringe – environmental conservation, low carbon life styles, and ecological safety – are but impotent and empty talk.

To understand the scale of Shenzhen’s environmental transformation, the most direct method is to visit the NASA website and download satelite photos of the Nantou Peninsula. From 1997 to 2002, in the short span of five years, the area of the peninsula doubled in size. What was the corresponding increase in population? How much arable land was eliminated? How many wild animals and plants were lost? Who knows the answers to these questions? More to the point, who can tell us what the short and long term cumulative effects of industrialization are and will be?

Presently, the phrases “environmental protection,” “low carbon lifestyle,” and “ecological safety” are on everyone’s lips. However, when we say one thing and do another, even putting the rights, safety, and protection of consumers above those of our world, then of course we become even more hypocritical and destructive.

A sense of prosperty flourishes when we face the world with dreams and hope and live with respect and freedom. It does not grow ignoring and fearing painful and lingering death – of ourselves or of the natural world. The most valuable aspect of the Shenzhen Bay Fringe is that it provides us with an opportunity to reflect on the true meaning of prosperity. Whether or not a fringe festival celebrated in the name of Shenzhen Bay will maintain its honor and sence of well-being is not simply dependent on Shenzhen’s GDP, but more importantly depends on the future condition of the Bay itself. If human beings act in the name of place and are to do so without shame, it must be done in such a way that also benefits black-faced spoonbills and painted snipes, spoiled and abandoned pets. May all that consitute the Shenzhen Bay prosper!

以深圳湾之名 杨阡



世界上首次“艺穗节”(Fringe Festival)是1947年在英国的爱丁堡举办的,主要是边缘戏剧表演和交流的艺术节。至今爱丁堡戏剧节仍是世界上最享有盛誉的也是规模最大的“艺穗节”。艺穗的“穗”(Fringe)原意是指我们穿的衣服,戴的围巾周围作为装饰的穗子。引申到艺术活动就有了非官方、非主流、非商业的含义。如今世界上已经有许多国家和地区拥有自己的艺穗节。这是个民众狂欢和艺术家自由展示才华与创造的节日。


除此之外,我希望人们能惊喜地发现,艺术活动其实可以改变自己习惯的“生存地理学”概念。首届“深圳湾国际艺穗节”的主场地是深圳海岸城及其周边地区。这座奢华的shopping mall建成三年来一直用高档消费主导着大众周末和平日的消遣。但是由于艺术节,那些让人望而生畏的品牌将不再是焦点,压抑的标价也不再是谈话的核心。在消费主义盛行的时代,夺回自由空间是一场生死攸关的战斗。欢呼生意向民意低头,哪怕只有短短的几天时间,这也是值得夸耀的幸福。