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Beijing East Village: Intimate Collaborations

As a part of Performer and Participant, Tate Modern is displaying a collection of performances and photographs created in Beijing’s ‘East Village’, where experimental artists were inspired by and worked with each other.

From 1992 to 1998, a group of artists who met in the Dashanzhuang village in Beijing enacted a series of provocative experiments – both as individuals and collectively – that put Chinese performance art and photography on the world map. Today, they are remembered as the Beijing East Village artists. Although many of the East Village artists were also trained in painting, they all quickly turned to embodied (and often nude) performance after meeting each other. They used this medium to fiercely renounce the repression of the body that had followed the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, as well as to comment on the changing perception of subjecthood amidst the rise of consumerism in post-socialist China.

The group staged mostly secret, invitation-only performances in their apartments and courtyards. Yet, in 1994, several artists were arrested. Following their collective eviction from the neighbourhood, they continued to work together while living throughout Beijing until 1998. Most of the group’s performances live on now as photographs and video recordings. The collaboration among the East Village artists, as highlighted in this display, is emblematic of the parallel and mutually supportive development of performance and photography practices in China.

The display includes works from Rong Rong.