Various venues in the Gulou area, 10 pm Mar 22 – 10 pm Mar 23, 2013
The weekend of March 22–23 witnessed Beijing’s first White Night (白夜) at venues in and around the hip Gulou (Drum Tower) area — admittedly one of the few places in the city where it’s possible to go from place to place on foot, some way from the multi-lane arteries that encircle the center. Private hutongs and apartments, office space, signage, sound, light, walls, trees and ruins were enlisted to “challenge the how, where and when of art experience” in what was a welcome grass-roots event, part of an expanding range of “pop-up” style happenings in Beijing.
Most memorable amongst the stuff staged or installed were “Prayer” – an installation of silver bowls in a stairwell by Sylvia Hommert, a mime performance by Peng Zidong in what is usually someone’s office, seen through a one-way mirror, “Say What” (anon.), which allowed people to compose their own messages in a vegetable shop sign, “We Will Call U” — a ringing phone in an office which visitors were invited to answer (curated by Jiang Li, Huang Kankan, FAKE Studios) and “Figural Motion,” films by Len Lye (1901-1980) projected on an apartment ceiling courtesy of Beijing Experimental.
Friday night was of course the time to go, armed with torch and map, as the following Saturday had something of a morning-after feel to it. There was one installation, however, which stood out at night and the following day, as the nocturnal fanfare evaporated into a grey Beijing morning: six transparent chairs were lined up on a high roof terrace, overlooking the neighbourhood; behind them, small speakers repeated “The Disintegration Loops” — ambient pieces of sound that were the result of American composer William Basinski’s failed attempt to transfer his 1982 music library from magnetic tapes to digital format. The original music might have been lost in the process, but these ghostly fractions released onto the urban view made for a wonderful, melancholy, meditative moment — for as long as one chose to stay.