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China’s Real-life ‘Truman Show’: Rock Star Livestreams Life of Isolation

Some netizens in lockdown have claimed to seek comfort and companionship in Pang Kuan’s livestream

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Apr 26, 2022 2 mins read

In a case of art imitating life, rock star Pang Kuan is willingly spending two whole weeks on a 2.5-meter by 2.5-meter stage with little more than water, food, booze, a few personal belongings, an armchair, and a basic toilet. The work of performance art touches on the themes of isolation, constraint, and tediousness, and has struck a chord with those experiencing lockdowns throughout China, especially in Shanghai.

Pang’s performance, which began on April 23, is being held in partnership with Star Gallery in Beijing.

Popularly known as the keyboard player for Chinese rock band New Pants, Pang can be monitored via Star Gallery’s WeChat and Weibo accounts.

Since debuting, the livestream has gone viral with more than 3.7 million views. Furthermore, the hashtag ‘Pang Kuan on the toilet’ ( #庞宽上厕所#) recently topped Weibo’s entertainment charts.

Mobile screengrab of the livestream. Image via Weibo

As can be seen via the livestream, Pang’s living space resembles an isolated island without walls — or privacy — and visitors to the gallery can observe him from closer quarters.

So far, the artist has remained nonchalant and never made direct contact with the camera.

Most of his days are spent scrolling through his mobile phone, reading, writing, or moving in what little space he has. The musician also brought along his Bluetooth player, and some netizens have expressed their curiosity over his playlist.

This is not the first time a Chinese celebrity has decided to expose their private life without reservations in the name of performance art.

In 2018, Hong Kong singer and actor Edison Chen attracted a flood of visitors to the UCCA Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing by living in a room with floor-to-ceiling windows for three straight days. Titled I Eat and Shit Here, the performance was the artist’s way of protesting the breach of privacy that had led to a sex scandal and crippled his career.

However, Pang’s performance is more relatable to anyone and everyone who has gone through lockdown since the start of the pandemic. Some even claim to seek comfort and companionship in the livestream.

Given that the performance mirrors ongoing reality in the country, many have wondered if it will be censored at any point. In fact, the top comment in the thread under Pang’s original announcement reads, “The livestream room will be shut down on the first day.”

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Pang Kuan being observed by visitors at Star Gallery, Beijing. Image credit Star Gallery

Despite sensitive insinuations, the livestream was still ongoing at the time of writing. However, in-person visits are no longer an option as ‘preventive measures have been taken against the ongoing Omicron outbreaks in the country’s capital.

The news was met with online sarcasm, and netizens joked that the performance was now ‘complete’ with Pang literally being locked down.

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Pang Kuan lying on simple bedding in Star Gallery, Beijing. Image via Weibo

On April 24, Beijing saw a sudden rise in Covid cases, which has sparked food hoarding scenes and spread rumors of the city going into total lockdown like Shanghai. Beijing’s outbreak is happening in tandem with Shanghai’s fourth week of lockdowns, which have seen more stringent measures, including the fencing-in of some residents.

Cover image via Weibo

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