The Broad Brings a Slice of China’s Avant-Garde to Downtown LA

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9:37 AM HKT, Thu August 23, 2018 3 mins read

Los Angeles museum The Broad is hosting an interesting cross-section of key players in China’s underground music, performance, and art scenes on Saturday night, when it holds the third in its 2018 Summer Happenings event series. The Greater Body (Shi-Dati) is a four-hour spectacle that will be held across multiple areas of the museum, with a program focused primarily on music but also incorporating theatrical performance, film and interactive video. The headlining set is a collaboration between LA’s Xiu Xiu and Beijing’s Re-TROS, but the more intriguing elements sit deeper in the bill.

Several artists in the program are making repeat appearances in the United States this year. Visual artist Chen Tianzhuo visited Cleveland in February to prepare a performance by his group Asian Dope Boys, whose output hovers somewhere between opera, performance art, and dopaminergic club culture. Chen ran into visa problems with the US State Department, which were thankfully resolved days before his July 13 performance opening the FRONT International Cleveland Triennial. At The Broad, Asian Dope Boys will perform with longtime collaborator Aisha Devi.

Xi’an post-punk band FAZI also made a prominent Stateside appearance earlier this year, joining an official China showcase at SXSW in March. The band passed through LA after that, taking in a Clippers game and playing an informal show at now-between-spaces DIY venue Non Plus Ultra, and are excited for the opportunity to play on a bigger stage in the city. “The styles are all different, but they represent their respective skills,” says FAZI vocalist Liu Peng of the lineup at The Broad. “We hope to show the audience the Eastern characteristics of FAZI, although our music has also been greatly influenced by Western music,” he adds, listing Krautrock, vintage psych, and West African music as recent influences.

FAZI (photo by ynnadeel)

Elsewhere on the program, The Broad serves up an authentic slice of Beijing street punk with sets from two of the scene’s most active bands: Hell City and ex-Misandao skinhead oi band Shave n Shut. Poet and musician — and longtime spiritual leader of Beijing’s underground experimental music scene — Yan Jun will perform, as will MIIIA, a mainstay on Shanghai’s house/techno/disco circuit. The event will also feature a performance of Ban, a composition by Shanghai Conservatory of Music professor Ji Dongyong that blends the sound of the sheng reed instrument with interactive electronic music and visual media, and a screening of Zhou Hongbo’s 2006 documentary Lotus Ferry with a live score.

Ed Patuto, The Broad’s director for audience engagement and the main curator of the Summer Happenings series, tells RADII that although there are currently no Chinese works in the museum’s collection, they view this event as the first of many future engagements with China’s cultural scene. Patuto hopes Saturday’s event will generate more interest in contemporary Chinese culture among the museum’s core audience, as well as among the one million Chinese-American and Chinese people living in Southern California. “You get a version of it — like this film Crazy Rich Asians, which is a big thing right now in the US and in Hollywood,” Patuto says of China’s growing profile in the entertainment industry. “But there’s a lot of music, a lot of performance, a lot of things happening in China that just don’t come here, ever.”


Patuto worked with a small team of guest curators, including Shanghai-born, New York-based composer Du Yun, to get a sense of “who’s representative of what’s happening in China in these different spheres,” citing The Broad’s general curatorial interest in connecting dots between visual or object-based art and more ephemeral forms such as music and dance. Saturday’s event is the tip of the spear in what will hopefully develop into a longer-term commitment to engaging contemporary Chinese artists, and mixing their practice in with like-minded counterparts from Los Angeles and other parts of the world. The timing seems right: in September, hype trap label 88rising will hold their Head in the Clouds festival at Los Angeles State Historic Park, and in November Modern Sky will hold its second annual festival in Arcadia’s Santa Anita Park.

Hopefully, The Broad will show a sustained interest in curating the less commercial side of China’s contemporary cultural flows. “We see this is an inaugural event to begin to integrate more artists from China into the programming that we do,” says Patuto. “This one is dedicated specifically to artists in China, but I think it really will be interesting to bring Chinese artists over to LA and to integrate them into programming that has artists from the US and other parts of the world as well, and to see how those artists relate to, how they resonate with what else is happening.”

Catch Summer Happenings: The Greater Body (Shi-Dati) at The Broad on Saturday, August 25 from 8pm to midnight; full ticketing info here.

Cover image: Bei Ou and Yu Han of Asian Dope Boys

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