Dalang Arts Workshop: a different city, a different approach

Shenzhen does it differently. Dalang Arts Workshop was organised by a bunch of artists, one academic and one architect. It involved them going into an urban village, staying there and acting on the things that they see and hear. Compared to Shenzhen, ‘acting’ or intervening in an urban village is quite rare in Guangzhou. Guangzhou is more familiar with listening and recording, while in Shenzhen, interventions are readily accepted. Chen Zhou, one of the invited artists to the workshop who has been working on urban villages in Guangzhou for ten years, explained to me that Shenzhen is still a much more open city than Guangzhou. The latter is traditional – ceremonies, rituals and rules are important. The former is new – the Bi-City Biennale for one is an example of creative and experimental ways Shenzhen treats the future.

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(Image above: the red word ‘demolition’ is often found on walls of buildings marked up for demolition. Artist here has added a word ‘no’ in front of ‘demolition’)

And therefore I was pleasantly surprised when I reached Dalang. The artists started the workshop by walking around, observing and listening to the village and its stories. And very readily they also started working on the site – collecting materials, drawing or making small installations.