4A Beijing Residency
I woke up at 7am and did my usual routine of a coffee and then of for a run. I took a bit of a different route and ran into Shen on one of his long walks into the village markets. It’s a great way to explore the village, running down little tracks between the cornfields. We had breakfast and all settled into a nerd day glued to our computers researching and writing. I started writing up a grant application and Eugenia came over with Little Eda to do some work as well. It was a pretty quiet day getting a bunch of work done punctuated by another feast for lunch. More writing in the afternoon with a bit of a nap and dinner. During dinner Veronica mentioned an artist talk that was happening next door so we decided to go and check it out. It was really quiet going into the next building and we eventually found a little bunch of 8 or 9 people huddled around a laptop while someone spoke in French and another translated into Chinese. I wandered around the gallery space checking out the stale paintings of empty rooms before I got bored and left. Outside we decided to have a look around, this place is full of surprises. It turns out that it is a huge complex of about ten 4 storey residency buildings in various states of decay. There were only a few people in the whole complex and many of the buildings were locked up and falling apart. It kept going and going, we wandered into a bizarre shower complex and checked out some overgrown and boarded up buildings. It’s such a grim environment clinging onto life with the buildings slowly being overgrown by vines and creepers. After we emerged again we noticed a bit of activity in the giant rehearsal space next to Shen’s studio. Veronica decided we should have a look so we made our way outside the complex and through the massive bamboo gates. She told the guy that the boss was expecting us and he let us through. We walked up the pebbled path, past the giant Koy pond and in through the back of the rehearsal theatre inside. Veronica just walked us in and we sat down with a small group of 8-10 people and a full lighting and sound crew in front of a complete stage set. As soon as we sat down the production began as if they were waiting for us. It turned out to be a full dress rehearsal of The Tempest in Mandarin while one character, an old white dude, mysteriously spoke in English with a thick Scottish accent. The show went on for about an hour and we were completely dazzled by the strange turn of events. It felt like a VIP viewing of a large stage production and we just happened to walk in. Once the show finished we got a couple of odd looks from the actors and we walked out the same way we went in. It was a super surreal experience and I’ll trust Veronica to take us anywhere. It turns out that she’s never been next door in the ten years Shen has lived here.