China Bulldozes Studios, Flash Mobs Follow, Avatar Invoked

People watch as a bulldozer destroys artist studios in Beijing.
A man protests the bulldozing of studios and stands half naked in winter temperatures with the words, "Battle Till Death" painted on his body. (click to enlarge)

While we live our artistic lives in the West in relative calm, if sometimes obscurity and poverty, artists in China face some very serious dangers from an autocratic government that only allows art to flower when it fits its political agenda. So when artists in China create a flash mob to protest the systematic destruction of artist studios, it is shocking that no one notices. Thankfully, Austrian blogger Karel has written something for about this vast injustice:

Since January Artist studios are sytematically demolished within 3 days notice, prior shutting down electricity and water. And this in winter time. Why? Well the government wants to sell the land to investors, so before land is not freed, no investor invests.

What may be interesting for us in the West, who have been whining about the schlocky storyline of the Hollywood blockbuster, Avatar, (I admit to being one of those whiners) is that the imagery and power of the story has obviously resonated halfway around the global:

Many Chinese identify themselves with the Na’vi tribe in the movie Avatar – the tribe which rises up against the evil, with the help of Mother Nature and the animal kingdom. Government stopped the screening of the 2D version and instead launched the movie Confucius.

Some of the threatened (and now, we assume, demolished) studios in Beijing. (click to enlarge)

The Mélanie Loves… blog added the following poignant remarks about the tragic bulldozing incident yesterday which destroyed artist studios:

The deep roar of the bulldozer reminded of us the tanks at Tiananmen in 1989! Artist “Black Sheep,” half naked despite the cold, climbed onto the bulldozer and painted “Battle Till Death” on his chest, waving his hands; dripping and bloodied with red paint; in the freezing Beijing wind.

After the performance show at Zhengyang, we headed to the Dongzhimen Subway Station and donned Avatar masks to protest the violent destruction we had just witnessed. Today was the last day of Dongying Art Village’s existence. Today it was destroyed and disappeared forever. The real world is even more dramatic than films.

Artist flash mobs have followed the bulldozing of studios as a creative — and somewhat safer — form of protest. (click to enlarge)

Some artists in China have been responding with flash mobs to the events and rallying people together spontaneously and thumbing their noses at the authorities who look down at such protest actions, no matter how playful:

Question remains how intelligent artist can make the government aware how wrong the procedure is and how badly managed. I think organizing flash mobs through the city, spontaneous and quiet with good media and internet coverage is the way to go. Flash mobs organize through mobile phone network, passing instant location of meetings, they surface suddenly and they disappear into anonymity.

This story is developing.

All photos in this article are from Mélanie Loves…. There is also a complete Flickrset of photos from the flash mob and artist “revolt” here:

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