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Residencies and Radio: New Opportunities to Explore China’s Art Scene

China Residencies maintains a growing directory of residency offerings available to foreigners.
China Residencies maintains a growing directory of residency offerings available to foreigners.

SAN FRANCISCO — As interest in China grows, so does interest in its art scene. And while I’ve met countless artists in the US who have wanted to travel to China, the barriers to access remain high, due to language, culture, and cost.

A New China Residency Initiative

Last year, I wrote about residencies in China that are worth considering, but there are dozens more. China Residencies, a new nonprofit started by longtime China-based artists/art lovers Crystal Ruth Bell and Kira Simon-Kennedy, aims to help Western artists navigate the wide range of opportunities.

“We think there are between 30 and 50 programs active right now,” wrote Simon-Kennedy in an email to Hyperallergic. Bell, who directed the residency program at Red Gate Gallery, saw that many of these residencies received little coverage outside of China.

“Crystal started meeting with residency admins in 2010 to talk about the unique challenges of existing in China: residencies relied almost entirely on word-of-mouth to attract applicants, and sometimes had a difficult time filling spots with qualified artists. The lack of visibility also limited the amount of funding visiting artists and programs could receive,” she said.

Bell and Simon-Kennedy are currently raising money on Indiegogo to fund the project, which includes a research trip throughout China to understand the wide variety of residency opportunities. Their directory currently lists 22 residencies, most of which are in Beijing, and they plan to add additional resources such as residency reviews and practical resources for China travelers. They’ll also be sharing their knowledge with existing projects like ResArtis and Residency Unlimited, who are supporting their work.

UNCUT TALKS: SoundCloud meets public radio meets China's art scene
UNCUT TALKS: SoundCloud meets public radio meets China’s art scene

UNCUT TALKS: A New Audio Magazine from China

Can’t travel to China just yet? Never fear. Around this same time, I was contacted by Beijing artist Ma Yongfeng about a new audio magazine he’s been producing with Hyperallergic contributor Alessandro Rolandi and arts writer Edward Sanderson. Consisting of unedited audio discussions uploaded to Soundcloud, UNCUT TALKS, as Ma writes on his blog, is a platform that “collects, and makes available for everyone to listen to, hours of conversations among interesting people in China and around the world on some of the most challenging and provocative topics of our time.”

So far, the magazine includes some 30 interviews, with a wide variety of individuals from China’s art scene, conducted in both Chinese and English. Although translations are not yet available for the Chinese audio, the channel is a great way to bring some of the aesthetics and intimacy of audio recordings to an art world community that can seem dense and complex to outsiders.

I’m excited about both projects and look forward to seeing how they move forward. Art fosters unique forms of dialogue that only seem more and more important given China’s increase presence on the world stage.

“China is a very complicated place, and at times when the government of the People’s Republic clashes with other nations on countless topics, we think helping foster more dialogue on the citizen level through artistic exchange will lead to a greater mutual understanding,” Simon-Kennedy explained.

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