BEIJING — Feng Hao speaks with a firm and straightforward attitude. He does not like long sentences, nor does he enjoy the elliptic dialectic typical of Chinese speech. He listens carefully to my questions and takes his time before answering them. Then he resumes his thoughts in a short statement that leaves very little room to compromise. His conversation rhythm is unpredictable, sharp and syncopated. He tests you without being indulgent or impolite and if you are not bluffing, he will warmly rescue you from the corner where he just pushed you. He simply won’t play around on the surface of things, yet he is ready to engage further, if you want to.
BEIJING — “BEIJING AUTUMN: OFF THE RADAR ART RESISTANCE IN CAOCHANGDI —CCD300” is the SMS that was sent to advertise an exhibition project called Manmade and Natural Disasters, started by a group of artists living and working in the Caochangdi art village to the northeast of Beijing. A similar notice was posted on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter. There were no other forms of advertising: Everybody knew in advance that the topic of the show and some of the artworks and the names involved would attract the attention of government censors.
Whenever I find myself strolling in the hutongs near Gulou and see the entrance of Bed Bar, images of Liang Tao’s 2005 cross-gender performance come to mind. I met her that same year in the 798 art district, just after her performance “Madhouse in Paradise” at Marella Gallery. For that piece she built a replica of a room from a Western mental institution, in which she spent two days as a “perfectly happy” schizophrenic patient. Her point was that, after having spent a period of time in a Chinese mental institution, a Western one would be quite a nice place to live.