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Art with Ambition at 798 Art Factory

While housing developers lurk about the grounds of Factory 798, Dashanzi Art Festival is an ambitious attempt to save a home for art in Beijing.


The upcoming Dashanzi Art Festival has ambitious intentions, to put it lightly. The organizers aim not just to further showcase contemporary Chinese art to the world, but simultaneously hope to secure the future of the now internationally acclaimed Factory 798 - a factory that rather like a condemned criminal awaiting the gallows, is being given a final chance to speak.


Entitled Radiance and Resonance Signal of Time (Guangyin Guangyin), the one month series of exhibitions, performances, lectures, workshops and screenings running through the month of April, will try to demonstrate to commoners and politicians alike that Beijing's art scene, housed in the cavernous halls of Factory 798 is of far greater value to the nation's development than a high-rise housing complex, slated to take its place.


Under the aegis of local gallery owner Huang Rui, the yet to be fully confirmed line up of international and local artists will be one of the largest and most diverse China has witnessed. Hailing from Japan will come members of the Yamagata Film festival, from the Ivory Coast, multi-media installation artist Guillaume Paris and from Western China, performance artist Zhu Ming - whose photos of himself rolling around inside a giant plastic bubble are now world renowned.


Described by organizer Berenice Angremy as being a "connection between the visual and the audible" the festival will take as its theme the everyday and natural linkage of what one both sees and hears. "We want to show that art is definitely a cross-language, that it can transcend the traditional gallery boundary of being purely visual. Like Factory 798 itself, one needs to use more than just one sense to fully appreciate it."


One example of such multi-sensory art will be a series of theater productions. Performed by various troupes the binding creed is to seek direct action with the surroundings and audience by not remaining bound to a set script or confines of space.


Curated by PhD art student Thomas Berghuis, who admits that no-one is "quite sure what exactly to expect," the aim will be to force audience members into observing and engaging with the unplanned machinations of the actors, thereby showing that art can be inclusive and can act as a catalyst for discussion and change in society.


Although focused on the Factory itself, the momentum and interest that the Festival is attracting has naturally spilled out into many of the surrounding galleries. The recently opened Pruss and Ochs White Space hope to soon confirm a number of acclaimed artists who will explore the question of social history.


"Such a theme will suit the festival and the factory," explained managing director, Malin Goteman whose gallery's Berlin background draws a natural empathy with the East German designed factory complex.


The Festival aims to connect with a wider public audience than would otherwise be found wandering the factory's myriad corridors and antechambers. If it can do that, it may just be able to win a last minute reprieve.


(City Weekend April 14, 2004)



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