Hans’ New Workroom

I went to see Hans’ new space today, which I’d heard about from Anuschka just before coming to Brussels. It sounded like a lot of work; basement machine shop with decades of oil and other dance-unfriendly substances leeched into concrete to be turned into SOIT’s rehearsal space. It also sounded like it could be one of those fringe shoehorning of artistic necessity into somewhere that works but is always slightly at odds. After all, basement mechanic’s workshop and “The ceiling’s not really that low” …

Turns out to be beautiful.

One street back from the canal near Nord Station in an early-ish Modernist building now turned over to ateliers and studios, of the concrete type with massive metal-framed windows; the long side faces south and any sun is unhindered by adjacent buildings as it’s just parkland all the way to the next street.

The descent is perilous, around a tight and dark concrete spiral staircase into the washroom, and then, opening the door, even though the windows are high on the wall, there is more than enough light. Hans and the others working on it have wedged a couple of opening windows in as replacements, and a trio of extractor fans from a chicken farm as well.

The floor, having been thoroughly stripped is even sprung; a combination of wooden panels resting on thick slats, in turn resting on three layers of rubber tiles acquired as throw-aways from a Metro station. Carpet from another source will sandwich between that and the tarkett.

Hans and Joe were still laying this when I arrived, and there’s still a lot of work to be done before it opens, and the photos don’t really do justice to the size, but it’s easily big enough for a group to work in, and the ceiling really isn’t that low, and for winter there will be some heaters.

Which is to say I’m very envious and inspired, and also very happy Hans and SOIT now have a home. It’s beautiful.

park 19 where it’s all at

I went to Park 19 yesterday, the artists studio space on the south side o the river near Xiaogang Park. If I hadn’t been taken by a friend who’s about to rent a studio there I’d have never found it. Park 19 is three floors of a nondescript apartment building close to the Guangzhou Fine Arts Academy, where many of the resident artist work. It’s also the first place I’ve come across here that is like any group of artists renting warehouse space all round the world.

It runs over three floors, with a bar, band venue, bookshop (complete with Chinese translations of Gilles Deleuze) and maybe thirty large studio spaces, which are either lived in permanently or serve as a second home. Being the holidays. it was pretty quiet but several artists were hanging about and the day turned into a tea-drinking afternoon followed by a long dinner.

The place has a bit of a reputation for drinking and fucking, which makes it sound like a normal artist collective studio to me. Lots of people making art, having fun, creating their own place to hang out. Besides the original Park 19 which has been open about 18 months, a new one has sprung up nearby. Unlike say Beijing with the well-known Dashanzi, the arts scene in Guangzhou is not very easy to spot, but it’s here.

大山子艺术区 on wiki

Factory 798 in Beijing was the site of the Dashanzi International Art Festival earlier this year, and is one of the centres for the contemporary art scene in China. A couple of days ago, it received a thorough condensed history at Wikipedia, the online distributed encyclopeia. This is well worth reading as an introduction for anyone interested in what’s going on in the China art scene at the moment, which may be history if the developers have their way. (Found at Danwei)