This week we kick off China Wave—our month-long program that puts the spotlight on the rising stars and underground icons using unorthodox yet intimate storytelling techniques to embody modern Chinese culture.
Frontiers is a multisensory feast of music, drag, art and dance, performed by China’s most rambunctious, generation-defining artists. “Chinese youth have all become creators on social media. I started to wonder about the nature of self-expression today, particularly in the field of underground subcultures,” says Roni Shao, the Shanghai director who makes music and youth culture his lifeblood. “When I met these young underground artists I was shocked by their bold souls. Their performances revealed unknown frontiers where emotions explode and flow. They never give in to sugary, gratifying art. Instead, they provoke you. They make you uncomfortable with displays of pain.”
The eight performers featured in this film are as follows:
Absolute Purity is a Shanghai-based experimental post-punk band, known for their explosive sets, who merge melancholic vocals with touches of electronica and psychedelia.
Alex Wang & ChillChill join forces to create a whole new audiovisual landscape. Alex Wang is a Shanghai-based producer, musician, and DJ who creates futuristic club sounds. ChillChill is a 3D artist who uses game engines, algorithms and virtual worlds to explore people’s relationships with the internet and reality.
Faded Ghost is the producer/DJ pseudonym of Shanghai-based vocalist ChaCha Yehaiyahan. She is as much at home on the stage at SXSW as in the underground clubs of Beijing. In Frontiers, she performs an ethereal vocal set cross-legged and surrounded by intergalactic flora and fauna.
Hua Who is a practitioner of Shibari, the Japanese art of rope bondage, which has found a new home in China’s fetish clubs and queer spaces.
Du Yanhao is a Chinese contemporary dancer and choreographer.
Huang Jiaqi is a model and photographer known for his shy yet expressive aesthetic voice. In Frontiers, he is seen smearing himself with lipstick until his entire face and torso are covered in deep red.
Jia Wei is a Beijing rapper who belongs to Purple Soul, one of the biggest hip hop groups in China. His crew is currently setting the music industry on fire by releasing music with politically sensitive material.
Yi Hao is a makeup artist and drag performer from Chengdu. For this performance, he faces the camera in a resplendent extraterrestrial outfit and wears exaggerated fingertips. His character is then beset by a dark figure that robs him of his clothes, leaving him naked and powerless.
“Give him a mask and he will tell you the truth,” says Shao, quoting an old saying. “But I wonder whether the artists wear their masks when performing, or just when they return to everyday life?”