Review: Bio-Archiving – Underground Music in Shenyang 1995-2002

An informative look at an under-documented corner of Chinese rock ’n’ roll’s recent past

We went into Bio-Archiving expecting a dry, academic history of the turn-of-millennium Shenyang rock scene. In the exhibition brief, curator Dong Bingfeng writes of the need to examine ‘occluded histories dispersed in secondary and tertiary cities’, and waxes scholastic on the ‘disciplinarity’ of music in relation to visual art. If you can make it past this verbiage, you’ll be rewarded with an informative, visually rich time capsule from Chinese rock’s early days.

The exhibit is split into two spaces. The first displays a linear timeline illustrating the Shenyang underground music scene’s key protagonists: venues, bands, promoters and journalists. Bilingual wall texts spell out the narrative in mercifully plain language. Historical events are represented by original photographs, CDs, cassette tapes, magazines, concert posters, t-shirts, and even hand-written contracts. The second room is a recreation of Hippies Bar, a long-defunct Shenyang venue, complete with a fully equipped stage. Videos of bands playing at the real Hippies Bar play on a loop, while the walls around them are plastered with a large photo collage capturing the grit and grime of the exhibition’s subject in a way academic prose never could.

Budget a fair amount of time for your visit if you want to get the full experience: wall-mounted headphones playing a selection of recordings from the era complete the simulation.





  • 4 out of 5 stars