Beijing rapper and poet Dawei
is used to switching fields. At 16 he was competing in kung fu tournaments at a national level, but after torn ligaments in a blown fight took him out of that racket, he set on a new passion: battle rapping. He’s since made a name for himself as one the most outspoken rappers on the Beijing hip-hop scene, and self-released his debut album – Lust, Scars, The Insulted Man
– at the end of 2015, largely because his harsh words for PRC politicians and all aspects of the music industry calibrated for profit or fame meant that no label in China would touch him.
In 2016, Dawei decided to try his hand as an auteur. Previously, he’d conceptualised, written, and directed a few music videos to accompany the release of his album. 'My music videos are like an instruction book for my music,' he explains. His 2016 short film, which shares the name of his album, came out of a desire to move beyond the narrative structures of hip-hop (he raps in rapid fire, a dense and literary nest of rhymes) and music video tropes. 'I woke up one day to find my poetry stirring inside of me, no longer satisfied with only [the] abstract puzzles and imagery' of the music work, he says. 'It was demanding stories from me.'
Dawei says that his film is about 'how revolution is a crime and rebellion is not justified', and he plans to expand these themes to yet other formats with a standalone event this month. Through You, I Conquer Time lies somewhere between installation, theatrical performance, and live music, but Dawei is hesitant
to label it. 'It’s not a play, not a musical
performance, not performance art...
but maybe it’s all of them. I will steal
the familiar context of [Yue Space],
and replace it with a maze, one that
blurs the line between an individual’s
fate and a macro-history narrative.'
Beyond that vague teaser, he gives
only provocative, imagistic hints at what one might expect from the
spectacle: 'Venus with a broken arm
in the grocery store, Jesus in an erotic
massage parlour,’ and Dawei, the
madcap rapper, as MC and tour guide.
Kode9 and Lawrence Lek: The Nøtel
One highlight of the live music
calendar this month is Douban’s
, and one of the festival’s most interesting
components is The Nøtel, a
collaborative performance by UK
electronic music producer Kode9 and
video artist Lawrence Lek
. The Nøtel
is a live audiovisual performance that sets Kode9's 2015 album Nothing
within a post-human, first-person video game, and its somewhat of an aberration
for the sonic agitator, who typically
prefers to perform in pitch-black
to keep the focus on the rhythmic
propulsion of his music.
The Nøtel (Lobby Trailer)- Kode9 x Lek [VPNs on].
Lek describes the concept as a 'Sinofuturist post-luxury
automated hotel', and says that it
grew out of a novel idea he’d had for collaborating with artists from
Kode9’s record label, Hyperdub. 'I don’t like doing music videos,
because it’s just images following
music that already exists,' Lek says. 'I had this idea that if there was ever
a project worth collaborating [on]
with someone, I would basically
design them a building. I’d make
architecture as opposed to just a video.' Serendipitously, Kode9’s album included a track called 'Notel’, which was conceptually based on a ‘Philip Glass-like, neoliberal hotel’, according to Lek. The idea for The Nøtel came soon after the first meeting of the two artists.
Lek, who has a background in experimental electronic music production himself, said
he’d grown tired of the visual
accompaniments he’d see in his
local London scene, which usually
consisted of beat-matched lasers
and projections. He wanted to do something cinematic. In the
end, he created an entire virtual
world as a visual prosthesis for the album, populated by drones
and holograms of Kode9 and his
longtime collaborator, British MC
The Spaceape. The Nøtel is based
on Nothing, but it is also an organic
work in its own right, changing with
each performance. 'For all intents
and purposes, I basically made a
video game and I’m just playing it
live,' Lek says. 'It’s a fluid relationship
between sound and image, in which it’s ambiguous whether the music
Kode9’s doing is the soundtrack to The Nøtel, or if The Nøtel is the
concert hall for his music.'
Noah Sheldon: Perpetual Chimes
The street-facing Arrow Factory
storefront gallery is currently
hosting an installation by American
artist Noah Sheldon, who studied
at the New England Conservatory
of Music for one year before
splitting to pursue an interest in
visual art and photography. Though
his earlier creative interest was
music, the passing of his mother
when he was in high school led
Sheldon towards more fixed, less
ephemeral forms. 'Photography
seemed incredibly powerful in its ability to preserve time,' he says. 'A
lot of the artwork that I make now that uses sound deals with the idea of trying to create music that doesn’t stop.'
Perpetual Chimes is just that: a continuous
ebbing and cresting of
gentle harmonics, tuned by Sheldon’s selection of
chimes sourced off Taobao and composed according to his
programming of a disco-ball motor
that spins them at specific intervals.
He designed the installation, which
bathes the slowly spinning chimes in a psychedelic wash of fluorescent
pink light, to attract curious passers-by with both sonic and visual
elements. ‘Perpetual Chimes’ is
site-specific in the sense that it
responds to Arrow Factory's location in the hutongs, a setting that naturally 'hushes the sounds of the city.'
Though it might more accurately
be categorised as sound art,
Sheldon intends for his work to be
perceived and enjoyed as music,
citing early-20th-century French
composer Edgard Varèse’s concept
of 'organised sound' as an influence
and precedent. 'Even the “organised”
part of the definition could be a little
narrow, but I think it holds. In that
sense I think Perpetual Chimes
could be considered music. '