The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Contents
Wen Hui
Wen Hui
Photo: R PRODUCTION
Wu Wenguang
Wu Wenguang
Photo: R PRODUCTION
Caochangdi Work Station
Photo1: Caochangdi Work Station
http://www.ccdworkstation.com/
At right is the main building of Caochangdi Work Station and in the center is the filming studio space
Photo: Mao Ran
Caochangdi Work Station
Photo 2: Caochangdi Work Station
Looking toward the entrance from the back of the Station grounds
Photo: Mao Ran
Caochangdi Work Station
Photo 3: The meeting room and library space
Photo: R PRODUCTION
Caochangdi Work Station
Photo 4: Performing space
Photo: R PRODUCTION
Caochangdi Work Station
Photo 5: Office
Photo: R PRODUCTION
Caochangdi Work Station
Photo 6: Cafeteria
Photo: R PRODUCTION
Presenter Interview
2008.3.31
Pioneers of China's contemporary independent arts scene   Caochangdi Work Station 
 
There are a small but increasingly prominent number of independent artists emerging in performing arts in China today. Dancer and choreographer Wen Hui and the video artist Wu Wenguang have pioneers among these independent artists. In 2005 they finally succeeded in establishing a long hoped-for base for their artistic activities named the Caochangdi Work Station, located in village of Caochangdi near District 798 in the suburbs of Beijing, which is becoming increasingly well known internationally as a center of artistic activities. As part of its operating policy, the Work Station is not only for these two artists activities but open for use by other independent artists like themselves as well. The Station is involved in a range of activities, from holding workshops and festivals to projects supporting young artists, and it is increasingly becoming the focus of attention both domestically and abroad. We traveled to Caochangdi to speak with Wen Hui and Wu Wenguang to learn how the Station came to be established and its present activities.
(Interviewer: Ryoko Kikuchi, producer of R PRODUCTION)


I would like to ask you first of all about how you came to establish Caochangdi Work Station.
Wen Hui: Caochangdi Work Station is a natural extension of the activities we began in 1994. At the time I was a choreographer for the China National Song & Dance Ensemble. The China National Song & Dance Ensemble is a company that attracts many of the best dancers in China and it is administered directly by the National Department of Culture. But we had grown tired of the type of dance done there and wanted to create works that reflected our actual lives more directly. At that time, Wu Wenguang had already left the television station he had worked at and was pursuing his own freelance career as a video artist, and together we privately started activities under the name Living Dance Studio. That may sound like we started some performing arts company, but in fact it was just our own artistic activities at the time. It was just the two of us and we only used this name to refer to our artistic activities.
    As time passed and the number of opportunities to perform out works increased, Living Dance Studio became known as an independent production and performance group and we began to get support for our activities from a number of people. One of the supports is the friend of ours who have supplied us with this facility. They rented this land and facilities here in Caochangdi and refurbished them and let us use without charge all of the facilities exception for the office space they use for their own company. That is how we were able to open our operating base here in April of 2005 and name it Caochangdi Work Station.

What kind of company does your friend run?
Wu Wenguang: It is a company that plans and designs trade shows such as motor shows. The rent for the land and buildings that Caochangdi Work Station now occupies here is 250,000 Chinese Yuan a year (approx. 36,000 USD) and they pay all of that cost for us. You might expect this to be something a big company would do, but actually it is a small two-person company. In short, it is a personal philanthropic act. It is not something that only big companies can do. In China there is still no custom of corporations supporting the artistic activities of independent artists. There are very few companies like theirs that support artists like us. And they are very professional about the maintaining a proper distance in this support relationship. They don’t make any particular demands of us. They understand that we need rehearsal studio space and a performance theater space and they gives their full heartfelt support in these areas.

What sort of facility is Caochangdi Work Station?
Wen Hui: For us it is like a laboratory where we can pursue our artistic expression to the fullest. And it is not only for us to use. We offer working and performing space for other independent artists who don’t have the environment and the information to pursue their art fully. For example, since we are not like public theaters or entertainment facilities, you don’t see any prominent sign at the entrance. The buildings are grouped around a central courtyard and the residential and work areas are integrated in one complex (Photos 1and 2).
    The facilities include spaces for film/video and spaces for the performing arts, and in each of these fields there are comprehensive facilities to accommodate the full range of activities from creating works and holding workshops to giving performances and holding symposiums, seminars, etc. And this space where we are having this interview right now contains a library of over 1,000 tapes of performances of domestic and international works of dance and theater, as well as related reference materials (Photo 3). The performing space in the back (Photo 4) has terraced type audience seating area lighting rigs and we are gradually outfitting it with stage equipment. It has an audience seating capacity of about 160. Behind that there is also an office area (Photo 5). The film/video space is the building you see directly ahead when you enter the gate. And near the entrance to this building there is a cafeteria (Photo 6). It may look to you like a small version of a college cafeteria. Our living space is on the second floor of this building. When artists from overseas come here we have them stay at a hotel that is just five minutes from here by car and just two stops on the local bus line at Dashanzi.

What kinds of spaces and works are you aiming to create here at Caochangdi Work Station?
Wu Wenguang: It is not what you normal refer to as dance and theater. Our aim is to create contemporary theater that brings together a variety of different artistic elements. The works created by Living Dance Studio as well are not confined by traditional concepts of dance but works that combine movement and words and music, etc., into a fusion of numerous artistic elements that you call composite art. Also, we place particular importance on is that it be art that deals with the realities of our daily lives. And in this sense you could say that we are not creating art for art’s sake. And by taking themes from the things that are happening around us and the things we feel in our daily lives, we are trying to make this a space that produces works that people can relate to easily.

How many people work on the staff here at Caochangdi Work Station?
Wu Wenguang: The full-time staff consists of ten people, including the two of us. All of the members of the staff are people who gathered because they like it here, so it is not the usual employment relationship. We don’t have any set days off or working hours. From the point of view of the society as a whole, we probably look like an odd bunch. Most of the people here are young people born in the 1980s. When we are having performances, we gather additional staff. And when there are no performances scheduled there will be artists who pay a nominal fee to live and work of their creations here.
 
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