< July 2011 - Artspace China
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July 2011


“The 1980s were the heyday of modern Chinese poetry. Poetry was like pop culture then – it played the role karaoke has today. Twenty years ago there was no such thing as karaoke, and every small city or town would have a place where people would get together after dinner and read poetry. It was such an everyday thing, so lively. Every night was like a mini-poetry carnival.

These days we have online communities. Every creative group has its own online communities – art, film, literature – but the most obvious is in the area of poetry, where the internet has had the biggest impact on the community’s development.”

Hu Xudong is Associate Professor at the Institute of World Literature at Beijing University. He’s also a poet, and was one of China’s first internet technicians, co-running an early website called New Youth (Xin Qingnian) which innovated with technology and language. What better person to give a lowdown on contemporary Chinese poetry, its origins in an ‘80s zine scene, and its internet iterations? Read on for a bird’s eye view.

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Zhang Shouwang, frontman of Beijing rock group Carsick Cars and experimental band White, is possibly the most famous musician in Beijing’s indie music crowd, famed for his support of Sonic Youth and for being the man behind Beijing rock anthem Zhong Nanhai among other tunes.

Such is the openness of Beijing’s cultural scene that, only a week after I’d started asking around for his number, I was sitting on the grimy steps outside D-22, sharing a beer with the man himself and talking over the drones of a noise outfit playing inside.

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