Saturday, August 26, 2017

"A well-known independent art space has sealed itself behind a brick wall in the hope that it can survive Beijing’s crackdown on unauthorised establishments"

The Beijing government has allowed shops, bars, restaurants and other private ventures to operate in the city’s hutongs, or alleys, since the 1980s. But two years ago authorities began notifying landlords that such businesses had engaged in the “illegal breaking up or drilling of holes” in hutong walls, and have been bricking up shopfronts and removing advertising in the name of urban beautification, heritage preservation and the discouragement of illegal structures. The campaign coincides with the government’s goal of reducing the population in central Beijing by 15 per cent, to 23 million, by 2020.


As nearby businesses began seeing their front entrances blocked by the dreaded walls of red brick, Arrow Factory art space happened to be preparing its next art installation that would conceal its “shopfront”.

Called “Fences”, artist Yang Zhenzhong’s project replaced the glass front doors with a wall painted the same grey as the rest of the building, leaving only a gap for a small, barred window sealed by a two-way mirror. A surveillance camera hidden inside captures life along the alley and is as surreptitious as its host venue, wrapped as it is in a Harry Potter-style invisibility cloak.