So this is the time when we choose to look back on the year that has just ended. Or in some cases, not look back. It seems that this past year was a difficult one for a lot of people, an annus horribilis or a “year to forget.” For me, that particular title could be better applied to another year that was far more tragic and difficult.
So I feel a little at odds looking back at 2009 and seeing a really rich year, one filled with visual and personal experiences. I actually learned a lot, about other people around the world, about myself, about what is important to me, and I think that is actually reflected on these pages in a strange way.
I expect this coming year to be more of a transitional one, though I am not exactly sure yet where that will lead. But in the meantime, we at CatSynth will continue to do what we do…
This weekend is marks Pride 2009 here in San Francisco, and while the parade and other events here were huge (and occasionally over the top) as always, I found myself thinking of the much smaller, but nonetheless significant event I saw during Pride week in Shanghai on June 8.
I had the chance to attend the opening night event, which took place at a large bar in the French Concession district of Shanghai. There was a good mixture of both native Chinese and expats; of course, the attendance was a couple hundred rather than hundreds of thousands. But one must think about the significance of having an event like this in China, which is still a relatively conservative country and where gatherings of any sort can be complicated.
The open night featured screenings of two documentaries. The first was a film from Singapore entitled “Autopsy” which follows the filmmaker Loo Ziham’s dialogue with his mother about his sexuality. Following that was a documentary “Queer China”, a rather stylized look at the history of homosexuality and LGBT issues in China. The film interspersed images from traditional Chinese art and literature with historical footage from early years of the Peoples Republic, but focused primarily on relatively contemporary interviews. Those interviewed ranged from a young man who nearly committed suicide over his sexual orientation to an older man (I think he was in his 80s) discussing sexuality in rather open terms. Because of the way the room was set up, it was sometimes difficult to see the English subtitles, so I did miss some of what people were saying. One thing I was able to gather from the film was that much of the progress in terms of recognition and getting groups organized and sanctioned came under the heading of AIDS prevention – the one young woman interviewed noted the irony that AIDS was not a big issue for everyone.
In any case, it was quite interesting to see such an event in another country. And I leave wondering if Chinese can go out and take the cultural risk of participating in such an event, why does it have to remain “hidden” for people here in certain ethnic groups?
A brief review in photos of my performance last Friday at The Shelter.
The Shelter is actually in a converted bomb shelter, and to get there one descends a long narrow staircase and enters this cave-like hallway:
Inside the main club space, it is mostly dark, save for a few small lights and these video screens broadcasting live from the DJ booth:
The above photo shows my setup via the video camera. We can take a closer look at on the DJ platform itself.
As described in the previous post, I combined traditional Chinese musical instruments with electronics, blending old and new. In the above image you can see (left to right) a prayer bowl, a small bell, a gong, and temple blocks (to the right of the laptop). Some of my Chinese friends and colleagues were blown away by the idea that one can combine the different elements to make a single type of music.
The performance itself went quite well, and just about everything worked as planned. If there was one thing that was unfortunate, it was that 10:30 is quite “early” in terms of Shanghai nightlife, so there were not that many people in attendance yet. But you always play for the people who are there, and it was a new experience for all of us.
The club did fill up later on during the DJ sets that followed, and I stuck around to hear most of them – it seems this is one of the main places in the city to hear more underground or unusual music, be it live electronics or DJs. That was an adventure in and of itself, but a story for another time.
I did also make an audio recording and a video of the performance, which I have not had a chance to review yet. Look for at least short excerpts of both in the future.