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March 10, 2011

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Shaking up arts

THE Chinese word jue means to sense or awaken and the JUE independent arts and music festival plans to rouse everybody from tomorrow to April 3 in Shanghai and Beijing. Nie Xin reports.

The wildly eclectic international urban arts and music festival JUE in both Shanghai and Beijing is becoming a fringe fixture in the arts and entertainment scene.

Now in its third year, it's a collection of alternative, creative and progressive arts and music events running for three jam-packed weeks from Friday through April 3.

Even bigger than last year that staged 70 events in two cities, JUE 2011 will have 87 in total. In addition to arts and music, there's video, film, photography, theater, dance, performance art, workshops, crafts and many other events.

In Shanghai alone there will be 55 events - performances, installation, exhibits and surprises - across 26 venues. The admission range from free to 200 yuan (US$30).

JUE will be kicked off tomorrow night with the live concert "A Good Day" by Taiwanese bands Mr Dadado & We Save Strawberries at Yuyintang live house.

Since opportunities for art and music lovers are increasing all the time, these energized and sprawling events help support the arts in China and push things forward.

Every year JUE invites foreign musicians and this year they come from Holland, Germany, France, Japan and Canada. They come from across the spectrum - from the post-rocky neo-classical of Japan's World's End Girlfriend & Black Hole Carnival, to the exuberant indie-pop of Holland's The Black Atlantic.

Carsick Cars from Beijing was part of the lineup, but canceled. In their stead, SNAPLINE from Beijing and AV OKUBO from Wuhan will be coming down to Shanghai for the Maybe Mars Showcase on March 19.

One of highlights will be the concert by German-Norwegian indie-pop band The Whitest Boy Alive at Dream Factory next Monday.

The band TBWA led by singer and guitarist Erlend Oye is one of the headliners this year, says Abby Lavin, JUE's project director.She is the marketing and media manager of Split Works, which is putting the show together.

Hongmen Art apparels company is organizing a big JUE event Hongmen Live on March 26 at the River South Art Center; it will be a contemporary art exhibition, digital design battle and involve other activities. Every month the company holds a T-shirt design competition among community-based designs submitted online.

"The idea of JUE is always to shine a spotlight on the creative communities that are flourishing in Beijing and Shanghai, and to build bridges between different types of artists and organizations," says Lavin.

JUE was inspired by the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland, which started in 1946 as an edgy alternative to the Edinburgh International Arts Festival.

Fringe Shanghai held two festivals in 2006 and 2008, with a feast of innovative, avant-garde shows and activities, including cutting-edge theater, dance, music, multimedia and visual art programs, many of which were China premieres, as well as workshops and a two-day symposium.

But since 2008, Fringe Shanghai has been transferring the focus to community art and culture education, rather than the regular big-scale art festivals, says the organizer. It's not known when the city's next fringe party will be staged.

Through its long-term outreach programs, the festival contributes to bringing artists closer to local communities and encouraging the public to truly participate in arts.

Many different kinds of Shanghai people get involved with JUE. Last year one of the most popular events was a screen-printing workshop, organized by Idle Beats studio and NeochaEDGE.

This year in Shanghai, Josh Atkin and Anita Hawkins are organizing ENTER, a series of experimental performance pieces; People from Bound Editorial are organizing an interactive project with the artist Seldon Yuan.

"It truly makes the festival a community event," says Lanvin.

JUE 2011 will also stage more mainstream pop events with Chinese bands.

For the full schedule and ticket booking, check


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