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January 14, 2023

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Young artists’ inventiveness and imagination on display

All eyes are on the RanRan project again after its launch last summer, as the RanRan art season is under way in downtown Shanghai’s Xintiandi area.

The three-year young artist incubation project was initiated by Shui On Xintiandi, operator of the Xintiandi community, and UCCA, China’s leading institution for contemporary art. The project endeavors to nurture and support young Chinese contemporary artists through competitions, artist-in-residence programs, art seasons and crossover collaborations.

The art season, titled “RanRan: Songs of the Return,” features five public art pieces in Xintiandi’s outdoor space and an exhibition of 20 young artists’ works and three drawings by the Artist Residency Program at the three-story One Xintiandi.

Although some works aren’t mature or polished, it highlights young artists’ inventiveness and imagination, and displays the spirit of youth — wild and full of unbounded possibility.

Ge Yulu’s artwork “Whispering Songs” is motivated by three weeks of conversations and interviews with residents and workers in Xintiandi. Ge gathered their household trash and converted them into wind chimes. When the wind blows, the wind chimes that are placed in the back alleys make a faint tinkling sound, as if “murmuring” to visitors the rich local history of the past.

“After countless trips and conversations, I gradually came to a conclusion that life in the old alleys only lives in one’s memory,” Ge said. “Although such memories are priceless, nobody really wants to go back. People have always valued the distinctiveness of former lifestyles. But could the rebuilt lanes in Xintiandi still evoke memories after 50 or 100 years?”

The artist continued: “These days, we see online influencers posting selfies, cooks waiting to leave the kitchen, drivers and maintenance workers working late hours, and security guards getting their orders in the alleys — they are actually living in alleys. So start taking in the present and feel the history of being alive.”

Ge created short videos out of the interviews and trash collection process. He also set up an online sketchbook titled “Life in Xintiandi.” Some of the sketches are reproduced in the brochures and maps for the RanRan art season and given away as gifts.

Young artists prefer digging deeper into their work. RanRan’s Artist Residency Program helps in that.

The program funds residencies, research, assistance and other resources to help artists study Shanghai’s culture, urban areas and mixed-use public space to improve their understanding and creative practices.

Yin Yi’s “from _ to Xintiandi” at One Xintiandi is an example.

Yin transforms the living space of residents, Xintiandi’s public spaces and the urban environment into an auditory space. He invites four partners — a musician, an anthropologist, a 3D soundscape designer and a video game sound designer — to travel from their home or workplace to Xintiandi and record the sounds they hear. Each of them created their own audio work.

Finally, the pieces are placed in a cement installation designed by the artist. The installation is based on a map of Xintiandi’s public spaces, suggesting that one might listen to certain spaces or possibly the entire city. The audio that is concealed in the cement installation can be heard by viewers using headphones, providing a unique acoustic perspective on the city.

Date: Through February 5, 1-9pm

Venue: One Xintiandi

Address: 181 Taicang Road


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