@China, Virtually Speaking: A Virtual Roundtable Discussion on Emergent Practices in China

Questions the panel will address include: What strategies are cultural producers employing to move beyond the red door of online media censorship? What is the relationship and interfacing of alternative spaces to local and indigenous communities? What is the impact of these alternative spaces and production models on the Chinese art world and creative industries?
Sunday, 18 September, 2011 - 09:00 - 10:30
Chair Person: 
Stephanie Rothenberg
Michael Eddy
Elaine Ho
Emi Uemura
Liu Yan
Aaajiao (Xu Wenkai)
Defne Ayas
Xiaoying Juliette Yuan
Sheng Jie (gogoj)
HomeShop storefront
Xindanwei Workshop on Sustainability
Xindanwei Philosophy
HomeShop electronics workshop
HomeShop food lab

Chair: Stephanie Rothenberg

“@China, Virtually Speaking” leverages online and virtual platforms to bring together a group of geographically dispersed art and design collectives and individuals throughout China to reflect on the topic of “open source”. In this virtual round table discussion, panelists will address how notions of  “open source” are being translated and applied cross-culturally to generate new models of cultural production and social practice within the political and economic boundaries of China. For participants not physically present at the conference, the dialogue will be enabled through a live stream of Skype video and the virtual environment of Second Life.

The art and design collectives invited to participate on this panel are all challenging the limitations of what has become a highly commercialized art market and corporatized creative industry in China through their cultivation of collaborative alternative spaces and unconventional exhibition and discursive platforms. Panelists will discuss how new technologies are being utilized and the ways in which participatory and situational modes of art and design production are being engaged making way for more emergent forms of practice in both rural and urban locations.

Questions the panel will address include: What strategies are cultural producers employing to move beyond the red door of online media censorship? What is the relationship and interfacing of alternative spaces to local and indigenous communities? What is the impact of these alternative spaces and production models on the Chinese art world and creative industries?

Part of the discussion will also include a report back from the 2011 Continental Drift in China that several of the panelists and the Chair will have participated in over the summer. This experimental research-based trip across China co-facilitated by Brian Holmes and Claire Pentecost examines the geopolitical transformations of the country through the lens of urbanism/ruralism.

Paper Abstracts


by Michael Eddy, Elaine Ho and Emi Uemura

HomeShop began as a storefront residence and artist initiative in Beijing, 2008. Located in the centre of Beijing on one of its old hutong alleyways, the space and its window front are used as the beginning points from which to examine ways of relaying between public and private, the commercial and pure exchange as such. Artists, designers and thinkers come together via multiple, interwoven series of small-scale activities, interventions and documentary gestures, processes by which HomeShop serves as an open platform to question existing models of economic and artistic production. Daily life, work and the community become explorations of micropolitical possibility, and of working together.

Xindanwei: Workspace, Creative Network and Community

by Liu Yan and Aaajiao (Xu Wenkai)

Xindanwei, which literally means “New Work Unit,” is a social enterprise and grassroots co-working community in downtown Shanghai that promotes and facilitates creativity, sharing, and collaboration. Xindanwei combines the best elements of a workspace (productive, functional) with a social media platform (hybrid, real-time, efficient) and a creative hub (social, energetic, creative). Working across many different disciplines, Xindanwei connects more than 2000 people who do amazing things, and has organized more than 100 events to create opportunities for people who experience, encounter and experiment. Xindanwei has been featured in CNN, Urban China, Face, Shanghai Weekly, DI Architect and Design and more. Some of their programs include “Magic Society”, an innovative platform that inspires and educates people about how things work, building and rebuilding stuff, recycling and resource conservation; “New Shanzhai: Innovation in Chinese way?” exploring the phenomena of Shanzhai, China’s knock-off culture that questions legitimacy and authenticity of design and blurs the line between cultural appropriation and outright theft; and “Design2Change”, exploring the positive impact of design for social change.

Asymmetries in the Control of Information and Ideas

by Defne Ayas

The 2008 Beijing Olympics was the chance for China to open its information highway to the West. Yet three years later media censorship prevails with an even tighter stronghold than before due to the recent uprisings in the Middle East. As China continues to play host to international cultural events, what are the asymmetries in the application of censorship? What is accepted? What is rejected? Based on her experiences as a curator for both the 2009 Shanghai eArts Festival, an electronic arts festival featuring performance, workshops and exhibitions and the 2010 Shanghai World Expo, Ayas will discuss the current state of control in China’s creative industries and art centers. Excerpts from a documentary created by her students at New York University Shanghai campus will be screened.

Curating New Media Art in China: A Creative Approach from Within

by Xiaoying Juliette Yuan

Working as an independent curator is a challenge in any country, yet in China, where institutions are government run and private galleries charge huge exhibition fees the stakes are even higher. Figure in the cost of exhibition materials and equipment needs for new media art and the prospects are even bleaker. Xiaoying Juliette Yuan, who has been curating new media art in China since 2004, will discuss the challenges and creative solutions for working as an independent curator in China.

SHAN Studio

by Sheng Jie (gogoj)

SHAN Studio is an artist-run platform for multimedia digital art and communication. Operating out of a small studio in the heart of old Beijing, its intimate atmosphere and more personable, informal approach to exchange has made it a popular alternative spot for the Beijing media arts community. SHAN invites local and international artists of various genres to share their wealth of creative experience and concepts. The studio hosts artists talks, hands-on workshops, an international residency program and special courses in media arts for local youth.

Bios of the Participants

Defne Ayas

Defne Ayas is a curator and producer. Based mostly in Shanghai and sometimes in New York and Istanbul, Ayas works as a director of programs to Arthub Asia, a multi-disciplinary organization devoted to contemporary art creation in China and rest of Asia, and as an art history instructor at New York University in Shanghai. Ayas has also been a curator of PERFORMA since 2004, the biennial of visual art performance of New York City, where she has presented more than fifty live performances and performance-related programs with an international roster of artists, curators, and critical thinkers.
more.  Prior to joining PERFORMA, Ayas coordinated New Museum of Contemporary Art’s public- and new media-programming.

Michael Eddy

Michael Eddy (HomeShop) is a Canadian artist who since 2004 has been living abroad—in Japan, Germany and currently in China. His work has been exhibited throughout North America, Europe and Asia. With a base in photography, he works across various media including performance, paper, writing and installation and frequently in collaboration with others, the most long term of which is the collaborative trio Knowles Eddy Knowles (along with Rob Knowles based in London and Jon Knowles based in Montréal, no relation). He is currently working with HomeShop as a space and as a group of people working across disciplines. From 2008–2010 he worked with Vitamin Creative Space at the shop in Beijing, China, programming and coordinating projects and editing publications. These projects have often dealt with the "daily life" of art works. Michael studied at NSCAD in Canada from 2001 to 2004 and at the Staedelschule in Germany from 2005 to 2008.
Elaine W. HO, HomeShop, (Beijing) works between the realms of time-based art, urban practice and design, using multiple vocabularies to ask questions about how users and objects intertwine with the micropolitics of everyday life. Often working collaboratively, her videos, installations and other interventions focus on alter-possibilities of an intimate, networked production. One of her current endeavours is HomeShop, a storefront space turned home base for interactions with the local community and the surrounding public space. Via the organisation of collaborative events and workshops, research and field recordings, HomeShop and its independent journal publication WEAR seek to develop an open platform that examines relationality as a tool tied to but outside of other economic modes of production. Elaine is also a frequent contributor at www.iwishicoulddescribeittoyoubetter.net

Food as medium; Emi Uemura (HomeShop) has been working on the projects and festive spaces where people share (or do not share) experiences, knowledge and food. Often these projects address social and political issues surrounding food production and consumption. Currently she is working on farming and is interested in how it shapes time and application of works. She studied Anthropology in Saint Mary's University, Canada, and has currently settled in Beijing since 2010. 

Liu Yan

Liu Yan, CEO and the co-founder of Xindanwei, is an advocate of cross-culture and cross discipline exchange, entrepreneur and community organizer. She is a regular speaker at international forums on social innovation, entrepreneurship and digital culture such as Skoll World Forum, TEDx and the Getitlouder conference and was nominated by girl 2.0 China as the “top female innovator”.  As an independent consultant and lecturer in the Netherlands and China from 2004-2007, she served as advisory board member on cultural entrepreneurship for the city municipal of Utrecht, and worked as the advisor of the China program of Dutch Electronic Arts Festival. In 2007, she co-founded Da-Tong China Desk Creative Industry in Amsterdam. Da-Tong has organized the Creative Cross China & Europe conference for Picnic’07, Amsterdam’s leading annual international event, highlighting creativity and innovation. Upon to her return to China in 2008, she co-organized and chaired 3S ReUnion - an interdisciplinary monthly seminar for art, media technology and academic research.


Aaajiao (Xu Wenkai), CTO and the co-founder of Xindanwei, is one of China's foremost digital artists, bloggers and free culture developers. In 2003 he established the sound art website http://cornersound.com and in 2006 he founded the Chinese take on the blog we-make-money-not-art called “We-Need-Money-Not-Art.com”. He is devoted to Processing, an open source visual programming software and Dorkbot, a non-profit initiative for creative minds. His artwork can be seen at:  http://eventstructure.com/

Xiaoying Juliette Yuan

Xiaoying Juliette Yuan, independent curator / researcher in Media Arts, currently lives and works in Beijing, China. Xiaoying considers Media Arts a unique and efficient “Tool” to innovate our environment. In 2004, she was among the first Chinese curators introducing the concept of re-defining architecture through digital art by organizing a three city (Shanghai, Chengdu, Kunming) conference tour entitled “Digital Art and Architecture”, in order to interpret the relationship between digital art and contemporary architecture. In 2006, she was invited by the Ministry of Culture in China to curate PLAY(S) – International Digital and Multimedia Arts exhibition within the 3rd International Digital Art and Animation Festival in Changzhou (South of China). In 2009, she produced a series of conferences focusing on digital art development in China, where she presented more than 20 international experts and young professionals’ cross-disciplinary projects, in order to explore the future role of digital art in social and political environmental. On April 2010, she joined Planetary Collegium founded by Roy Ascott (Plymouth, England) as PhD Candidate in Art and Media, her current research theme is “Media Arts & Human Ecosphere” (working title).


Sheng Jie

Sheng Jie (gogoj) is new media artist and founder of Shan Studio in Beijing.  Her work focuses on the arena of technology and its impact on society merging video, sound, installation and performance to investigate associations and reflections between high and low technologies. She has exhibited her work internationally at museums, galleries and festivals including Museum Of Contemporary Art (Moca), Shanghai, Vancouver International Centre For Contemporary Asian Art, Canada, ZKM Centre For Art And Media, Karlsruhe, Songzhuang Culture Art Festival, Microwave International New Media Arts Festival, Hong Kong and ISIS Arts, Newcastle, UK. She recently was a resident artist at 3331 Art Chiyoda in Tokyo, Japan In 2010, she founded SHAN Studio, a platform for multimedia digital art and communication.
Shen Jie received her BFA from  Beijing College Of Art & Design and her MFA from the Ecole Supérieure Des Arts Décoratifs De Strasbourg.