Over the course of the past semester, I completed my ICIP for Holy Cross, which is a project for study abroad students meant to help cultivate cultural immersion. I chose to focus on contemporary art in China, and used interviews with local Beijing citizens as a means of research. While I learned a lot about traditional Chinese art, it seemed that my interview subjects had very little knowledge of Chinese contemporary art or street art, or if it even existed at all.
Last week, I was finally able to see first-hand some contemporary Chinese art, although this opportunity came about in a rather unfortunate way…
As Beijing continues to rapidly develop, it is not uncommon to see this character spray painted over traditional houses or old buildings: 拆 chāi. When you see 拆 spray painted on a building, you immediately know that there are plans to tear down this structure in order to build up something new. China works fast – the demolition crew is practically around the corner. It is a controversial yet fairly common phenomenon.
Sadly, I received news that a long standing and very much cherished branch of Tube Station, a pizza chain in China, was going to be torn down, along with the entire block. In celebration of the years of enjoyment it brought to the community, Tube Station held a party during its last weekend, complete with free pizza and beers. In addition, a Chinese street artist by the name of ROBBBB was given free reign of the space to create his signature aesthetic, known to encompass his view of Beijing as an ever changing city, simultaneously developing and in ruins.
I convinced a couple friends to go to the party with me. As we walked out of the train station we could immediately tell something was off – the street felt dark and quiet in comparison to a typical Beijing street brimming with life and energy. The entire area seemed completely abandoned, if not for the neon glow of the Golden Arches across the street. We finally found the Tube Station branch tucked away between gated off areas of construction and entered.
The place was completely transformed – splatters of paint covered the walls, floor, and ceiling, while a light show danced to the beats pushed out by the DJ in the corner. Already, people stood in line for pizza amidst a mountain of chairs and torn paintings clinging to the walls. ROBBBB’s own original artwork was also there on display. It seemed to be a great group of people present, and it was really exciting to see such a great turnout in support of the restaurant.
Overall, despite the grave circumstances, it was a really cool event that I am glad I got to be a part of. I think Tube Station handled a bad situation in the coolest way they possibly could have, and I loved that they incorporated ROBBBB’s art and vision into this community event. Here are some pictures from the event: