Come together: witness the communal morning dances of China’s Yunnan province

10 August 2017

While travelling through Yunnan, a province in southwestern China, Russian artist Ekaterina Bazhenova-Yamasaki documented the communal dances performed by locals in the early hours of the morning. The participants are usually women who dress up especially for this everyday social occasion. “The leaders of those dancing groups are usually gay men — it’s the only opportunity they get to display their sexuality freely without any repression,” Bazhenova-Yamasaki explains.

Entitled chance, control, accident, the video work oscillates between the free and the performative. For the soundtrack,the artist recorded rain and the inside of a metal work shop, the sounds of which were then turned into minimal noise by Anya Kuts (from the Russian underground duo Love Cult). Bazhenova-Yamasaki is interested in what happens to an experience when it is taken out of its original context.

On 16 August, this video will be screened at Calvert 22 Space in London alongside a live performance by the artist that incorporates ikebana: the Japanese art of flower arranging that involves taking something from nature and bringing it into your environment. Bazhenova-Yamasaki is similarly interested in what happens to a specific cultural experience and place it in another context and time.

Recalling John Berger’s Ways of Seeing (1972) — in which he writes, “We never look at just one thing; we are always looking at the relation between things and ourselves” — Bazhenova-Yamasaki says, “The difficulty is in finding a way to distinguish between that which belongs to our relation to the world and that, which belongs to the world alone. It’s practically impossible.”

Video: Ekaterina Bazhenova-Yamasaki
Text: Liza Premiyak