East/West, Paradise in Reverse



East/West, Paradise in Reverse

In August 2005, Saskia Janssen stayed a month at the artist’s residency ‘Lijiang Studio’ in Lijiang, Yunnan province, South-Eastern China. At Ellen de Bruijne PROJECTS, Janssen, working with elements of documentary and performance, shows a video and sound installation, exploring the paradoxical history an culture of this fascinating city. The town of Lijiang and its inhabitants, the Naxi tribe, were unknown to the West until the adventurer, botanist and writer Joseph F.Rock ‘discovered’ the town in 1922 and made it known to the West by his many articles for The National Geographic .

In the late 1980s, Lijiang was named as an official tourist site by the Chinese government. A new town and airport were built alongside the old town, making it accessible for mass tourism. With this development, Lijiang saw not only the arrival of tourists but also of Han Chinese entrepreneurs, who rented the traditional wooden houses from the Naxi and transformed them into hotels, cafes and souvenir shops. Many of the Naxi population moved to the new town and became landlords. Today, walking through the old town one sees the Han dressed in Naxi costume, playing Naxi music while in the new town, the Naxi wear modern clothes and listen to Han music.

For the exhibition at Ellen de Bruijne PROJECTS, Janssen has made, with help of inhabitants of Lijiang, ‘small ritualistic acts’ as odes to the old and new town: A ‘flower border’ between the two towns, a sung tribute to the old town and a reconstruction of a photograph from a 1920’s edition of The National Geographic ; a shaman altar to gratify the gods for the new year.

And she recorded music in both towns as a document of a changing culture. From this, Janssen has produced a record album:





 EAST / WEST, Paradise in Reverse, music from the two towns of Lijiang

   Gallery Exhibition: 15 October-19November 2005
   Presentation at Art Cologne : 28 October-1 November





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