CYCLE 3 :
J’ai besoin d’a Of North 1986
The Shanzhai Lyric
25.05.2019 - 02.08.2019
Organized by Danielle St-Amour
Hosted by SBC Gallery
In flagrant disregard of the concepts of authorship and originality which underpin Western brand worship, a new breed of designers has emerged as masterful manipulators of fashion rhetoric, skilled at subverting the ceaseless barrage of contemporary signifiers. This cacophony of copies has a flattening effect, whereby logos are reduced to interchangeable images and words become patterns rather than text… By writing outside of language norms, t-shirt text destabilizes standardized English and enables an experience of immediate encounter with unforeseen relations, between words and between the cultures that espouse them.
- The Shanzhai Lyric, The New Inquiry, 2015
The Shanzhai Lyric is the poetic research and archival unit of Display Distribute centered around the experimental English of shanzhai t-shirts made in China and found across the globe. Often positioned as bootleg or counterfeit items, shanzhai materials use tactics such as copy-paste, humor and mutation to both revel in and reveal the hypocrisies of fashion and commodity hierarchies.
The Shanzhai Lyric imagines both the “illegible” and the “counterfeit” as tactics of sabotage, complicating the relentless force of branding. The bootleg and the original are commonly manufactured in the very same factory, using the same, but slightly altered blueprints. Shanzhai lyrics also gesture towards collectivity— an open-source language that embraces poetry, play and exaggerated mimicry as modes of resistance.
Since initiating research at the now-defunct wholesale shopping center Zoo Market in Beijing in the summer of 2015, the Shanzhai Lyric project has developed a practice of putting shanzhai writing in conversation with a wide array of materials in galleries, archives and museums. Taking its name from a recently spotted T-shirt lyric, J’ai besoin d’a Of North 1986, brings the latest acquisitions of the Shanzhai Lyric archive into conversation with the materials of Loosely Assembled’s growing archive, presenting two new structures for reading and appreciating the Shanzhai Lyric archive.
The Incomplete Poem is a custom display and reading apparatus that allows the Shanzhai Lyric archive to be perused, referenced and worn. Engaging the gallery as a site of publication, the design of this structure encourages active engagement from viewers in an embodied discussion. This first iteration of the reading apparatus recasts these garments as living documents within an embodied archive, open to collective interpretation and engagement.
J’ai besoin d’a Of North 1986 also marks the soft launch of Shanzhai Lyric’s new web-based project that invites users to engage in a chance poetry collaboration with textual fragments, mimicking the associative process of shanzhai writing to explore questions of agency, expression, and desire. The site will generate new lyrics, combining images and text from a variety of sources: luxury brand logos, marketing manuals, writings by Byung Chul-Han, Edouard Glissant, Susan Hiller, Stuart Hall and others, all filtered through online translation services. These randomly generated “cut-ups” will place shanzhai production processes in dialog with related theoretical writings.
A vernissage will be held on May 25 with a performance-lecture and group poetry reading organized by Display Distribute.
The reading apparatus for Shanzhai Lyric’s The Incomplete Poem was developed in collaboration with common room—a collaborative architectural practice with a publishing imprint, and an exhibition space, based in New York City and Brussels. common room is comprised of architects Lars Fischer, Maria Ibañez and Todd Rouhe; Rachel Himmelfarb; architectural researcher Kim Förster; and graphic designer Geoff Han. http://common-room.net.
Development of the web-based project has been with the support of the Rhizome Microgrant program.
SBC would like to thank UdeM’s Publishing Spheres conference for their support of the performances and reception for Cycle 3 : J’ai besoin d’a Of North 1986.
The Shanzhai Lyric is the poetic research and archival unit of Display Distribute, carried out by Ming Lin and Alexandra Tatarsky. @shanzhai_lyric
Ming Lin sustains an interdisciplinary practice through writing, research and curation, with work that seeks to address affective spaces fostered along the lines of mass production, tracing distributed networks as a means of surfacing new possibilities for cohabitation and collaborative practice. Documentary gestures and various curatorial and discursive initiatives are pursued with the aim of exploring bottom-up organization amidst the hegemony of global trade. New grammars and infrastructural experiments are frequently pursued under the helm of Display Distribute, an itinerant artistic research platform, feral distribution service, now and again exhibition space, and sometimes shop initiated in Kowloon, Hong Kong. She holds an MA from the Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths.
Alexandra Tatarsky makes work in the unfortunate in-between zone of comedy, poetry, dance-theater and deluded rant, sometimes with songs. Pieces often incorporate absurdist characters and improvised wordplay. Venues include Brooklyn Museum, CPR, La Mama ETC, MoMA PS1, New Museum, PSNY, The Kitchen, Howl!, Gibney, and Judson Church. She writes on spambot poetry, multi-lingual nonsense verse, shanzhai lyrics, and grotesque politics for publications including New Inquiry, Hypocrite Reader, ArtReview Asia, Garlands, Spike, and Folder. Her work seeks the logic of the clown as an antidote to despair and a model of one who keeps trying despite (repeated) failure.
@tartar.biz / www.tar-tar.biz
Display Distribute is a thematic inquiry, experimental infrastructure, now and again exhibition space, and sometimes shop in Kowloon, Hong Kong. Documenting the ad-hoc arrangements and various micro and macro interactions that are rapidly transforming the social and material landscape, Display Distribute undertakes collaborative projects tracing these flows and fissures in order to investigate new possibilities for networked forms of production. www.displaydistribute.com
SATURDAY 25 MAY, AT 6PM