Release year: 2023
Run time: 90 mins
Film type: Documentary
In the mid-1990s, during the late 20th century, the Yuanmingyuan Artist Village dissolved, and artists resettled in Xiaopu Village, Songzhuang Town, located in the eastern suburbs of Beijing. The village's affordable living conditions and relatively free creative environment attracted independent artists from all over the country. Initially, they arrived with utopian dreams and a thirst for artistic freedom, aiming to establish their roots here. They survived and created art under the banner of art, developing a unique way of life. Over time, more artists flocked to the area, leading to the emergence of related industries and small businesses. Streets, shops, taverns, artist studios, and village residences intertwined, forming a complex network. Over the course of more than a decade, Xiaopu Village transformed from a handful of artists to a massive community with thousands of artists, becoming China's largest art community with a population of over ten thousand residents. The cohabitation of artists, their interactions with the indigenous population, local government, and commercial capital, all contributed to Songzhuang's distinctive artistic ecology. This turned the Songzhuang Art District into a microcosm of China's transitional era, serving as a vivid specimen with sociological significance.
In 2009, during the Songzhuang Art Festival, a seven-story pagoda-shaped sculpture was erected on the central roundabout of Songzhuang. This sculpture symbolises the hierarchy within Songzhuang's artistic ecology, reflecting the grassroots to the pinnacle, embodying the spirit of an era permeated by the frenzy of success psychology. The pursuit of artistic freedom that the Starry Gallery artists pursued back then remains the unrelenting goal of the Songzhuang artists today — the freedom to live, the freedom to create. As capital entered the scene, land prices soared, skyrocketing rents, and real estate development forced numerous artists to leave in dismay. The once-existing artistic utopia ceased to exist, and the dream of utopia faded away as capital prevailed.
Zang Honghua is an independent curator, columnist, and documentary director.
She graduated from the Department of Fine Arts at the Beijing Film Academy Currently based in Beijing.
Zang Honghua has been involved in the curation and independent organisation of various contemporary art exhibitions. She has also participated in the filming, production, and post-production of several contemporary art documentaries. In 2009, she began independently directing the documentary Linglong Tower, which reflects the contemporary art ecosystem in Songzhuang, Beijing. In 2014, she started a column titled Avant-Garde Images in Art Stories in Oriental Artists, where she introduced contemporary art within the realm of imagery. In 2023, she curated the exhibition Crossing - Datong Dazhang Art Exhibition and independently directed a biographical documentary about the late artist Datong Dazhang titled Youbingwei. She has also published art catalogs and books, including Datong Dazhang.