While the world is still facing a global pandemic, we are continuing our series of cloud conversations with artist residencies and art practitioners in China. This time, we caught up with Making Collective, the group behind Making Space in Guangzhou, to talk about re-imagining neighborhoods, working remotely and evolving archives.

Making Space 新造空间 in Guangzhou. 

CR: Hi! It’s so nice to have the possibility to talk with you. First of all, how are you all doing?

Making Collective: Hi! It has been quite tough recently. Everyone has been staying home, we were afraid to leave the house. Everyone who could stay home is working from home. We haven’t been able to gather or see each other in person for a while . 

CR: How has everyone of you been dealing with the lockdown and also staying home for so long?

MC: Before, everyone pretty much had to stay at home as much as possible. Now, the situation is slowly loosening up, and we can go outside again. People finally start to feel a little closer to each other. Still, we're staying inside most of the time, we're continuing to pay attention to the epidemic, and continuing to do what we were doing before: complete unfinished works, read, and so on.

CR: Yes, I think keeping a regular schedule and rhythm has been recommended from so many, as a way to stay healthy and somehow sane in these times. Good to hear that things are getting better! Here in Europe and the US, things are just getting serious, and people finally started staying put. Speaking of staying put, I am curious - where are you all located at the moment? 

iago: I am in Thailand at the moment. In addition to my daily schedule, I am continuing to observe, think, and work on the things I am currently involved in.
Bing Huang: I am in Guangzhou, in the last steps of my graduation thesis with my last energy and rage.
You Piao: I am located in Guangzhou. Due to the planned move and renovation of Making Space, I have recently become a construction worker/decorator of some sorts.
Zhu Xiang: I am in Guangzhou. I taught myself to edit videos, and the video might be displayed in the next exhibition.
Bruce: At the moment, I mainly live on the Internet, trying to build a space where I can live in the torrent of bits, with switches, filters, and compilers.

CR: Great to hear that you are all alright. Let's get to Making Space: Making Space opened in Guangzhou in October 2017, in a Southern area called Xinzao, which could be translated to “New Town”. Who are the members of the founding team? What made you decide to open this space?

MC: The main founder of Making Space is You Piao 游飘. Although it was founded 2017, the idea came about much earlier. The space was located in this Xinzao rather by chance. The building had housed a paint shop before, which closed down. The landlord was looking for a sublet, since the paint shop closed down because some art training institution {that prepare prospective art students for the rigorous art school exams} had moved away. It is a good location, and the building is very close to the pier and the river. The ideal location and the fact that the rent was affordable made You Piao decide to rent it right away. 

CR: When we visited Making Space last summer, you could feel that the area still has this old feeling to it. To get there, we took the subway, which goes underneath the Pearl River and also stops on the University Island in the middle of the river. It was quite a surreal experience, riding 30 minutes in the subway and arriving in what felt like a a complete different timezone. There are still so many of those small shops and stores selling and making small trinkets and hyper specialized parts. You don't see shops like that anymore in a lot of cities in China. They have been mostly moved far outside the city, and it might takes a few hours to get there, depending on the city. How does being in this location affect the project and ideas?

MC: We have had a project in collaboration with the young academic group called Mr. Po [泼先生]. Artists who arrive here will also get influenced by this neighborhood. When Zhao Baochen was here, he was working on his project called “only with familiar customers“. There was a work called “Onshore“, which was influenced by his way of arriving here - he took the ferry to Making Space. Living in Xinzao is very different from living in the city of Guangzhou. This is an old area. For instance, our floor-to-ceiling glass windows seem to have transformed Xinzao a little bit. One of the grandfathers of the neighborhood came to our door, after the renovation, and remarked “so beautiful“. That said, something with a new appearance like Making Space taking shape in a town like Xinzao can definitively be something new and unusual for the local residents, but in a good way. This feeling of newness and curiosity will be feed back to the project, for sure. 

CR: So far, what projects has Making Space engaged in? Are there any projects you want to talk about in particular?

MC: Our space is still just in its beginning, we haven’t started that long ago. At first, our practice consisted of what we knew, namely exhibitions. At the beginning, the members of the group all came from the oil painting department. We had only experience participating in exhibitions, but no curating experience per se. Also, at art school. the oil painting department was not very interdisciplinary -- we didn't interact much with other departments. So the first artist we invited was Zhao Baochen, a conceptual artist who graduated from the sculpture department. Later, we felt that there were too many familiar faces in the exhibitions we saw around Guangzhou. Baochen then introduced us to others, so we invited Tong Yan and Zhao Bang. We also cooperated with Sanyuhui, which is a much larger than ours, and also located in the city center. We did a group exhibition of six young contemporary artists and an artist collective. We're learning to curate as we go along, bringing in more members into Making Collective as we go.

CR: When I came to visit last summer, Making Space had two different buildings. There was a gallery space, it was the one with the floor-to-ceiling glass windows. The second house is a three-story studio space and living space for the visiting artists. I heard you were planning to move both spaces together. How does it look like it now?

MC: Our original plan was to start renovating the new space after the New Year's Eve before starting this year's projects. But now it has all been paused because of the epidemic.

Daily life around Making Space.  

CR: Are there any other projects or things you want to talk about?

MC: So usually, we members start with conceptualizing a project through discussions and feedback loops. Our plan is to open a project called the “Xinzao-booth“. Each month, the street on which Making Space is located in, hosts a monthly neighborhood market with clothes, food, everyday items, everything you can imagine. The neighborhood is bursting at that time, and it is the time with the most activity happening on the streets. For this, we want to start a point of contact with the neighborhood through such a market booth. Our current plan is to invite different artists from different disciplines. Through this booth, people at Making Space can set up independent community activities in the neighborhood. In this way, people can take part in making art -- open in all forms -- without having any the fear of not being understood. 

The other project is an archival project. Like any other independent art space, we will archive all the previous exhibition activities of artists, works, documentation of conferences or workshops, screenings, and books, magazines and zines given by us from artists and institutions. This is for us an honest way to archive activities, also because it shows the result of the hard work of everyone involved. 

The “documentation room“ can grow and expand naturally. There's space for self-publishing -- if someone wants to make zines, it's all possible. Also, each member of the group has its own focus or small collection in the archive, as their interests go into different directions. This kind of collection or archive - to be looked at from a long-term perspective, and memorized, grown, shared and worked with - is indispensable. 

CR: This sounds like a great plan and structure. There have not been many early works of the contemporary Chinese art scene documented and archived properly in the beginning. Such physical archives are also immensely important, especially in the age of the “two parallel Internets" {where things that happen on WeChat are difficult to archive and make available outside of China & vice versa for things that don't happen on WeChat.} Also, we haven’t talked about the residency structure yet: I know you are in the beginning, and had a few guests staying over. I am curious, what does your residency program look like?

MC: Yes! In the beginning, Making Spaces started out organically, and we invited artists who were interested in to work together. With the expansion of both physical space and people joining the project, we hope that we can go on in a more structured matter, and also with a more stable and sustainable way of working and content. 

Two years ago, we collaborated with Mr. Po on a residency for writers. This project allowed us to reflect on what it means to invite someone to a place which they don’t know, and for them to create and work on things for a short period of time. Last year, we established a cooperation with the Pro Helvetia and became their partner institution in China. They are very experienced in the world of artist residencies, and we hope that through these kinds of corporations, we can gradually better our practice.

Exhibition opening of "Hidden Web" at Making Space. 

CR: This sounds great. Congratulations for the cooperation with the Swiss Art Council. As for the artists, are there any conditions for the artist to come over? Also, what is the shortest and longest stay for the residents? 

MC: All the artists we invited before were of two weeks length, except for the joint project with Mr. Po, which was one week’s length. In general, we don't have a very specific time requirement for the residency. It mainly depends on the proposal proposed by the artist when they apply.

CR: Amazing. Before we finish this interview, can you tell us a bit about your background?

You Piao: Artist.
Binghuang: An art practitioner, and an old student who is about to graduate.
Bruce: I am a curator, researcher and consultant, as well as a returnee to Guangzhou.
iago: An artist who often does art without utilizing art, also curating.
Xiangzi: I am an artist outside all social groups, I am keen to practice "scavenging". 

CR: What is your role in residence and space?

Xiangzi: I am a space organizer. I help the space to establish a “document room” and the “Making Space Booth”. We hope that the latter project can be realized in the second half of this year.
iago: I have the simple function as a “tour guide“. I show people around, and we hope that more people will come visit Making Space and get to know the new space.
Bruce: I am responsible for the residency program, and our external communication and outreach in general. 
You Piao: I am striving to create a stable and sustainable situation for Making Space.
Binghuang: Liaison, curation and the execution of art projects.

CR: That sounds like a great structure you folks have. Good luck for the future endeavors! How does the future of Making Space look like? 

MC: The next step is to renovate the space.

CR: We wish you all the best and good luck for the renovations of the new space! 

Updating Making Space. 

中国艺术交流: Hi!感谢你们抽出时间回答这些问题! 首先,你们都怎么样? 希望你们一切都好吗?

新造小组: 谢谢,最近还行,大家都宅在家里不敢出门,工作都是尽量在家完成,因此大家也很久没碰面了。

中国艺术交流: 你们是如何整日带在家里?

新造小组: 之前大家各自在家呆了很久,最近开始慢慢解封,也可以稍微有些往来了。在家的话,会持续关注疫情、也会继续做之前就在做的事情,完成未完成的工作、学业等等。

中国艺术交流: 是的,许多人都建议保持固定的日程表和节奏,以在这些时期保持健康。你们大家目前在哪里?


中国艺术交流: 新造空间于2017年10月在广州“新造镇”开业。 谁是创始团队的成员?是什么让你们决定开这个空间?

新造小组: 主要创始人是游飘。这个念头并不是17年才冒出来的,而是更早。游飘将这个空间选择在新造,仅是因为机缘巧合。空间上一任房东——原来的画材铺倒闭了要转租(因为这里的美术培训机构都搬走了)。它的位置很好,在路口,又在码头边,一问租金挺合适的,就租下来开始了。

中国艺术交流: 新造空间位于广州传统市中心之外。 当我们见面时,你向我解释了为什么使这个空间如此特别:古老的社区,大量的生产和商店就在附近,城市空间和农田之间的混合。就像你们微信上解释的:“包含和城市与农田,拆迁与重建,异地老板与本地摩的,轰鸣的外单工厂和静谧的国营粮仓,包含所有城市化过程中变迁流转的迷离眼神和拼贴景观”。坐落在那里如何影响项目和思想?

新造小组: 我们做过关于新造的驻地,就是泼先生的地方志联合驻地。有一些艺术家到了新造之后,也会受新造影响,像赵宝琛做“只做熟客”这个项目的时候,里面有个作品叫“上岸”,这个作品的一个部分就是他来了新造,坐了渡轮之后决定做的。在新造的生活跟在城市里很不一样,这是一个很老的镇子。比如我们的落地大玻璃窗似乎改变了一点新造。街坊的老爷爷在我们装修好之后就站在门口说:“好靓啊。”可以说,新造空间出现在新造这样的老镇上,对当地居民来说是不常见的事情。 这种“不寻常”的感觉也会反馈给我们。

中国艺术交流: 你们微信上解释出来:“ 新造空间向每个有表达欲的个体开放,不论是艺术还是其它专业领域,希望通过空间平台的项目合作,与更多有趣个体完成交流合作,拓展彼此的认知边界。” 到目前为止,新造空间 从事过哪些项目? 有什么想特别谈论的项目吗?

新造小组: 我们空间到现在也还是刚刚起步不久,开始,我们从比较熟悉的方向入手,就是展览。最开始的时候,小组成员都是油画系的,只有参展经验,没有策展经验。油画系的交流也并不是很“跨界”,因此我们请了从雕塑系毕业的观念艺术家赵宝琛。后来我们觉得在广州看到的展览熟面孔太多,在宝琛的介绍下,请了童垚和赵邦。我们还跟三域汇合作,三域汇的空间比我们的大得多,而且在市中心,我们在那里做了六位年轻当代艺术家和一个小组的联展,也是第一次以新造小组的名义策展,开始邀请其他人加入新造小组等等,这些都是在实践过程中探索的。

中国艺术交流: 另外,恭喜你们搬到新地方。 去年夏天,我来参观的时候,“新造空间”由两个空间组成。 你们的画廊或者主要空间位于一间临街旧商铺改造,第二个空间是一幢三层楼高的大型建筑,常驻艺术家和另一位成员将居住在此。 现在的情况如何?

新造小组: 我们本来的计划是过完年开始装修新地方,好开展今年的项目。但现在因为疫情就先暂停了。


中国艺术交流: 你们还有其他项目或者想法想要介绍吗?

新造小组: 成员设想了一些项目,也经过了讨论和互相碰撞。随着空间装修完成,会推进“新造摊位”,新造空间旁边的街道每月都会有居民生活的市集摆摊,衣食住行等等的用品,这种赶墟的形式遗存下来,是街道最繁荣的活动。借此我们以摊位的方式打开与地方的“联系”,现在的执行方案包括面向不同专业人士征集摊位方案,以及通过摊位,空间也可以自主搭建社区活化的活动,因为“摊位”想做的是可以敞开的、不惧怕不被理解的艺术。


中国艺术交流: 这听起来像是一个不错的计划和结构。 最初,没有很多文献记录和存档中国当代艺术界的早期作品。 这样的物理档案也非常重要,特别是在“平行的互联网”时代。 另外,我们还没有讨论居住结构。你们的驻留项目是怎么样子的组成的?

新造小组: 新造最早的驻留更多是一种有机发生的形式,我们会邀请我们感兴趣的艺术家来一同工作。后来,随着空间和成员的扩充,我们也希望可以更加有计划地推动驻留,使之成为一个相对稳定的工作内容。前年,我们和泼先生曾合作过一次写作的驻留。那次驻留让我们开始反思,邀请一个人来到一个陌生的地方短暂工作到底意味着什么。今年,我们也与瑞士文化基金会确立了合作关系,成为了他们中国区的合作机构。他们是非常有经验的驻留合作方,我们也希望可以通过这些合作,慢慢摸索出适合我们自己的方式。


中国艺术交流: 祝贺你们与瑞士文化基金会的合作。请艺术家过来有什么条件吗?还有,驻留的最短和最长时间是多少? 

新造小组: 我们之前请的艺术家,除了联合驻地的时间是泼先生规定的一星期之外,其他几位的都是两星期。在驻地项目里,目前我们还没有非常具体的时间要求,主要还是看艺术家申请的时候提的方案。

中国艺术交流: 你能告诉我们一些你自己的背景吗?

xiangzi: 社会闲散艺术家,热衷于记忆“拾荒”。

中国艺术交流: 你在驻留和空间方面的角色是什么?

xiangzi: 空间整理员,今年协助空间建立“文献室”,另外提出的“新造摊位”项目希望下半年能实现出来。

中国艺术交流: 最后,新造空间的下一个计划是什么?

新造小组: 把空间装修好。

中国艺术交流: 谢谢你们的时间和分享。祝你们的新空间一切成功!

Updating Making Space. 

This interview was conducted over WeChat in Chinese & English by Xiaoyao Xu for China Residencies in March 2020.

With the current coronavirus situation and the ongoing lockdown in Wuhan and many other cities in China and worldwide, people have been finding ways to keep in touch with artists and friends online, since they can't meet up in person. Together with BUFU, China Residencies has set out Cloud9. Cloud9 is a global collaborative livestream to share love, care and solidarity and to support everyone affected by the global coronavirus pandemic. ☁️