In 2013 I was selected for the Wellington Artist Residency Exchange in Beijing, China. I spent three months documenting the Beijing punk scene as an extension of the Up The Punks project with the aim of exploring cross cultural similarities and differences between the Chinese and New Zealand punk scenes. Beijing's punk scene is still relatively small having only formed in the fall out of the 1989 student uprising and the increasing openness within Chinese society to Western markets and culture that followed.
Based in the village of Fejiacun on the north-eastern edge of Beijing's sprawling urban centre Up The Punks Goes to Beijing utilised a model of participatory documentary photographing gigs, interviewing people, collecting material and initiating interactions with the local punk scene across language and cultural barriers bridged by a shared interest in punk music.
Like rock, hip hop and metal, punk has been gaining a toehold in youth culture across Asia for the last 20 years. In China punks message is a mixture of wanting to shake off the expectations of their parents generation with concerns about the environment, destruction of communities, corruption and government control of everything. All played out in a society that is undergoing one of the most rapid transformations in human history.
During my time in Beijing I sought to create a series of interactions with members of the punk scene and the public. There has been a series of documentaries in recent years about the emergence of punk in China and how 'crazy' punk in a authoritarian regime must be. Not wanting to follow the same path and simply document from the sidelines I was eager to create some direct interventions into the scene and document the outcomes. One of these was the setting up of an information kiosk about punk in a brand new shopping mall in the suburb of Changying. This ran for six weeks from mid- October to the end of November and offered up nothing but free information on punk in New Zealand and Beijing. On November 23 I was able to get local hardcore band Shochu Legion to play in the mall to a bemused audience of 'aunties and uncles'. Watch a short video of this here.
On November 22 I also held an exhibition at the Dirty Monsters Club, a punk dive bar in the south-east suburb of Tongzhou run by Spike of the band Demerit. The bars DIY ethos and location on the fringes of Beijing appealed to my Wellington punk roots and a desire to at least offer something back to the community I'd been photographing. As of April 2014 the photos were still up on the walls of DMC.
Returning to New Zealand in December I've been working on producing the first edition of Up The Punks zine of which issue #1 is China Syndrome, New Zealand's first bilingual Chinese/ English punk zine. This was launched on March 27 as an online publication which can be read, DIY printed or ordered. The launch was accompanied by an exhibition held at local punk rock cafe Black Coffee.