Scratching Beijing w. Thanh Le Dang

06
Apr
2015

Thanh Le Dang Thanh Le Dang, in charge of Scratch night recently sat down with me at Zarah Cafe on Gulou Dong Da Jie for an interview. So kind she didn’t even shame me for being late. Thanh answered all my questions elaborately, sharing her (incredibly organized) thoughts on her work and really impressing me with how she chose to phrase them.

Thanh Le Dang, whose name already sounds like a stage-name, has all the insider’s stories of Scratch Night Beijing. She is a practising artist, writ and playwright who studied drama, dance and art as a student the UK. Having spent 90% of here time in a studio creating visual art for a while, she felt a gallery space wasn’t enough. Exhibiting artwork in the form of installations wasn’t reaching people the way she wanted. She told me “My work is more conceptual, it’s about the idea, getting people to relate.” Thus, she began working in theatre; because through performance you can really make people understand, not just make them see. Thanh is one of those artists who doesn’t choose a medium to master, but chooses her medium depending on which suits her final message the best. The concept of the Scratch Night was a already a big thing amongst all sorts of artists, so naturally, she got involved as a way to expand her practice and meet people.

What is Scratch Night? Scratching Beijing condenses 4 performances in 1 space in 1 night. These 4 performances are very varied, all from installation, to artwork, to experimental music, to very theatrical performances, and the idea is basically to get creative people together. To have them meet up in space and make some magic, really.

What’s the Beijing scratch night like? Scratching Beijing condenses 4 performances in 1 space in 1 night. These 4 performances are very varied, all from installation, to artwork, to experimental music, to very theatrical performances, and the idea is basically to get creative people together. To have them meet up in space and make some magic really.

Could you give me an example of how Scratch night is interactive with it’s audience? Well, we had this one piece called The Drinking Hooting Tooting Machine at DDC where I invited a good friend, Daniel Rothwell, who is a very interesting experimental musician to come play music. The audience had to pay for a ticket entry, but for that ticket they got a beer, and with that beer they had to participate. Daniel had written a couple of sequences where they had to drink beer and blow in the bottle. The audience was the main part of the piece.

How multicultural the group of people involved? How multicultural is the group of people involved? I was as a student and I still am, really interested in working with more international artists, in particular Chinese. But it’s really slow right now, especially because my Chinese is failing me as I speak. (Laughs) I do have some friends in the Chinese art scene, so it’s happening, but there is the obvious translation barrier.

What’s your strongest memory of something happening during a show, you never saw coming? What’s your strongest memory of something happening during a show, you never saw coming? Actually for this particular scratch at 4C, I’m redeveloping a quite interesting character that I’ve toured with in the UK. She is evolved to fit Beijing. Basically, in the UK as “Theef”and has evolved to “Theef in Beijing” Basically, in the UK she has she was a Vietnamese woman who was married to a rich English man, in Beijing she is also a Vietnamese woman but married to a rich Chinese businessman. Might have been trafficked here, we are not sure yet, at present she is currently in writing development and will be performed in the next Scratch Night, the one at 4 Corners, where we will be having a monologue slam. This Beijing piece is a about her running away from the marriage and going through emotional turmoil, but its a funny piece. I play her myself, and before our show at Modernista I would be in character, also during the intervals and the whole night actually. I’d be speaking to people, even my friends, who didn’t recognize me.

Is Scratch a way to inform people as well? Yes, I want to get a political view on it, but its not what scratch is about. The whole matter is very close to heart, because I’ve grown up in a Vietnamese migrant family. My parents are actually Chinese, but born in Vietnam. I was born in London with my siblings, and when I was writing there I lived in a Vietnamese community where East Asian brides were common.

Thanh Le Dang As an artist who is really putting yourself out there. How did you get so brave? I was recently practicing old characters with a friend, to be able to start writing again and also to find a new voice. When I’m doing that, I’m not myself, so it doesn’t matter. I talk about these characters in third person simply because they aren’t me.

How many people are involved in the Scratch group? The classes varies, but with this particular one there is a total of about 10. Cus Vagaries, by Sarah Hailstones, is a pretty big play with 5 people involved. Along side of that we have spoken word, the returning poet/artist Anna Ruth Yates who does performance and very experimental poetry. We have a guy named Chris Roberson on board, who is very experimental with sounds and has new equipment, so he will be working with Anna for this show.

If there is one thing you could make happen with this 4 Corners show, what would it be? Well, I’m trying to get my Facebook likes up to 100 from my current 83! Also just spread the word that we exist, get Scratch really going and get more creative people involved. Hopefully it will turn out well, I am a big fan of the bar.

Anything else you’d like to say about 4 Corners? We are actually hoping to take over the whole space! Have them exhibit more artworks on the walls, even costumes and you know, have more creativity there beyond music performances. Make it an art space! I also think that the audience is very supportive.

Visit their facebook page to help her in her goal www.facebook.com/ScratchingBeijing/. Thanh Thanh Thanh Thanh

Sanna K / Writer & Photographer / sanna@sannak.se 

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