Buttiful Bad Bebés!

#solo exhibition, #local engagement

At the beginning of 2024, _ao_ao_ing ensemble received an invitation: the Art Museum of Pond Loach, a art museum in a county town, commissioned us to do a group solo exhibition there. County towns in China are a peculiar phenomenon. They are huge in number but rarely visible. They are in the gap between the urban and the rural, dusted by the struggle for living while dreaming the neon dreams. Their drained vitality is the undercurrents in China’s trumpeting development.

Qingyuan, surrounded by mountains

The existence of a contemporary art museum in a county town creates a tension in itself: art scenes happen in the city and in the country, but never in the awkward in-between-ness of the county town. As a contemporary art group, we accepted this invitation out of our persisting interest in locality, and this scene of the “county town” also provides us with a particular opportunity/site/point of departure to look back upon our past creative practices for over five years.

Clippings from performance Hello! Qingyuan!

We blasted in wearing colorful hair and encountered the situation of “being looked at”. This led us to choose the “street”, the most familiar scenario to the county town people, as the site of conversation between them and us, us and them, and them and art. We transferred the context of some of our past works and intertwined them with our daily relationships in the county town to build “the Buttiful Street” that reflects “the county town street”, inviting the county audience to come and stroll, sit and play, and looking at each other on this “street” in the art museum “artistically”.

Images of the exhibition

Last day event where many county people showed up

Curator’s Note

What manner of affection allows one to tenderly call another "bébé"? It dwells solely within the intricate dance of mutual observation, a fusion of resistance and care, a mediation of experience.

_ao_ao_ing, an ensemble flourishing for over five years, cherish each other as such beloveds. They once shared a life, their existences intertwined, fervently exploring the depths of each other's alter-egos. Amidst the chaos of collective creation, a symbiotic 'other us' emerges, navigating and morphing through scenes of stark contradictions—those of mega-cities, elitism, the English language, and the arts, yet marginalized and profoundly grounded.

A new piece grown on top of the metal maze, which the last artist of the museum left

Encountering the county town, _ao_ao_ing ensemble faced an uneasy and restless observation, where hostility and amiability became more pronounced than ever. Adorned in cotton sweaters and riding tricycles, they recognized versions of themselves as both "buttiful" and "bad." In expressions too excessive, exaggerated, or even vindictive—thus doomed to fail—the familiar and entrenced state of alienation is corrupting; beauty becomes a self-evident empowerment transcending gender. In this town, every self is another facet of the ensemble, another buttiful bad bébé.

On the last day of the exhibiton, county children danced to the music

From Annata's fairy bedroom, through the secret niqiu alleys, the _ao_ao_ing ensemble channel their irreplicable, contemporaneous live performances, unveiling a "beautiful street" of the town where time intertwines with illusion. Amidst the pandemic, when the world's balls ceased, an "unnecessary" auction of Lin Zi's party supplies at the Shanghai Rockbund Art Museum linked the local aunties' non-essential wholesale market; the _ao_ao_ing ensemble, fueled by crowdfunding, savored milk tea, uncovering hidden tales of brides in the small Southeast Asian islands. At Dinghai Bridge, the old Shanghai's migrant tales, inverted through "Ctrl+I," reflect the desires and tastes of the county town's departing youth; at the PSA Shanghai Biennale, the _ao_ao_ing ensemble rebel against the regimented museum expressions, translating silent defiance into the intimacy and freedom of the '90s town dance halls, with iridescent colors reborn.

On one end of the Buttiful Street is the space of the vanished dancehall, which used to be very popular in this county

The "Buttiful Bad Bébés !" of the _ao_ao_ing ensemble is an invitation to join a multitude ensemble, entering the buttiful street of the _ao_ao_ing ensemble, within and beyond the county town. Everyone is a performance artist, the county town harbors all its bad bébés.

(by Hu Dingyu, AMPL)

As the exhibiton opened just in time for Chinese New Year celebration, a yearly calendar is our exhibition brochure (contact us for copies)

Artist: _ao_ao_ing ensemble (on-site: DT Fang, July Yang, Lin Cuixi, Selena Lu; online: Xiao Meiyue, Eva Lou )
Curators: Hu Dingyu, Huang Yuting

Execution: Liu Bishu
Maintenance: Xia Maying, Ye Liangyuan
Graphic Design: Wu Lu
Photography: Shen Liang, Hu Yijie

Special Thanks to:

Chen Qing, Cheng Xueqin, Dasheng, Deng Shimei, Fan Haiping, Furong, Hanhan, Hu Song, Hu Yeping, Hu Yijie, Huang Xuewan, Groceries at the Crossroads, Mr. Zhao, Liu Bishu, Li Jinyan, Lijuan, Auntie Minlian, Shen Liang, Wang Jiaji, Wang Qianwei, Wang Xiaojun, Wu Qinghe & Wu Qingmei, Mr. and Mrs. Wu Qichang, Xia Maying, Ye Liangyuan, Zhang Yi, Zhou Chuxiao


Hello, Qingyuan (Happening & performance)
@ Qingyuan County

2024.1.28 - 3.29
Buttiful Bad Bebés!
(Solo exhibition)
@ Art Museum of Pond Loach, Qingyuan

Shake it for the last time
(Closing event)
@ Art Museum of Pond Loach, Qingyuan


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