Shanzhai Lyric


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"FREEDON (and on and on)," Shanzhai Lyric archive in residence at Women's Art Library, Goldsmiths: London; UK (2019). Courtesy Display Distribute.

FREEDON (and on and on)
Shanzhai Lyric
Archive in Residence
August 2018 - September 2019

As part of a larger curatorial project at the Woman’s Art Library at Goldsmiths, the Shanzhai Lyric archive has taken up year-long residence in the Special Collections & Archives reading room to culminate in an exhibition. For the duration of the residency, the archive is open for consultation by visitors and a limited edition clothing label-bookmark is available for takeaway until supplies run out.

The Shanzhai Lyric is an inquiry into global logistics and linguistics through the prism of technological aberration and nonofficial cultures. By collecting, archiving, and studying the experimental text that often appears on counterfeit (shanzhai) clothing coming out of China and proliferating across the globe, the project looks specifically at how the language of counterfeit uses mimicry, hybridity, and permutation to both revel in and reveal the artifice of global hierarchies, exploring the potential of mis-translation and nonsense as utopian world-making.

This current cycle of work, entitled “FREEDON (and on and on),” seeks to put shanzhai lyrics in conversation with artist practices that occupy the“non-serious” sites of gossip, fashion accessory, textile, glitch, and theft. Drawing on Marxist feminist discourses that examine the contemporary conditions sustaining the historical invisibilising of women’s labour (for instance, in fashion production or as data processors in IT industries), shanzhai lyric is here considered as an unauthorized collective creative process that refutes the logic of private ownership and fosters instead the active redistribution of property.

Over the coming months, select respondents have been invited to consult the garments, considering shanzhai tactics within a lineage of feminist strategies of everyday resistance that often go unrecognized. Documents of their experience will form part of an accumulating set of traces and interventions informing the project. The culminating exhibition will assemble this evidence alongside the work of artists held in the WAL collection who employ strategies that trouble the neat logic of binaries, residing in a slippery space between high and low, original and counterfeit, consumer and producer. Situating these practices in conversation with the hybrid idiom of shanzhai lyric proposes a transgression of the norms of individual authorship, and finds in both errant t-shirt texts and forms of feminist artistic practice, a shared gesture of reclaiming the commons.

For more information please contact the Women's Art Library