RAW to present the year's best works at arts festival

The Rising Artists’ Works has been giving young Chinese artists a platform to showcase their talent. The year’s best will be on show at the Shanghai International Arts Festival.  
Ti Gong

The poster for Yu Bin's musical “Overlord”

The Rising Artists’ Works, an initiative to encourage innovative works by young Chinese artists, will present nine commissioned works and more than 30 invited programs at this year’s Shanghai International Arts Festival which opens on Friday. 

Prices of tickets range from 80 to 1,080 yuan. There are a few free programs at the Shanghai Theater Academy campus but audiences have to book in advance. The other venues are Shanghai International Dance Center and Malanhua Theater in the China Welfare Institute Children’s Palace

No particular theme was set for this year's RAW programs but “an international presentation of traditional culture” is always encouraged.

"We don’t want to set too much limit on young artists to ensure innovation and creativity,” says Wang Jun, president of the Center for Shanghai International Arts Festival. “Yet interestingly, most of the 100 applicants have chosen traditional operas and music as the theme for their creations. It may be a legacy from the past, but it could also be the result of their understanding of the market orientation.”

Musician Yu Bin’s musical “Overlord” shapes the inner world of the tragic warlord Xiang Yu through pipa (Chinese lute) music. Multimedia concert “The Unknown Enlightenment” by YIN5 combines traditional bamboo flute with electronic music and new-media visual presentation. Yueju Opera performer Xin Yaqin interprets a woman’s helplessness in a world that considers marriage the only sign of success in experimental theater “The Destiny of Rebirth.”

Initiated in 2012, the RAW program has been sparing no effort to provide a platform for emerging artists to show their talent.

Renowned artists on the Art Council select the works for the commissioned list and then help the young artists bring their works onto the stage. The festival provides financial support to the selected artists and introduces them to overseas theaters and festivals.

Ti Gong

Modern dance "Above the Silence"

There have been apparent achievements over the past four years, according to Wang. About 50 commissioned works by 59 young artists have premiered at Shanghai International Arts Festival since 2012. Quite a few have performed at Taipei Art Festival, Beethoven Music Festival, Asia Society and Loop Festival.

Rachel Cooper, director of Global Performing Arts and Cultural Programs at Asia Society, has been working with RAW for the last three years. This time, she preferred to watch some of the commissioned works live in Shanghai.

“All the five works I saw so far has touched me. Each one of them is different, but there is something that carries through all of them — the connection to Chinese tradition in one way or another. And they all have the capacity to reach people, build empathy and understanding,” she said.

Cooper, who is also a producer in the United States, took into account what could be successful in the American context while selecting the programs. 

“RAW is really an important platform for supporting young artists who are trying whatever new expressions they can create, whether it is new idea around Chinese opera or combining pipa with new technology,” said Cooper. “What is so exciting about RAW is that it provides a safe space for experiments. It is hard for a young artist to experiment with the huge cost of failure. But you don’t get anywhere if you do not try. 

Ti Gong

Modern Chuangju Opera “Nie Xiaoqing and Ning Caichen”

“The very meaning of RAW in English is ‘it is not finished, it is not complete. It is trying something new.’ It is literally raw. That’s where you can get something very deep, real, often emotional, and you start to find new directions.”

From this platform, the Asian Society has in the past three years picked programs like puppet show “Papa’s Time Machine” that tells the story of a son dealing with his father suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, chamber music show “Dolphin Song” commemorating the Yangtze River dolphin, the musical movie “Sever” that deals with the historical figure Guan Yu and Diao Chan during the Three Kingdoms Period (AD 220-280) on screen and with live musical performances.

“The relationship of art and culture with people is very powerful. It is not all about making deals. I am a real believer in cultural exchanges. What it brings to people both ways is that we share our humanity,” said Cooper.

“From this partnership with Shanghai International Festival, I look for us to work together, presenting artists and works that can share and communicate. I still remember the Kunqu Opera ‘The Peony Pavilion’ that I saw about 20 years ago, and how it inspired me. It is what it means to be human.”

Check www.rawland.cn for more information.

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