By a strange twist of fate, Wang and Ho had already been talking with Shanghai-based artist
for almost a year about a piece the latter wanted to do at Arrow Factory. It would involve replacing the glass façade with a “stark wall” and a small, barred window fitted with a two-way mirror. Though they hadn’t scheduled anything, when word of the coming bricks started to bounce around Jianchang, Yang got a call, and by June 15th, the Arrow Factory team had done the manual work of walling up its façade all on their own.
“When we were doing the installation, our neighbors thought, ‘Oh my god, it’s starting,’” recalls Ho. When the official bricking crew actually did arrive in August, Arrow Factory got a pass (“They figured we did it ourselves,” Ho says), though Wujin, a café and community space a few storefronts north that’s also co-run by Ho and Wang, lost its only entrance, and subsequently closed.
Wujin’s forced closure left Ho deeply disheartened—she and Wang, who live in an apartment nearby, actually considered leaving Beijing. “I was so depressed about the whole thing that I said, ‘We can go anywhere. We don’t have to be in Beijing, there’s no reason,’” she remembers. Through their personal networks and Arrow Factory’s long list of exhibitors, Ho and Wang have strong connections to lesser-known contemporary art hubs across China, such as Dongguan on the southern coast near Hong Kong, where artist
has recently launched a residency program aiming to create a dynamic local art community.
“I personally think that there are more possibilities in the fringe—that’s where I’m used to working,” says Ho. “There’s more intersection and overlap and weird crossover that actually can happen. There’s all this funky stuff going on in Guangzhou, all these artists that have no resources, but they make really cool stuff anyway. It’s happening everywhere [in China] in a much more interesting way than 10 years ago.”
Despite these hurdles, Arrow Factory and Wujin persist in Beijing for the time being, though their histories on the margin are worth examining.