Beijing East Village


In the early 1990s, a group of avant-garde artists formed a collective in a dilapidated village on the outskirts of Beijing, dubbing it the East Village after the New York City neighborhood. There, distanced from the rest of the Beijing art world, artists such as Zhang Huan, Li Guomin, and Ma Liuming experimented with stomach-turning feats of performance art. Zhang famously sat for hours, motionless and covered in honey, in a squalid, fly-infested outhouse for his work 12 Square Meters (1994). Beijing East Village artists collaborated on performances that probed the relationship between the human body, the natural landscape, and the urban environment. The photographer Rong Rong documented many of these works and the artists’ daily lives, and it is largely through his images that the group's ephemeral creations are known. Though the Beijing East Village officially ended with a police raid and a forced eviction in 1994, their legacy continues to resonate with many Chinese contemporary artists.