Drama and Contemporary Art Triggered by ShaMaTe 由杀马特引发的戏剧和当代艺术
About the Event 关于活动
At the end of February, a group of youngsters with flamboyant hair colors “ambushed” Anfu Road. As a publicity campaign of a theatre play titled All Brothers within the Four Seas, the “ambush” didn’t really build much momentum for the play, but seemed to have brought shamate, a notion that seemed to have been sinking into oblivion for some time, back to public attention
The Chinese term of shamate is a transliteration of the English word “smart”, referring to a subculture once popular among young rural migrant workers in Chinaand known for low-cost yet outlandish fashion, hair styles and colors. Shamate ran wild in China in about 2008, and its members were fond of “Martian language”, active in dedicated online forums and offline spaces like hairstyling salons and roller rinks. Dramatic hair styles with varying levels of flamboyant colors plus idiosyncratic behaviors were enthusiastically sought after by this group of youngsters. Since around 2012 the trend to consume and crack down shamate emerged and gradually won anupper hand, leading to the disappearance of the shamate culture both online and in physical spaces. Many consider shamate members as clownish “others”. If we make a good search, we’d still find traces of the online “siege” of shamate. Back then the mass media fought against their aesthetics and even looked down upon this group of marginalized, often poor rural youths who felt at a loss in the face of the dynamic and drastically changing urban-rural relations
More than a decade on from its “death”, the term shamate began trending again on Chinese social platforms in recent years and made its way onto the big screen. Since 2020, We Were Smart, a documentary directed by Li Yifan, has attracted quite some media attention and inspired discussions after being disseminated in a variety of ways. Afterwards shamate has further made its way onto the theatre stage. In a social context inundated with mixed modernity, when minority aesthetics encounter the mass public and when a subculture deemed “lowbrow and rural” made appearance on the highbrow theatre stage, what kind of special chemistry would be sparked?
What is shamate? What is contemporary art? What is socially-engaged art? How are they related? What is theatre play? What is documentary? What contents are worth recording and watching? What’s the biggest difference between the two art forms in the presentation of shamate culture? Li Yifan and Mark Zhuang Yi, directors of the documentary and the theatre play respectively, will have an after-screening discussion with audience after the screening of We Were Smart. Apart from academic discussions and analysis, in order to help participants to gain a better and more intuitive sense of shamate, we also invite Luo Fuxing, founder of shamate culture, to do hairs for the loving brothers of shamate – after all, it’s the must-have and most eye-catching symbol of the shamate family.
About the Speakers 关于讲者
Playwright and theatre director. Double Bachelor of English Literature and Sinology from the National University of Singapore, Master of Musical Theater Performance from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and Master in Modern History of Europe from University of Cambridge. Extremely versatile, his works encompass theatre play, musical, opera and dance theatre. With a style that features wild imagination and precise structure, profound originality and philosophical reflection, his works manage to integrate contemporary culture and classical traditions with a strong focus on public issues and pop cultures.
Artist and documentary director. Graduating from the Central Academy of Drama in Beijing in 1991, he now works at Sichuan Fine Arts Institutes in Chongqing. He is one of the main initiators of art projects “One Man’s Society”, “Temporary Art Community”, “Six Rings is One Ring More than Five Rings” and “Youth from Other Provinces”. Premiered in December 2019 at Guangdong Times Museum, his documentary We Were Smart has been screened in many other cities ever since and inspired wide discussions in the cultural circles both at home and abroad.