Ever since I've moved to Shanghai, the question of whether I live in a cool place has been bothering me. Shanghai is messy and vibrant. its taxi drivers have the worst manners in the world, and you can still find yourself stuck in an elevator with a dude who smokes and offering you a cigi, exactly when you come back home from a sweaty workout.
But is it cool? I couldn't be confident about saying Yes.
However, had you visited Shanghai during its last fashion week, you'd have gotten a pretty clear answer- the party has moved here and we’re all having rice for dinner. Offsite radical venues, underground parties, experimental presentations and bad-ass hip hop artists rule the scene. It wasn’t just about fashion. It was about energy.
I sat down to talk to Tianzhou Chen, one of the most promising Chinese artist of his generation exhibited in Palais the Tokyo in 2015 and since then building his reputation in the global art scene. Chen’s work transforms symbolism of buddhism to cutting edge aesthetic of the rave scene, drugs, violent kitsch, provocative gang-creatures and other after school activities we all like. He recently launched Asian Dope Boys, an experimental platform that functions as a proximity of Chen’s artistic work, under which he curates dope parties, nihilist music events and a radical fashion collection.
We talked about beer, money, art collectors, fashion and the definition of cool. Was too fun, and too long. Here is a recap.
Hadas Zucker (HZ): Let’s start with a cliche.- where does your fashion inspiration comee from? how does it relate to your artwork?
Tianzhou Chen (TC): Well, it doesn’t really. My inspiration for the fashion line is pretty random. it’s not meaningful, it's just clothes, I love it. I make a lot of complex meaningful art works, so for me it’s great just to make something fun. If anything, it might be influenced by music, which has a huge impact on my visual world, alternative, experimental hip hop is something I listen to on a daily basis.
HZ: This is why you launched A.D.B?
TC: Yes, exactly. we named it after a Japanese girls band called A.K.B 48. we started doing parties, inviting D.J’s and performers we discovered and who had never been to china, for example most recently Karma She. I use my art career to support the A.D.B experimental adventures.
HZ: Your fashion presentation was in a dark, smoky basement hall, part of Labelhood an alternative fashion venue. A mix of maximalist aesthetics, super dense energy, experimental costumes and a gang of radical Chinese kids. How do you feel about this new youth culture ?
TC: I thinks it’s great, I feel that thanks to social media this new generation is much more connected to what happens globally. They have more knowledge on what happens out there, but the performance scene is still quite young here, and not very mature. For me it is at least, they still really sounds the same, missing something special and outstanding like Zebra Ktaz which we just brought to SFHW.
HZ: You use a lot of grotesque textures and prints, deconstructed shapes, hyper saturated colors, and symbolism both in fashion and you art work, what is your take on bad taste ?
TC: I’m not trying to be bad taste, it is just that i have a very different sense of what is wearable or fashionable. I don't like to think of the market, though fashion is commercial. I think in Europe it will be understood better and we are now working on distributing there.
HZ: Do you care who wears you clothes?
TC: Yes. I want good looking people to wear my clothes. And cool ones.
HZ: Is it the same for your art work? do you care who buys it?
TC: Yhe, of course, i want cool collectors to have my work, but it could also sometimes end up in a crappy hotel, in that case, haha you just don’t tell anyone about it.
HZ: what is your daily routine?
TC: I’m not one of this hard working artists, I’m not working every day. I drink everyday. Mostly beer.