“Common Space- Everything flows 一切皆流” is an artwork by Beijing Calligrapher Qian Geng 钱赓 created during the unplanned residency at C*SPACE with experimental musicianWang Ziheng 王子衡 at the beginning of the pandemic in Berlin 2020. This project is in collaboration with Adam Langer, artistic director and curator, Agency &, Katja Hellkötter and Jan Siefke, the founders of C*SPACE, who opened their space to this project. Created during lockdown in isolation, this artwork has ever since changed the space and resonated with many visitors and artists. In this article, we share the story of how the work emerged in the C*SPACE, with an introduction text by Adam Langer, who created a project ”Krakatoa”reflecting on the collective process.
In addition, we compelled a few artworks inspired by and in dialogue with the work, including artworks by artist Alice Dittmar, ” WATER/水/Wasser” by contemporary dancer Tian Gao and sound artist Giorgio de Santis, ”Black Cube” by designer Rubing Zhang and more. Last, but not the least, we also share with you some behind the scene videos, as well as photos taken by photographer Jan Siefke.
The Beginning: The story of “Common Space-Everything Flows- 一切皆流”
“Staying open while not opened“ became our credo in March, when Berlin went into corona lockdown in 2020. This turned out in unexpected ways, when two artists from Beijing stranded at C*SPACE, a creative Space founded by Katja Hellkötter and Jan Siefke, who have been living in China for many years.
Calligrapher Qian Geng, who goes by the artist name “The 8 Immortals” and founder of the design studio “Three Monkeys”, and Wang Ziheng, an experimental musician, had been on their first tour to Germany, which was curated by Adam Langer of Agency &. Initially, they were invited as speakers for a talk on “Sound, Type and the City” in the course of our CITYMAKERS-Salon series.
But when in March, the corona situation in Europe quickly deteriorated, public events were cancelled. So instead of performing before audiences, Qian Geng and Wang Ziheng created a live video perfomance together with avantgarde noise artist Anton Kaun. Then all flights to China were suspended. Suddenly, Qian Geng and Wang Ziheng found themselves being stranded in Berlin.
The new and freshly renovated C*SPACE rooms on the 3rd floor became a temporary shelter for the two artists. Next, something happened that no one could have anticipated: During the artist’s unscheduled stay, the space went through a spectacular metamorphosis from unopened blank space to deep reflection retreat, to living-in-isolation-studio, to intense creative work atelier, and finally to a powerful manifestation of the richness of ancient Chinese philosophy as much as of an individualistic calligraphic piece of art.
While Wang Ziheng created soundscapes from self-built instruments and saxophone, Qian Geng painted the atelier space’s walls. He started with a reference to the “Thousand Character Classic 千字文“, a poem used as a primer for teaching Chinese to children, and condensed the original 1000 into 250 characters. The remaining three walls are expressions of his own points of views, a free flow of spontaneous thoughts sometimes interwoven with poems from Taoist and Buddhist philosophy, standing out as inspirational metaphors, such as:
“一切皆流 Yīqiè jiē liú Everything Flows
地狱dìyù 赏花 shǎnghuā– you can be below (or in hell) and still see the flower on the surface.”
Text by curator and artsitc director Adam Langer
钱赓 Qian Geng, Adam Langer, 王子衡 Wang Ziheng
共同空间 Common Space, 2020-2021 Courtesy of the artists
Das Raumkunstwerk ‘共同空间 Common Space’ ist das Resultat von Einzelleistungen, die in einem kollektiven Prozess zu einem Gesamtkunstwerk verschmelzen.
Die Spuren des chinesischen Kalligraphen 钱赓 Qian Geng (*1991 Jilin) strukturieren den Raum gleich einer kontemporären Höhlenmalerei: Die West- und Südseite des Raum zeigt das Kunstwerk ‘萬物循環法則子贴 Kalligrafie über die Gesetzmäßigkeiten des Weltkreislauf’, eine Reduktion des ‘千字文 Tausend-Zeichen-Klassiker’ von 周興嗣 Zhou Xingsi (469-521) auf 250 Zeichen. Die Kombination von vier Langzeichen zu einem neugeschaffenen Zeichen gemeinsam mit der räumliche Anordnung des Textes eröffnet ungewöhnliche Interpretationsmöglichkeiten des taoistischer Philosophie. Auf der Ostseite des Raums befinden sich drei Kalligraphien mit buddistischem Bezug: Die Kalligraphie ‘八风不动天邊月 Die Acht Winde bewegen nicht den Mond’ setzen die acht Fensterscheiben der Wand in Bezug zu Gedicht und Geschichte des Song-Dynastie-Gelehrten 苏轼 Su Shi (1037-1101). Die Türüberschrift ‘觀自在’, der Beginn ‘般若波羅蜜多心経 Herz-Sutra (401-402), scheint wie eine ostasiatische Antwort auf die delphische Aufschrift ‘Γνῶθι σεαυτόν Erkenne Dich selbst’ (400 v Chr.). Das kleine Schriftzeichen “空” verweist doppeldeutig auf den Zustand der Leere als höchstes Gut sowie ‘共同空间 Common Space’ als Gesamtkunstwerk. Auf der Nordseite des Raums befindet sich der Haiku ‘世の中は 地獄の上の 花見かな In dieser Welt gehen wir auf dem Dach der Hölle – Und bestaunen Blumen’ des japanischen Dichters 小林 一茶 Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828) sowie Gedichte von Qian Geng, die sich um ein zentrales Schriftzeichen gruppieren: ‘一切直流 Alles fließt’ ist das Motto des Tenor-Saxophonisten 王子衡 Wang Ziheng (*1989 Tianjin), der die Arbeit von Qian Geng musikalisch begleitete. Als unsichtbare Ebene aktiviert eine Liveaufnahme der kraftvollen, oft harten Klänge den Raum und macht die große Energie der Entstehung von ‘共同空间 Common Space’ spürbar. Die Gruppendynamik dokumentiert auch ‘reflections 1’ von Adam Langer (*1992 München), dessen Einladung der Künstler den Gemeinschaftsprozess gestaltete. Als Kunstedition gemeinsam mit Liveaufnahme und Performancefragmenten unter dem Titel ‘喀拉喀托 Krakatoa’ veröffentlicht werfen Collagen aus Fotografien, Text und Klang Schlaglichter auf Aspekte und Akteure der kollektiven Arbeit und laden ein das Kunstwerk mit eigenen Gedanken zu beleben.
Entstanden im Zeitraum 15. März bis 25. April 2020 lädt 共同空间 Common Space ein zur Reflektion über transnationale Kollektive und befürwortet künstlerische Wagnisse.
Text: Adam Langer, 2021
Book Launch Krakatoa: collective stories of Qian Geng, Anton Kaun & Wang Ziheng
As part of the Artspring Programme in 2021, a year after the “Common Space- Everything Flows 一切皆流” emerged in C*SPACE Berlin, we celebrated the book launch of art edition Krakatoa, edited by artistic director Adam Langer.
The work is a reflection on the collective process of the encounters and interventions of the calligrapher 錢賡 (Qian Geng), the noise musician Anton Kaun, and the avant-garde saxophonist 王子衡 (Wang Ziheng) at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in spring 2020, and the people they encountered. Especially Malte Müller & Lena Rix & David Wallraf in Hamburg, Ludwig Hauser & Yahsmine Maçaira & Matthias Neuburger in Ingolstadt and Jan Siefke & Katja Hellkötter in Berlin – A commoning, which turned the walls of our C*Space into the artwork “Common Space: Everything is Flow”.
A 228 pages-publication with cassette tape, the art edition “Krakatoa” presents you with an invitation to partake in the collective process by immersing in photography, interview and sound fragments. It is co-released by the publishing house icon Verlag and the music label WV Sorcerer Productions (巫唱片). Interview and sound fragments.
“Krakatoa” is an art edition consisting of reflections 1 (artbook), sounds 1 (cassette) and various fragments.
– reflections 1 (228-page artbook) tells the story of 3 artists, about their journey and performance in Germany at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in spring 2020, and the people they encountered.
– sounds 1 (90-minute cassette) is the reflection of the noise they produced.
– fragments (mixed materials) are the traces of the artistic process such as paint, ash, broken vinyl, canvas, plastic foil, and more.
Learn more about Krakatoa here:
Further Artworks that have resonated with the “Common Space-Everything Flows 一切皆流” since 2020
Pop-Up Exhibition by Alice Dittmar
As part of the Pop-Up Teahouse AsiaBerlin 2020, the visual artist Alice Dittmar exhibited her beautiful paperworks, creating a harmonic dialogue with the calligraphy mural work “Common Space-Everything Flows 一切皆流” by Qian Geng. In our smaller studio, her paper and photographic works were a tribute to our Kiez Weißensee, portraying beloved lake Weißensee.
Site-specific Dance Performance WATER / 水 / WASSER
“WATER / 水 / WASSER” was a performance, part of the Pop-Up Teahouse Berlin project created by Tian Gao, contemporary dancer from Wuhan and Giorgio De Santis, Italian sound artist.
Tian embraced the space playing with the objects in the yard, flowing like water through the audience and improvising on the words she was given by everybody at the start. Her piece leaves an unforgettable footprint – like water calligraphy – in C*SPACE, embodying the spirit of ”Common Space, Everything Flows 一切皆流” which was the first in-situ art piece in C*SPACE that emerged here in 2020 by Qian Geng.
Art Installation “Black Cube”
Inspirations from the art work “Common Space – Everything Flows 一切皆流 ” continues to resonate with artists from different disciplinaries. In December 2021, Zhang Rubing 张汝冰, Berlin-based creative from Xian, had the idea for the “BLACK CUBE” installation, as part of her ongoing “3RE-Material-project” that investigates How we can rethink, reuse, recycle everyday material.
“Hanging the black cube at a certain distance away from the ground, invites the visitor to participate and enter the cube, to experience a feeling of in between: in between inside and outside, lightness and heaviness, between darkness and brightness. The black cube tries to create a dialogue and spacial relationship between the viewer and the handwritings on the wall.”
Contemporary dancer Tian Gao created an interactive dance performance with the installation.
Together with the architects and photographers Wang Keyao and Li Xin, Rubing Zhang is an also a co-founder of Zhijian Workshop, a multidisciplinary design & art studio based in China, France and Germany.
Photo copyright: Keyao Wang _zhijian_workshop
Eva Lüdi Kong on “Thousand Character Classics/ 千字文/Der 1000 Zeichen Klassiker”
In the first month of the year 2022, C*SPACE had a SPECIAL GUEST – Eva Lüdi Kong, the author of the German translation of “Thousand Character Classics” visiting.
At our January Teahouse Salon evening she not only shared with us her profound understanding of the literature “1000-Character-Classic 千字文”, that she translated into German language: “Der 1000-Zeichen Klassiker” (Reclam, 2018). With her expertise, we could also indulge deeper into the meaning of the artwork “Common Space – Everything Flows 一切皆流” where the “1000-Character Classic” had been written on the walls by artist Qian Geng, a cooperation with Wang Ziheng and Adam Langer. She shared the insight of the art of translating the literature masterpiece, full of the poetic charm of the Chinese language.
Eva Lüdi Kong is also the author of the German translation of the most popular Chinese Novel “Journey to the West” (Reclam, 2019).
Behind the scene Videos of “Common Space-Everything flows-一切皆流”
How did the artists experience their special lockdown situation at C*SPACE in Berlin? Listen to their message here:
CITYMAKERS- Interview with Qian Geng and Wang Ziheng
Listen to curator Adam Langer’s reflections of the value of cultural exchange and human encounters across borders in times of crisis:
Artistic direcotr Adam Langer on “Sound, Type and the City Space”
To learn about the artistic works of Qian Geng and Wang Ziheng in China, check out the links below
海火集 The Sea Fire Electric Poetry Collection 2022 by QIAN GENG钱赓