In August 2005, Saskia Janssen (‘s-Hertogenbosch, 1968) stayed at the artist residency ‘Lijiang Studio’ in Lijiang, Yunnan province, South-Eastern China. At Ellen de Bruijne PROJECTS, Janssen , who works with elements of documentary and performance, shows a video and sound installation, with the town of Lijiang as a red line. The town of Lijiang and it’s inhabitants, the Naxi tribe, was hardly known to the West until the adventurer, botanist and writer Joseph F.Rock ‘discovered’ the town in 1922 and made it known to the West by his many articles for The National Geographic. In the late 1980s, Lijiang was named as an official tourist site by the Chinese government. A new town and airport were built alongside the old town, making it accessible for mass tourism. With this development, Lijiang saw not only the arrival of tourists but also of Han Chinese entrepreneurs, who rented the traditional wooden houses from the Naxi and transformed them into hotels, cafes and souvenir shops. Many of the Naxi population moved to the new town and became landlords. Today, walking through the old town one sees the Han dressed in Naxi costume, playing Naxi music while in the new town, the Naxi wear modern clothes and listen to Han music.
For the exhibition at Ellen de Bruijne PROJECTS , Janssen has made, with help of inhabitants of Lijiang ‘small ritualistic acts’ as a ode to the old and new town: A ‘flower border’ between the two towns, an ode sung to the old town and a reconstruction of a photograph from a 1920’s edition of The National Geographic; a shaman altar for good fortune. And she recorded music in both towns as a document of a changing culture. From this, Janssen has produced a record:
EAST / WEST, Paradise in Reverse,
music from the two towns of Lijiang