Pi village, with occasional music: performance of commonality and affective redistribution by the NWAT
ABSTRACT This paper focuses on music practice of the New Workers Art Troupe (NWAT, xingongrenyishutuan) that is based in Pi Village (picun), Beijing. During last 3-4 years, the troupe has gradually attracted attention of young scholars and college students due to their public advocacy for the rights and benefits of migrant workers in Mainland China. Given structural marginalization of workers and peasants that ironically contradicts with the officially claimed principles of socialism, the NWAT should not be ignored as far as cultural activism in nowadays Mainland China is concerned. Many researchers have investigated NWAT’s practices according to approaches of various discipline, however, the cultural meanings and social-historical condition of its core art form, music, have been largely neglected. Whereas this neglect acts both as cause and consequence, discourses about the NWAT have gradually been overwhelmed by moral commitment or sympathy to “disadvantaged groups,” which eventually proves nothing more than the coming-being of a moral order dominated by the new-born Chinese middle-class. In order to comprehend the affects the NWAT’s music articulated, what need to be illuminated are not only what they are singing, but also where and how they sing, as well as the cultural mechanism behind their practice.
KEYWORDS: Migrant worker; class-consciousness; Ant Tribe; organic intellectual; New Folk
Liu Fei is a post-doctoral researcher in Chinese National Academy of Arts. His academic interests include Marxism, art theory and comparative literature. He has published papers of film study and also writes on cultural analysis of music.