Welcome to Downtime, a regular series in which we ask our favourite artists for their cultural recommendations. This month, we caught up with 33EMYBW.
33EMYBW’s work fuses warped club mutations, Chinese folk traditions and a fascination for arthropods. An active part of the burgeoning Chinese music scene for over a decade, her critically acclaimed 2018 SVBKLVT release Golem brought the Shanghai producer and visual artist to greater renown. With her third album Arthropods the following year, 33EMYBW delved deeper into her uncanny explorations of post-human machinations. Alongside her releases, 33EMYBW’s live sets at the likes of Nyege Nyege Festival, Unsound Festival and the Aphex Twin-curated Warehouse Project opening in 2019 have cemented her at the forefront of experimental dance music. As sci-fi and folkloric traditions heavily inform her work, it’s fitting that 33EMYBW’s cultural picks take us further into these creative inspirations.
Rendezvous with RamaBy Arthur C. Clarke
There is no direct reference to alien life forms throughout Rendezvous with Rama, an Arthur Charles Clarke science fiction novel published in 1972, instead it leaves the eternal mysteries to human beings alone in the tranquil universe. This novel is rigorous yet beautifully profound – it gives people a more thinking space compared to the current ultra-realistic sci-fi TV shows and films. More importantly, Clarke criticises anthropocentrism and projecting the self onto others.
Rama is named after Ramachandra, a major deity in Hinduism, and is considered one of the incarnations of Vishnu. It reminds me of another groundbreaking artwork that integrates science fiction with traditional mythology: Roger Zelazny’s Lord of Light, which won the Hugo Price in 1968. Reading these two books in a comparative and contrasting way would be fun.
PossessorDirected by Brandon Cronenberg
With Possessor, Brandon Cronenberg has captured one of the most magnificent and sensory scenes of human-machine interaction. Although it is as slow as his earlier movie Antiviral and has a ‘classic’ setting, it expresses the aesthetics of violence eerily and exquisitely.
敦煌莫高窟 美の全貌 (Documentary on the Mogao Grottoes)Available on YouTube. Produced by NHK
Last autumn I went to the Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang, Gansu province. The construction of the Grottoes started in the pre-Qin Dynasty (366 A.D.), and has been built over millennia through the Northern, Sui, Tang, Five Dynasties, Xixia and Yuan dynasties. With 735 caves and 2415 coloured clay sculptures, they’re well known for their enormous scale and delicate murals. For conservation purposes, they only open a few caves for visiting at one time – however, that was enough to astonish me. After returning to Shanghai, I have watched documentaries to make up for what I couldn’t see in person. The one I selected here was the stand out, both aesthetically and academically. The details show great precision and devotion. With clear historical narratives and a subtle soundtrack, the documentary brought me into the imaginary Buddha’s realm, which you cannot experience in the caves.
Suan Nai Jing (Yogurt Elf)Blogger
This make-up blogger never uses any filters or lighting equipment. I watch her live streaming not to gain information on basic make-up techniques, but for her jokes in Mandarin Chinese with a strong Guangxi accent.
Cache 02 is out now on SVBKVLT