Ruggero Franceschini was a guest in Chengdu, China, from October 10th to 23rd for a two weeks residency at the A4 Residency Art centre, where he worked on his show ANTHOLOGY OF SUPERFLUOUS ACTIVITIES and he held a three-day workshop, ‘Life/Performance · Superfluous Activities’ where participants explored Luxelakes and its surrounding areas.
I met artists Anqi Zhao and Ray-Pei Yu while attending with them the MA in Performance Design and Practice at Central Saint Martins University, London, between 2017 and 2019. During the course we created site-specific performances together with audience participation, in London, but also in Italy (Polverigi, Milan) and Greece (Athens). Once the course ended, we started the ANTHOLOGY OF SUPERFLUOUS ACTIVITIES project together with other artists, with a two-week residency in Taipei, Taiwan, at the 435 Banqiao Art Center in November 2019.
Pandemic interrupted the project after the first residency. Anqi Zhao, Ray-Pei Yu and I continued to work in parallel until we were invited by the A4 International Art Center in Chengdu, China, to continue the project.
The residency, lasting about two weeks, took place in October 2023. The idea was to continue working on the treatise written in the 17th century by Wen Zhenheng that described activities of literati of the time such as walking at night, taking naps, observing paintings… The work involved inviting a small group of people to experience these superfluous activities in public space, thus generating performative actions, for an audience of passersby.
In Chengdu, we created a completely new local version, incorporating the unique characteristics of the way people spend their leisure time in this city in Sichuan Province. A city famous for the relaxed nature of its inhabitants, long hours spent in tea houses, zoos that protect pandas, and time spent at tables eating spicy food-a perfect place for superfluous activities.
We were also staying near the museum, which is located in the newly built New Tianfu district on the edge of town: a particularly interesting area to explore, lacking in history and local identity compared to the old town, where buildings have recently sprung up all together.
The residency culminated in a three-day workshop open to local people where we shared our art practice, and paths through two parks in the area, where we applied, sometimes metaphorically, sometimes literally, the superfluous activities suggested by Wen Zhenheng.
At the end of the residency, the museum presented the various works, ours and those of the other artists, with an Open Studio event, in which we presented an actual video instruction manual, photos, and our own roll-printed version of Wen Zhenheng’s Anthology of Superfluous Activities.
The experience was very positive: the support of Crossing The Sea was vital in making it a reality, and it allowed me to continue a worthwhile art project that had particularly suffered the consequences of the pandemic. A4 International Art Center, in the person of curator Caicai Liyuan and her assistants, followed me with care and support from the beginning to the end of the residency, responding promptly and effectively to all my needs, creating an open, fertile and mixed environment of work and cultural exchange.