Over the Mayday holiday, I jumped at the opportunity to head down to Zhejiang for the Dou Mui International Art Festival, held in the remote village of Dou Mi Ao, outside of Songyang – a cozy, close-cluster ancient village tucked ahead in the lush mountainous region of Zhejiang that’s straight out of on stroll oil painting. While many of the villages around Songyang are starting to be transformed into chic spots chock full of homestays, cafes, and even libraries, Dou Mi Ao is looking to more-so become a hub for budding artists, part of a new initiative by the government to draw people back to these scarcely populated villages, whose young residents are leaving in droves.
A lot of the original foundations in the village remain, and around ten families still reside in the village in their homes. Other buildings are being preserved to accommodate a wide variety of art exhibitions, while other sections and buildings are being refurbished and remade into galleries whilst keeping the original aesthetics of the village intact. Whether or not this initiative will work in the long run remains unseen (I imagine it wouldn’t take long for the subsided artists to discover the butt loads of money to be made through Airbnb) but it’s an honorable concept with a grass-roots mentality that seems to play into China’s attempted rural renaissance.
For the event, over 42 domestic artists had exhibitions scattered across the village, turning the quaint place into a treasure chest of art – turn one corner and stumble into a gallery; turn another corner and find yourself in a lush tea field. Three Beijing artists – thruoutin, Solent, and Fenni – were invited to the village to perform their ambient (and then some) sets as well as a collaborative set, to a crowd made up mostly of old village ladies, whose perplexed yet mesmerized engagement provided one of the many unforgettable sights of the day. When asked about their thoughts on the music, the most common answer was ‘I Don’t Know’. It also took place in an ancestral temple adding a whole other level of mystique and surreal beauty – the perfect accompaniment to the amazing scenery that engulfed us.