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Youth in History: A Cross-Cultural, Intermedia, and Temporal Exploration of Youth


April 9, 2023, 14:00-16:00, Conversations, UCCA Auditorium
April 15, 2023, 19:30-21:00, Experimental Lectures, UCCA Auditorium
April 16, 2023, 19:30-21:00, Experimental Lectures, UCCA Auditorium
April 21-22, 2023, 19:30-21:00, the Art Museum of Nanjing University of the Arts (AMNUA)

Youth is not only the young people of the present, but also the past and future of people.

“Youth in History” was initiated by theater artist Zhao Chuan (Shanghai) and co-created with Anuja Ghosalkar (Bangalore), Qondiswa James (Cape Town), Pierre-Angelo Zavaglia (Geneva/Paris), as well as musicians Dimitri de Perrot (Zurich) and Léo Collin (Zurich), forming a collaborative and performative group beyond geographical and generational boundaries, jointly investing in this international cross-cultural, intermedia, and online/offline research and creation project. Their experimental live work “Youth in History,” which they collaborated on, will be presented to the audience in the spring of 2023 through parallel online and offline channels.


Concept: Zhao Chuan (Shanghai)
Artist collaborators: Anuja Ghosalkar (Bangalore), Qondiswa James (Cape Town), Pierre-Angelo Zavaglia (Geneva/Paris)
Live sound improvisation: Dimitri de Perrot (Zurich)
Sound concept: Léo Collin (Zurich)

Planning: Yao Mengxi, Zhu Xiaojing (UCCA); Chen Ping, Lin Shuchuan (AMNUA)
Project Coordinator: Yang Yue
Stage Design: Xu Zhifeng
Multimedia Consultant: Zheng Weimin
Multimedia Production: Hua Xizi
Video Editing: Zeng Lingyu

Since 2017, “youth” has been one of Zhao Chuan’s main areas of exploration. Together with his collaborators from the folk drama troupe Grass Stage, he hosted related theater workshops and performances in Shanghai and elsewhere in 2018 and 2019. After the intensification of the epidemic in 2022, international travel was  blocked, and he entered into a new cross-cultural theater experiment that integrates online and offline, continuing to explore youth-related topics. Starting from July 2022, he and other international artists have used new working methods to conduct research, revisit the former youths, and get to know those “youths” from different cultures and social backgrounds who have been part of history. In their discussions and collective creation, they re-approached the past voices, images, social relationships, or spaces and architecture, expanding their observation dimensions and potential for understanding to activate the energy and wisdom value of “youth” as a historical category.

“Youth in History” is supported by the Pro Helvetia Shanghai, Swiss Arts Council. It is a continuation of the performance and seminar project called “Staging Alterity,” which was initiated and promoted by Zhao Chuan and Pro Helvetia Shanghai in 2016. The on-site presentation of “Youth History” in the spring of 2023 is co-hosted by UCCA Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing and the Art Museum of Nanjing University of the Arts (AMNUA). Epson provides special project equipment support.

Zhao Chuan

ZHAO Chuan, born in 1967, works across theatre, literature, film and contemporary art. He creates alternative and socially engaged theatre and is the founding member and mastermind of the Shanghai-based theatre collective Grass Stage (since 2005). For over a decade, as a theatre maker and writer, he has created a number of theatre works across China together with his collective Grass Stage. However, they are often unable to present these works in conventional theatres because of the issues they addressed and their non-professional set-up. The group encourages people from different backgrounds to consider human living conditions and historical issues, and stimulate participators and audiences to respond to those issues through creative process, rehearsals, performances and post-talks. Given its strong interest in social practice, the group’s theatre activities have often been considered too ideological, marginal and uncertain by the mainstream. From 2015 to 2019, Grass Stage supported industry workers to make their own theatre pieces; From 2017 to 2019, in dialog with young people from diverse backgrounds, the group has developed stage plays on youth issues in today’s China. His theatre works include Geli Isle (2021), Wild Seeds (2018) and Social Theater Trilogy (2006–2017), comprising World Factory, The Little Society, and Madmen’s Stories, Unsettling Stones (2012) etc. “Theatre of Contagion” is their new start of a series works since the pandemic era in early 2020. He has been awarded several international literature awards, including the Unita Prize for New Novelists (Taiwan 2001). His publications include fiction, essays and art criticism: On Radical Art: the 80s Scene in Shanghai (author, 2014), The Body at Stake: Experiments in Chinese Contemporary Art and Theatre (co-editor, author, 2013), Beyond the Stage: Zurich Sketches (author, 2021) and AnOther Gathering: Performance in Multiple Realities (co-editor, author, 2021). He is also the producer of an independent documentary titled Shanghai Youth (2015). He has been involved in many international art residencies, collaboration projects and teaching.

Anuja Ghosalkar

Anuja GHOSALKAR is the founder of Drama Queen—a Documentary theatre company, evolving a unique form of theatre in India since 2015. Her practice focuses on personal histories, archival absences and blurring the hierarchies between audience and performer—to extend the idea of theatre to create audacious work. Iterations around form and process, modes of (social) media, sites, technologies, reclaiming narratives on gender and intimacy are critical to her performance making and pedagogy.

Her performances and workshops have been programmed by University of Oxford, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Sophiensale, Serendipity Arts Festival, National Centre for Biological Sciences, Forum Transregionale –ZMO, among others. Anuja is the co- curator of the international workshop series on Documentary Theatre with Kai Tuchmann—that programmed artists like Gobsquad Collective, Boris Nikitin, Rimini Protokoll, Zhao Chuan. She co-curated VR based performances for the Serendipity Arts Virtual 2020. They also designed and facilitated an online course curriculum on Digital Documentary Theatre for the Serendipity Arts Foundation.

As visiting faculty at Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology, she leads practice based pedagogy. She has written on film and performance for Nang Magazine, Art India, Bioscope, Hakara and for an edited volume on Performance Making and the Archive for Routledge.

Her recent work The Lonely Hearts Club, started as an instagram handle in March 2020, is now an online show about voyeurism, relationships with screens and erotica. Her newest live performance premiered at Sophiensale, Berlin in November 2021– I Promise the Bearer frames questions about art, funding and theatre. She is the 2022 research fellow at the archives of the National Centre for Biological Studies.

Qondiswa James

Qondiswa James is a cultural worker living in Cape Town, South Africa. She is an award-winning theatre-maker, performance artist, film and theatre performer, instillation artist, writer, arts facilitator and activist. She has received her Masters in Live Art, Interdisciplinary and Public Art at the Institute of Creative Arts. Her work engages the socio-political imagination towards mobilising transgression.

She has staged public art interventions at Infecting the City and Live Arts Festival. Her onscreen appearances include High Fantasy (DIFF 2018 Best South African Film Award, Artistic Bravery Award). She has directed theatre works including A Faint Patch of Light (winner of a 2019 Standard Bank Ovation Award) and her original play A HOWL IN MAKHANDA at the Virtual National Arts Festival 2020. Most recently she has staged a reading of an original play script, She Is Alone, as part of Baxter Theatre Centre’s pilot project, the Masambe Theatre’s Writers Lab 2021.

Pierre-Angelo Zavaglia

Pierre-Angelo grew up between France and Venezuela. He did his Master’s degree in theatre studies at the École Normale Supérieure de Paris (ENS) and wrote a thesis about documentary theatre addressing the Rwandan genocide. At the same time, he also got some experience when he staged multiple plays with the Devolveremos collective, who exhibited their work at the Théâtre Paris Villette or at the DOC! in Paris. He attended professional workshops with artists such as Milo Rau and Dieudonné Niangouna. In 2016, he was invited to the Young Actors’ and Directors’ Meeting in Stockholm during the Ingmar Bergman International Theatre Festival, where young actors and directors from all around Europe met up to talk about their practice. In 2017, he started a Master’s degree in directing at La Manufacture – School of Performing Arts in Lausanne, where he developed new areas of his research alongside Marie-José Malis, Philippe Quesne, Massimo Furlan, Maya Bösch, and even the Blitz Theatre Group. Later on, in September 2019, he presented his final project at the Manufacture, PAOLO, where he tackled the political situation in Venezuela through a fictional story. After he graduated from La Manufacture, he assisted Yan Duyvendak for the interactive performance VIRUS. He became an associated artist of L’Abri in Geneva for the season 2020-2021. He recently presented in L’Abri in Geneva his new project Crudo y pesado, a documentary performance about Venezuela, oil and exile, written with Yoletty Bracho, a Venezuelan researcher exiled in France. He is currently assisting Igor Cardellini and Tomas Gonzalez for the performance L’Âge d’or, a Vidy Lausanne production and he also assists Julien Meyer for the show Ritournelle in Théâtre Saint-Gervais Genève.

Dimitri de Perrot

Dimitri de Perrot is an internationally active and awarded Swiss artist, musician, director and lecturer at the Zurich University of the Arts, ZHdK. At the core of his research is the narrative through and with sound at interfaces of theatre, music and fine arts. His works and collaborations tour worldwide and have been programmed in prestigious venues and festivals: Le Centquatre Paris, BAM New York, Festival d’Avignon, Hong Kong Arts Centre, Romaeuropa Festival – Rom, Théâtre Vidy-Lausanne, Barbican London, Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre, Théâtre de la Ville – Paris, Museum Tinguely Basel, Schauspielhaus Zürich, Biennale Musiques en Scène – Lyon, Zürcher Theater Spektakel, among others. Dimitri de Perrot lives and works in Zurich, Switzerland.

Léo Collin

Composer Léo Collin studied applied arts, classical music and music composition in France, Germany and Switzerland.

He creates solo pieces, ensemble pieces, radio shows and musical theatre (Baleen in 2019, Medusen in 2020 and Corals in 2022). Since 2018 he has been working regularly with composer Jörg Köppl and the ensemble metanoia, and several audio performance pieces have been created. He staged and played with Kollektiv International Totem, or co-curated the serie detalk show, a mini- musiktheater with different sonic artists. His scores have been performed by ensembles such as les Métaboles (Paris), Lemniscate (Basel) and Lucilin (Luxembourg), etc. He also composed electronic music for theatre and dance. He has worked as a performer for choreographers Alessandro Sciarroni and Sebastian Baumgartner.

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