Friday, November 30, 2012

Xiamen Subtlemob

Rain, rain, rain. Spent much of the day praying it would stop before tonight's event - of which more anon - but it was incessant. Nevertheless, an interesting morning on the small island of Gulangyu, a 5-minute ferry ride across from my hotel. Xiamen, and Gulangyu in particular, have a strong colonial past. The Portuguese arrived here in the 16th century (when it was known as Amor), followed by the British in the 17th Century, and later by the French and the Dutch. The island is distinguished by the fact that there are no cars but lots of pianos. We visited a museum which has 100 of them and it is said that the streets are alive with piano music, though we didn't hear any, possibly because of the rain. Anyway, a pleasant, verdant, relaxing place.
Back on the bigger island, we went from meeting to meeting until finally we made our way to Zengcuo'an, the location for Duncan Speakman's Subtlemob event. I've taken part in two of these before (see posts in Tokyo 2010 and Edinburgh 2011) but this was the first time it's come to mainland China. Essentially it's a sort of secret - but ironically very public - outdoor piece of theatre. You register on-line, select a character, download a 35-minute MP3 file (with Chinese or English voiceover), are told to go to a street somewhere in the city and, at 7.00pm, you and your partner press play. Hundreds of other couples do too. You can spot them of course. It's funny being part of a throng of people, some of whom are in-the-know, others who have no idea what's going on. You carry out certain actions, separate, re-unite and, to cut a long story short, it ends with a slow dance. So I ended up waltzing down the street with my colleague Angus, which was all over Weibo (Twitter) within minutes. It was a kind of risky project to do on the mainland, and we held our collective breaths when a police-car drove by, but it didn't stop.
We celebrated in a great little bar run by 'Dave', a Chinese guy, who also DJs. As does Duncan. So together they did a great double act of an electronic set while we downed several Tsingtaos. Oh, and I forgot to say, it stopped raining just before the Subtlemob started. The gods must have been smiling. 

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