21, 23 January
Actors: Odin Biron, Evgeny Sangadzhiev, Nikita Kukushkin, Yang Ge, Gueorgui Koudrenko, Julia Loboda, Andrey Petrouchenkov, Evgeny Romantsov, Anastassia Radkova, Igor Sharoïko
Direction, scenography, dramaturgy: Kirill Serebrennikov
Choreography: Ivan Estegneev, Evgeny Kulagin
Music: Ilya Demutsky
Costumes: Tatiana Dolmatovskaya
Lights: Serguey Koucher
Stage direction: Anna Shalashova
Stage manager: Ekaterina Moseykina
Production: M.ART Foundation
Co-production Festival d'Avignon
In partnership with Gogol Center
Kirill Serebrennikov’s production OUTSIDE had its world premiere at the Avignon festival. The main event of Avignon 2019, OUTSIDE was named ‘a deeply personal statement about freedom, beauty, life and death.’ Music was written by Ilya Demutsky (Nureyev, Hero of Our Time). The play was written and directed by Kirill Serebrennikov. The production quotes poems and reconstructs photos of the famous Chinese photographer Ren Hang who committed suicide in February 2017. OUTSIDE is the story of an imaginary encounter between the two artists who talk about the choice, the limits of freedom, beauty, the fragility of the human body, about love and flying. “I came to revenge the state of knives / but I am not a knife, I am just a scar” (Ren Hang).
Kiril Serebrennikov (director):
"I first learned about works of the Chinese photographer Ren Hang when the book was published by Taschen. At Gogol Center I have a young Chinese actress in the troupe, Yang Ge. I asked her about Ren Hang and she promised to find him. Lo and behold, when she wrote to him on Instagram, he immediately answered. I knew we had to meet, we had to talk and discuss a collaborative project for the theater ... and literally two days before we had planned to meet in person, he committed suicide. It happened on the 24th of February, on his birthday. It was pretty shocking for me: you’re expecting to meet a person, you have his contacts, you have already arranged everything, and suddenly he kills himself, jumps out of the window ... on his birthday. I had a feeling that a man I had grown close to had died…
In OUTSIDE everything that happens on stage is quite personal, but it is inspired by the visual imagery and poems of Ren Hang. There is even a scene with an imaginary meeting between Ren Hang and Robert Mapplethorpe, which takes place in the Berghain, a world famous nightclub in Berlin. For me, these artists seem to represent a kind of destiny. It was an interesting task — not to illustrate what was happening in Hang’s images, but to go the other way — to play the game “I am Hang”. If we talk about this guy, then of course, we are dealing with the work of an important and serious artist. And I am talking not only about his photographs, which are known almost all over the world, but also about his poetry. I first encountered his poems through Yang Ge’s translations and thanks to the great work of the translator Elizaveta Abushinova. Elizaveta translated his poetic diary, his blog, where he published poems on a daily basis ... It was then that I realized I was dealing not only with a visual artist, but with a real poet who created a special world: a painful, depressive place, but at the same time incredibly charming and, funnily enough, bright and naive. Hang is a true poet, and perhaps his poetry is even more important, more voluminous than his photographic works, which European audiences know very well".
Ren Hang is a Chinese poet and photographer. Born in 1987 in Changchun, Jilin Province, Hang lived in Beijing where he studied advertising at the University of China. On completion of his university studies, he became interested in photography. Hang was a participant in more than 70 collective exhibitions and author of more than 20 solo exhibitions around the world.
Ren Hang, an only child, was immersed in computer games his entire childhood. Thanks to the internet, he was able to study European culture and formed his own understanding of freedom: “I do not perceive my work as some kind of «taboo» because I do not value the current cultural or political context. I don’t intend to purposely push the boundaries of what is permitted, I just do what I do. ”
Photographer Ren Hang was constantly persecuted at home in China. His experimental works were too bold for communist China. “Ren experienced difficulties with the demonstration of his radical views on art. His pictures were filled with sexuality, a sense of humor. His style is unprecedented for Chinese photography,’’ famous Belgian gallery owner Dries Rohlens commented on Hang’s work. Despite the political persecution, Hang continued to live in his homeland, but presented his photos at exhibitions in Italy, France, Israel, Sweden and other countries.
Hang set up websites where published his photos. When the websites became popular (which happened very quickly), the authorities closed them down, and arrested the author. As soon as Ren was let out of prison, he opened new sites. Hang, however, constantly denied any political implications in his work: “The «politics» of my work has nothing to do with China. China’s policy wants to interfere in my work.”
His emotional life never came to the surface, he kept everything to himself. Yet something was visible in his photographs and reflected in his poetry. In the pictures he was a virtuoso and a wizard, a hedonist, a sexual madman.
In the poems, he reflected self-destructively. The lines were filled with painful images of death and sex, loneliness and love, fear and eternity. In his last post he wrote: “I always hear the sound of gunfire. When it first started I was scared, but over time I got used to it. It sounds as if someone is hammering nails into my brain. As if there is construction going on ... a lot of homeless, unhappy people in my head scream and cry. And soon they will shout me to death. They do not let me sleep or leave the house. ”
Chinese photographer and poet Ren Hang, after a bout of severe depression, committed suicide in Beijing on February 24th, 2017. He was 29 years of age.
At the time of Hang’s death, an exhibit of Hang’s work was underway at the Foam Museum of Photography in Amsterdam, and TASCHEN had published a book of his works.
The first posthumous exhibition of works by Ren Hang was held in Paris at the European House of Photography.