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5 Questions for Pan Daijing

Shortly before her appearance at the Elbphilharmonie we had the chance to ask the Chinese performance artist a few questions.

Pan Daijing's audiovisual Gesamtkunstwerke, which by now electrify audiences from Shanghai to Montreal, hover between electronica and avant-garde, between raw noise and sensual, intuitive performance.

I've always had the feeling that a monster lives inside me. Now I've found a way to let it out.

Pan Daijing

The late-night concert on the opening evening of »Electronauts« offers the chance to hear Chinese performance artist Pan Daijing, who settled in Berlin in 2016. She puts on a number of pieces, among them, her audiovisual show »Fist Piece«. Dance, pictures and music blend here in a celebration of femininity.

Electronauts Festival

Discover the festival programme

5 Questions for Pan Daijing (Musician)

Your biography sounds quite crazy: you grew up in China, studied accounting and now you live and work in Berlin as a performance artist. How did you end up there?

I do not really see anything crazier in my upbringing than other people I know. China might be a bit far but everyone has a unique experience no matter where it is. Growing up in a castle is not necessarily more pleasant than growing up in a zoo, if you know what I mean. About studies, I studied many things, and education in China is a whole other story compared to the rest of the world. Let us say there are many ways to learn, not only from school and I should always be learning.

For me the stage is the safest place, there lies the total freedom.

Pan Daijing

You describe your full-length debut album LACK as a kind of opera. What is it about the interplay of music and performance/acting that fascinates you?

They always go hand in hand for me, I think I am a very visual person but my expression always starts with a sonic approach. Composing music is like writing a play, but not only with sound, it comes in many forms, dramas can even be told in silence with only gestures. Opera is almost like a mental state for me, the feeling of being flooded, invaded, completely understood and hugged. I do not want to calculate too much and kill the beauty of the moment. For me the stage is the safest place, there lies the total freedom. Only when we try to bring all senses together, the moment is accomplished and the memory lasts, in my opinion.

Pan Daijing
Pan Daijing

In the review of your album the Pitchfork magazine wrote that in your music you are »linking the production of noise to physical embodiment«. This interdependence of artificial electronic noises and your physical presence is a theme that is found very often in all of your works. Can you describe what fascinates you about the interplay of these different poles?

I guess you are talking about vulnerability here. I am creating an environment through sound and physical presence; we are always in an environment, with or without a choice; and we are the environment, consciously or unconsciously. This is how I look at the roles you mentioned, they are all brought to me by who we are, where we are and I present it through my mind, so I am a filter, a link, a spectator and an actor at the same time. I would say, the interplay you mentioned is, unavoidable.

In your Elbphilharmonie performance you will present »Fist Piece«, a work that you refer to as a celebration of independent femininity. Even though the electronic music scene appears to be open-minded, it still has to struggle with recurring issues of sexism against the qualities of women as DJs/producers, etc. How do you try to tackle this problem specifically in your piece?

On this note, I only wish people to forget about my gender, my race, my background, but to simply listen, watch, experience, resonate and let go without bias. That is already a lot to ask. I think people are in general a bit confused these days, grouping up people based on their sex and labelling them is not the way to support them. I do not see myself being a woman in music or art, but simply a feminine being. What I need to say is said clearly in my work, any political statement will not make myself be understood better.

In my performances I am a filter, a link, a spectator and an actor at the same time.

Pan Daijing

The Electronauts Festival at the Elbphilharmonie focusses on the »pioneers of electronic music«. You are well rooted in the electronic scene, but are also a sort of misfit in the line-up of the festival – your current works don’t focus on synthesizers, but rather try to expand the possibilities of what electronic music could mean nowadays. Do you nevertheless see yourself as some kind of ancestor to those pioneers of electronic music and why?

I am really flattered to have this chance to present my work in such a great space. Thanks for inviting me. Well, let’s say I’m not keen on elaborating how I make what I make, I’d rather take the chance to push it further. My works are heavily based on synthesizers and I do use buchla, PPG and a lot of classical synth. But I don’t worship them, I adore them to certain level. Without the great instruments, none of my work would have existed. But this also allows me to feel free to pick the tool that would shape my speech, if a toy has the sound I need I’ll use it; if an pile of soil is what I feel should be on the stage instead of a synth I would only touch twice during my set, I’ll swap it. It was not my intention to try to become the pioneer you mentioned. I do what I do, and always bow to the masters. The most important for me, is all speech I make should come from a genuine and innocent place. On the huge mountain of heritage, I do not really exist, they do not really exist, there is no face, no pioneer or ancestor, history becomes a dot and we are all scent that flows around.

Interview: Julian Bäder