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Basement 6: why we closed

Anneliese Charek of Basement 6 art studio on why it shut and what's next

Happier times at Basement 6
Part of the appeal of Shanghai is it's transient nature. Things in the city are constantly changing and this creates a dynamic environment in which new places are opening all the time. Of course this is no benevolent city, and Shanghai giveth just as easily as it taketh away. One of the recent casualties in this unforgiving environment was Basement 6 (B6C) - a DIY collective and community art operation that had it's home in a basement on Huashan Lu until around a month ago. Time Out caught up with collective member Anneliese Charek to find out what happened and what the future holds for the Basement 6 Collective.

Could you tell us what happened with the basement? Why did it come to an end?
We had some issues with our landlord, mostly about noise complaints. However, we have actually been able to talk to a few neighbours who had positive feedback about our space, and never actually had an encounter with any angry neighbours. It came to the point where our landlord just said we had no choice, we had to leave, and he would be changing the locks. It was all very sudden, but there was really nothing we could do but pack up shop and move on. We have learned that many other galleries in Shanghai have had similar experiences, and have had to move house a few times. We were all pretty devastated, but [are] determined to go on as a collective.

Is this the end of B6C?
Absolutely not! It is just a new phase for us, and an opportunity to work in different ways. Our original space was definitely important to our collective; we all found it very inspiring in one way or another. But the heart of B6C is the people who are in it and the reason why it worked so well is because we came together and supported each other in our artistic endeavours. This group of people is still meeting today [and] making plans for the future. We also feel we have made a nice little community who we hope to stay connected to. The idea that we could one day lose the space has always been in the back of our minds, and we are happy with what we have done in the time we had the space. 

Are you looking for a new place? What challenges do you face without it? 
We are looking for a new space and hope to find one soon. The space was quite important; it played a big role in the types of events we could host, and we all agree it will be hard to replace. I always like the fact that it felt like a blank slate and seemed very malleable in the way that artists could come in and interpret the space so differently. It was also nice to have a physical space to go to and bring people together. Not having our little dirty dungeon any more brings up some challenges - setting up events elsewhere can be a little tricky at times when it’s not your own space, as it requires more planning and sometimes negotiation. And we don’t have our back room full of treasures at the ready for events.  

Is it difficult to maintain a strong identity without the basement space?
In terms of identity, I don’t think it’s necessarily difficult to maintain, and personally it is not something that I think about too much. Nothing with B6C is profit-based so I never have really felt the need to brand myself or maintain an image. What is important to me is that I and the other B6C’ers and [the] community that participates in what we do, continue to be able to make every crazy idea we have come to life, to do it without financial burden, and to have this idea of an art playground with no strings attached. I suppose those elements are what really make up our identity and are not contingent on the type of space we have.

Are you still running events? Where are these taking place - has it been difficult finding new homes for events?
We are still doing all our events. Everyone in the community has been really great. Lots of people have offered up their help and some spaces for us to do pop up style events (we will keep you updated on those events in the future). 

How are you and the other members of B6C staying active?
We have been developing a lot of new projects that don’t necessarily rely on having a physical space. We are also all going forward with the projects we have had pre-being kicked out.  We are actively making plans for a new home.  

Do you have any projects coming up? Anything we should keep our eyes out for?
Yes, there are a few (which I can’t exactly talk about right now).  But you can keep your eyes open for B6C at BYOB on November 8 at 1933, and also Medusa; our sound/performance art festival coming soon.

Any final words?
We will rise like a phoenix from the ashes. 

Anneliese will be appearing at BYOB on Saturday 8 November. 


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