Actors in street play highlight green issues

Updated: 2013-12-28 13:46

By Xu Lin (China Daily)

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Actors in street play highlight green issues

He Yu (left) and Yan Sheng perform on the streets of Beijing in the Christmas morning haze to raise awareness of environmental pollution issues. Xu Lin / China Daily

In the cold haze of Christmas morning, He Yu was waving a mask and dancing in Beijing's streets, with several empty plastic bottles on a rope tied around her waist. Suddenly, Yan Sheng-in a white clown mask-came and snatched her mask, leaving her sitting on the ground in despair.

It was not a street robbery-it was performance art. The duo came from Shanghai to perform in four iconic places in Beijing-798 art zone, Dongzhimen Transportation Hub, Sanlitun Village and Guomao, the Central Business District.

"We come to Beijing because it has been heavily stricken by haze for a long time," says He, 36, who quit her job as public relations supervisor for a foreign company in Shanghai in September and started her art group Infinite Art. They mainly create mixed-media modern art theater.

She chose Christmas because most Western festivals are introduced to China for commercial purposes, and the resulting over-consumption is also a burden for the environment.

At first He uses the mask to protect herself against the haze and tries to give passers-by masks-but Yan forces her to face the cruel reality by taking away the mask.

According to He, some Beijing dwellers have gradually become used to and unperturbed by the bad weather, with lessening awareness of risk. Their only solution seems to be masks or expensive air cleaners.

"I can tell that they are commenting on the environmental pollution issue. It's not bad," says passer-by Yang Zaizheng, a 35-year-old Beijing resident who has opened his own store.

Yang feels the weather in Beijing is not as good as it was a decade ago. He thinks the public must share the responsibility to protect the environment. For example, he now drives less and sorts his rubbish.

Some passers-by, however, were not supportive of the street drama. Some thought He sold masks, and some just ran away when she approached them.

"I don't expect everyone to have positive attitude. We can't please everyone. As long as one person understands us, I am happy," she says.

In December, heavy smog affected many regions in China from north to south, including Beijing, Hebei province, Shanghai and Jiangsu province.

"Some Shanghai residents used to laugh at Beijing people's misfortune of living under heavy haze. But now Shanghai is also affected by the weather and people are in a panic," He says.

"It reflects people's shortsightedness. They are not worried until they face adversity themselves."

She has videotaped the performance art, and she will edit it with background music to post it online so more people can watch it. The music has sounds related to pollution, including automobile engines and chemical factories.

Yan, who pursued his master's degree in dance theater in France, says that, compared with in China, audiences in France tend to be more supportive and interactive.

"Our aim is to help the public to think rather than tell them our ideas," Yan says. "Environmental protection is a problem of our whole country and everyone with awareness should do their bit."