a-lla-la-lei 你好 / by Jay Brown

‘a-lla-la-lei’ is ‘hello’ in the Naxi language.

Nest of swallows in Lijiang Studio. This year, the swallows returned on the eve of the 24th February. Since then they have mended their old nest and decided to stay in spite of Rourou, the cat, who moved in after they had left last year.

Nest of swallows in Lijiang Studio. This year, the swallows returned on the eve of the 24th February. Since then they have mended their old nest and decided to stay in spite of Rourou, the cat, who moved in after they had left last year.

A-lla-la-lei is an on-going gathering hosted by Lijiang Studio in Jixiang Village, Lashihai, Yunnan, China. We explore points of convergence between art and agriculture. Within the larger setting of Lijiang Studio, A-lla-la-lei straddles between minimum intervention and the inevitability of intervening through being there. We respond to the surroundings by relating to the location – wind, water, sunshine, rain as well as the beans https://youtu.be/G40s7V48SC0, peaches, pears, apples, cherries and papayas; to local traditions like the Qilin Dance [www.lijiangstudio.org/qilin-dance], and local events like weddings, funerals and arrivals of babies, the release of water from the reservoir, the introduction of waste containers, of solar street lights, of tarmac – as if it were our curator.

We work within a time frame given by the solar calendar (see Solar Terms). Stepping horizontally outside this given time frame, we stretch the solar terms to serve as prompts. On this platform, you can find our current interactions with the location. We work with land/agricultural calendars from different communities in order to learn about divergent ways of seeing. Simultaneously, we are exploring both ancient and modern technologies in agriculture. We are particularly interested in the role of technology as extensions of our bodies, the subsequent re-adjustment amongst our senses and their effect on our human modes of making connections.

In this regard the Jixiang Village community serves as a learning platform, as the choices made by villagers are not dominated by economic necessity. And in it’s curatorial role the location has more recently confronted us with the question “Can the countryside incubate changes for the future`?” (based on discussions between Xinlin Song and Petra Johnson).

Whatever it is we can do, it will only do justice to the abundance of growth and emergence around us, if we pool our skills. 

see A Book Of Findings Oct 2018 available on Lijiang Studio


And we walk. He Jixing walks through the village, his observations can be followed on the Jixing Village Film Production site. Petra Johnson has been walking five pre-determined circular routes since May last year. The fifth and largest circle reaches toward the edge of the valley, whilst the shortest walk circles the immediate environs of the studio. This approach is inspired by Erik Mueggler’s interpretations of wayfaring and networks of paths and roads in ‘The Age of Wild Ghosts’ (see Chapter 5, Digested Words; p.132-138), and particularly the idea of a song that maps a spiraling route from way distant toward the place of home, gathering all the good things on route. Like a labyrinthine walk, the same entry and exit – the studio – anchors each circular route. Since the beginning of this year, the routes have been re-walked each solar terms; thus the walks serve as spatial and temporal nodal points around which echoes, resonances, the remembered, the experienced and the talked about gather and coalesce.Each solar term, the five routes are redrawn

We trust in noting whilst moving rhythmically, as a means to nurture empathy towards the surroundings, as a journey toward auscultation. Walking in company might be dominated by a sense of surveying as attention takes on the role of sharing, rather than learning like a child from changes in the landscape. Walking in company makes one aware of the tremendous range of human subjectivities and ways of describing or even naming atmospheric attunement. By contrast, recollections of walking alone, as for example sharing some form of synchronicity with the swaying willow branches at this time of the year, leave different imprints in the memory. These memories are harder to place in calendar time. 

We gather and we are hosted, thanks to the creativity of our host, the family of He Hengguang (Er Ge), He Xuemei, He Shiyuan, He Shufen, He Jixing and He Jiyu, who is currently studying at university in Guangzhou. Petra’s walk with Er Ge around the Lashihai Lake back in 2017, weaved signposts for her recent walks with Sipei as well as opened intervening spaces for seeing things differently. Around a glass of baijiu, Er Ge outlines his thoughts about what works for and in this place and what does not. Pursuing his own projects, Jixing has questions about different meanings about what is an ‘action’ brought by visitors, whilst helping as much as he can to facilitate everyone’s work. See www.lijiangstudio.com/mappingtheaffectivelandscape.

The invitation is open. Something is set up, for example, the building of a Qimometer: this process introduced the topic of fragile architecture as well as the role of Solar Terms. More recently, weekly screen showings at the site of the no longer existing village temple provide a platform for getting to know villagers across generations and led to the founding of Jixiang Village Productions. Other projects in the making are the tracing of water from the reservoir through a multitude of ditches (March/April 2020) to a central point in the village (see Waiting for Water), and the creation of a temporary, mnemonic installation with locals. If the visitor wants to, he/she can join, if you prefer to pursue your own work, we just ask you to share your progress and questions once in a while.

Finally, to get an inkling of auscultation one has to cultivate receptivity. According to Mr. Kimura (木村秋则/“Be a Fool at least once in your Life” a book on how to tend Apple trees) it might take everyone at least eight years to do so.

(Version: 27 March 2019, by Lu Sipei, three days after leaving Lijiang, updated 17th April by Petra Johnson and He Jixing)