51 Personae – Miss Read

51 Personae

The methodology and ideas of 51 Personae were conceived and emerged in various forms as an independent urban historical art project under the 11th Shanghai Biennale (2016-17). It subsequently set off as a collective art and publishing project based on local realities and the human conditions, via means including but not limited to writings, video, books and exhibitions, that seeks to explore the form, role and potential of realism today. 51 Personae is concerned with the historical experiences and specific conditions of Asia and the Third World, and encourages the documentation and transmission of local and marginalized voices through a variety of viable and effective forms.

Since 2018, 51 Personae has published nearly 20 different independent publications and art books. Starting from 2023, it will further expand the variety of bilingual books in addition to Chinese-language books, aiming to promote cross-cultural and cross-geopolitical exchanges through the medium of books. Apart from participating in art book exhibitions in China and around the world, 51 Personae consciously establishes connections with independent bookstores to form a network that opposes the monopoly of book sales platforms. Additionally, it has also experimented with presenting the content of the publications in different social contexts through exhibitions.One of their recent exhibitions "Le Livre des Limites" was held from March to May 2023 at the Duolun Museum of Modern Art in Shanghai.
Deep Simulator
Ag, Deep Simulator, 51 Personae, 2022 © Ag

Cover photo of Deep Simulator, a cyberdrama-novel with layers of stories generated through reader interaction. Based on a namesake video game, it is a collaborative experiment between artists aaajiao and the author Ag, which began during the outbreak of Covid-19 in 2020. The novel and the video game have different focuses and nuances in their sensory workings and content, but both stem from themes related to player identity, the multiverse and the breaking down of interdimensional walls. The exposure of karmic chains, the ideological rupture between various movements, melancholia, death, the final struggle, accelerationism, the inability to distinguish between the real and the imaginary, all foreshadow an ominous sense of change looming ahead.

51 Tan (51 Street Vendors)
Cao Feile, 51 Tan (51 Street Vendors), 51 Personae, 2021 © Cao Feile

Inner page of 51 Tan (namely 51 Stalls, or 51 Street Vendors), an ongoing documentation project recording via drawings and sketches outlining a personal observation of these stalls, scattered in specific locations in Shanghai during 2016-2017 and then followed up in 2020-2021 (during the pandemics), both subtle and human. By the time of publication, many of the stallholders in the book had already disappeared.

The (Im)Possibilities of Art Archives: Theory and Experience in/from Asia
Pan Lu, The (Im)Possibilities of Art Archives: Theory and Experience in/from Asia, Kali Books, 2023 © Pan Lu

This edited volume aims to fill the gap in the research, juxtaposition, and focused discussions in the existing literature on art archives in Asia. Most of the archives included in the book are independent and initiated by individuals, folk groups, or non-profit organizations. In this book, one can trace the dynamics and self-generative capacity in this particular historical and cultural milieu through these “alternative” archives and through the practices of artists and curators who apply their specific understanding of archive to their works. Many chapters resonate with each other in that they capture the experiences shared by many places in Asia. Those experiences could have resulted from the encounter with the Western idea of archive, the influence of the colonial experience, or a memory crisis triggered by the rapid transformation of media, and may serve as a basis for producing archive theories in/from Asia. The book provides an opportunity for the archives in Asia and those who work around them to recognize one another, understand what their colleagues in archival work do, how they do it and what else there is for them to do.