Philip Ellis
News & Views
Finding inspiration in Asia

When you think about cities which nurture and inspire creativity, obvious Western choices like London, Paris and New York probably come to mind, But a new article by Amelia Abraham for i-D, ‘Escape From New York – Why Everyone Is Moving To The Other Side Of The World’, showcases some of the reasons why more and more young creatives are looking East.

Abraham spoke to a number of artists, musicians and performers who have found their muse in China, Japan and Thailand, including rapper Gita, who very recently relocated from Harlem to Shanghai.

When asked why she made the move, Gita explained that “New York is one of those places constantly flowing with individuals fascinated with wanting to be someone, something, wanting to be on top and to make it as an influential person… It can be a very oversaturated and congested creative environment. I had no hesitation about hopping on a plane to China… I knew it was only going to give me space and feed me creatively, which happened immediately. Back in New York I had writer’s block, but I’ve been recording the entire time I’ve been in Asia, writing songs and meeting producers… one thing about being in Asia is that it forces you harder to engage – in America everyone’s caught up in their own bubble.”

However, according to Rharba, a music promoter interviewed in the article, getting noticed in this new environment is not without its challenges: “Creating a scene here is really hard because you’re building something from scratch… People in Bangkok are very into pop music or techno. I like that kind of music but I want to show people new ways of expressing themselves. To bring non-commercial music or hip hop here is to create something new. You’re pioneering a scene and introducing a new wave of music. People are giving into it slowly. It’s exciting.”

Later this year, curators from New Zealand will be building links with galleries and artistic spaces in Japan, South Korea and Taiwain. And while China might have something of a mixed reputation when it comes to freedom of artistic expression, steps are being taken to show off the nation’s creative side; Shanghai recently hosted the Asia Gallery Art Fair, a cultural exchange event.

Artists who find a niche in the East are still the exception, not the rule, but if more young creatives are willing to tough it out, engage with the local culture, and bring their story to a less ‘safe’ audience, we could start to see a boom in West to East artistic migration, As Gita tells Abraham in the article; “If you can make it in Asia, you can make it anywhere.”

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