Peng Lei seems to own only two jackets: a black leather number that would make Joey Ramone proud, and a sleekly-tailored update on the Mao suit jacket. And though this might be a nice metaphor for two sides of his creative persona – true-blue punk rocker, and savvy appropriator of cultural symbols – it soon becomes clear that Peng Lei has way more than just two sides.
He did get to wear both during his spin through the Creators Project this past weekend, in which he appeared in various guises as filmmaker (screenings of his recent short "A Room with a Cat"), speaker (a workshop entitled "How modern technologies impact on independent creation"), and rock animal (New Pants' fiery late-night set). Whether he was explaining his frustrations with Chinese censorship that outlaws any supernatural elements in films in his lecture, or transforming into a gangly banshee during his New Pants performance, Peng Lei is a man of many faces (if only two jackets), and we're going to be seeing a lot more of all of them. We took a minute to chat with the creative chameleon:
As this was such a big project, did you have any concerns going into it – that either your works or "the scene" might be mis-represented?
Peng Lei: I didn't worry about how my works would be interpreted, but at first I worried there might not be enough fellow artists. But as many more joined, I no longer worried about that (laughs).
How do you see your connection to earlier generations of Chinese artists?
People like me are not like the entire generation of Chinese artists who cater to the curiosities of foreigners, by portraying the problems of history. None of us are doing that now, we're interested in doing something completely different.
As you often prefer to work with analogue or vintage equipment, how did you feel joining this project with decidedly digital/high-tech characteristics?
Tech is now a fundamental thing we need to deal with. Everything [such as films, photography, and music] finally gets to this technology for editing or distribution – so it's useful for saving energy and time, and devoting more of that to the creation itself.