Pan Daijing is an artist that eludes definition and labels. The Chinese-born artist is fromGuiyang, asouthwesterncity known for its high-altitudes, lush forests and ethnic minorities
Yunus Emre Duyar
Pan describes her childhood as pretty normal, absorbed in her studies to get the highest ranking for her university entrance exams. She started studying accounting in university only to realize on day one that it was not what she wanted. Around the same time, she started exploring noise music and the underground scene of Beijing, and she discovered a need to express herself sonically.
Fast forward to 7 years later, we find Pan as an established artist working primarily with noise music, but also incorporating performance art, dance, theatre and video into her work. So far, she released two EPs and an LP, titled Lack, and participated in the 2016 Montréal Red Bull Music Academy. The experimental record label PAN, alongside other emerging acts such as Yves Tumor and M.E.S.H, currently represents her. Her work allows her to perform shows in venues ranging from contemporary art museums to underground clubs.
Although Pan incorporates different media into her work, she mostly inhabits the sound category. This may be the reason she is intent on avoiding categorization in her work. The streaming landscape has given voice to the independent musician, but it has also made the consumption of music faster. “Why can’t we just treat [music] as a painting or something that you can actually just think about? What does sound mean?” she asks in an interview.
At first, I wasn’t sure if I related to Pan’s work. Perhaps I was trying to pin down her craft and categorize it. Her sound was jarring, and her performances aggressive. But after spending some time with her music on a quiet day, I discovered a cathartic, calming quality to it. Her tracks are unsettling when isolated; yet her compositions and the repeating patterns create an overall meditative effect.
Pan is a self-taught artist, and she succeeded in making an avant-garde name for herself in the industry. I have asked her a couple of questions about her work, and although she believes she expresses herself better via sound and performance, her ideas as an artist shine through words as well.
You are from China and make music in Berlin. In a way, you’re occupying a transitional space where you don’t fully belong to your past anymore, as your current environment is not somewhere you grew up in. How does being in this in-between space seep into your work?
I don’t necessarily consider my past or current surroundings as influencing my work, but of course my experiences in China and Berlin both reflect in how I’ve been inspired to experiment in my practice. Everyone’s past reflects on their current state of being; we’re all always transitioning between spaces. That being said, my work isn’t specifically related to Chinese culture or my experience as an immigrant.
In an interview, you talked about how coming from a non-western culture made you realize this lost time in terms of certain references and cultural products. You also talked previously about your family having different expectations of you and being a self-taught artist. Starting up, how did you make peace with the fear of judgment?
When I moved to Berlin, certain things were of course different than what I was used to having grown up in China. Though I had to understand myself through this different filter, music is the ultimate language— you don’t need to come from a certain culture to understand it. As for my lack of knowledge of cultural products when I first arrived, I realized that creating isn’t about how much you know, but about what inspires you.
Your sound includes repetitive patterns and has a meditative quality to it. Silence and noise can be considered ends of a certain spectrum, yet your music positions noise within silence. What do you think of the meditative potential of noise music?
Noise music has always resonated with me because of its therapeutic and meditative potential. In part, that potential comes from the patience it requires; it’s like a kind of mind training. The music demands a certain kind of effort from the listener to experience it, which is exactly what makes it so special.
You incorporate performances into your sets. Your performances have an improvised quality to them that helps establishing a visceral connection between the music and the audience. Why is it important for you to also include your body in your performances?
Being present in my performances enables me to act as a messenger: I use gestures, the texture of my voice and my movements to tell stories. Whether I’m performing alone or with others, the work takes on a vulnerable quality that lends itself to a particular kind of intimacy, even when the work itself can be very abstract.
Visual elements also seem to play an important part in your practice. The titles of your songs tell visual stories too. When constructing your songs, do you have any visual references that help you guide your progress?
When I compose, visual expression and sonic expression are intertwined: I see images reflecting sound and hear sound reflecting images. This is why I consider both my live performances and my musical releases as storytelling. Within this process, titles serve like titles of poetry, guiding the listener to understand what the work is trying to say.