Xu Siwei
Open a Window


The exhibition, organized by the M Art Foundation, showcased the works of Xu Siwei.

Xu Siwei has been practicing field recording for the past 10 years, primarily collecting environmental sounds among plateaus and folk music by the Northern nomads, far from urban cities. Many recordings served research and archival purposes, each meticulously documented with method, location, subject, song titles, and lyrics, despite the time-intensive process.

Documentation included elaborate details due to the challenges of reaching geographical areas and uncertainties about the elders’ future. Xu also collaborates with ethnomusicologists, sharing his scholarly approach to multiculturalism, which empathizes with and accommodates cultural differences. He sees endless possibilities in the synchronization of behaviors, particularly when navigating the subtle boundaries between urban and nomadic lifestyles, the built environment, and nature. This potential extends to accommodating the diverse facets of industrial histories and cultural traditions.

During the lockdown, Xu Siwei redirected his recording practice to urban areas, where the territories of non-human species visibly expanded as humans retreated indoors. The evolving interpersonal and human-nature relationships prompted Xu to reconsider the ambiguity and complexity inherent in the human-nature boundaries. In the traditional urban lanes, the fixed physical distance between neighbors and social relations tainted by generations of co-living experiences became apparent. Plants growing between residents entangled communal efforts and care, with grapevines and loquats naturally connecting adjacent families. In Xu’s recordings, casual banter among lane residents could evoke a room full of memories and tender feelings from that time.

In 2022, at a seasonal exhibition space of the M Art Foundation, Xu Siwei transplanted the sense of places. Inspired by the Mandala, he organized speakers and benches in a square, placing a borrowed plant in the center. As the sound recording played in a clockwise order from the speakers, Xu staged a simplified Buddhist ritual in the exhibition room, offering an orderly listening experience. The audience had the option to open a window, hence the exhibition’s title, allowing urban sounds to blend with the played recordings. Oscillating between control and the uncontrolled, it became a practice of active listening on one’s own.

Xu Siwei is a writer and a field recorder. Xu has been practicing field recording of folk music and sound landscapes since 2012. He was involved in the writing and editing “A Compendium of Grassland Sounds,” which was listed as one of the top ten books of Shanghai Music Publishing House in 2018. He has been investigating the issue of sound ecology and cultural sustainability since 2018. Between 2019 and 2020, XU entered his field recordings into the music education materials

for Qiang youth, a Yidan Prize Foundation and Music Garden Space project. He continues tracking and following the project’s impact on local sound and cultural ecology.