Zhang Ding’s installation Enter the Dragon and its accompanying music performances proved a revelation. Taking place in the ICA Theatre from 12-25 October 2015, there was no knowing what this extraordinary project would bring. On the day of the opening, held over a lunchtime that heralded the start of London’s Frieze Art Fair, a number of friends, supporters and international visitors gathered in the ICA bar and café. It wasn’t long before the place was packed with people. Speeches were made in the presence of the artist and Adrian Cheng, whose the K11 Art Foundation (KAF) had collaborated with the ICA to deliver this ambitious new commission. The doors to the ICA Theatre were then thrown open and the crowd made its way into a large mirrored room.
At first sight, Zhang’s dark yet dazzling installation-featuring spinning mirrors and the artist’s signature gold paintings made from sound insulation -mesmerised everyone. The artwork resonated with the rich history of the ICA Theatre, the historic home of ground-breaking gigs and performances charting the musical tides over the decades, from punk to grime. Sound engineers peered over an imposing black cube as the audience gathered between two performance stages, designed so one band might face and then battle another. At the front of one of these platforms, a row of tall mirrored panels started to whirl as Japanese acid punk band Bo Ningen launched into their thunderous opening number.
The launch was an absolute sensation. Weeks of planning and research days spent selecting bands and music-makers ：all came together as grinding guitars shook the room. It was hard not to feel elated, more so given that it was the middle of the afternoon. From that moment on, we knew the project would be a runaway success and, sure enough, over the coming days a record number of visitors descended on the ICA to observe a multitude of live bands and participate in this truly generous experience.
We all took a risk in the making of this project, none more so than Zhang Ding, whose dedication to his work inspired us all. There were many occasions when the expectations surrounding this exhibition could have been scaled back, yet the artist rightly stuck to his vision. We would like to thank Zhang Ding Studio and the generosity of our partners, particularly Adrian Cheng and the K11 Art Foundation, aided by Carmen Ho and Douglas Kotwall, without whom this project would not have been possible. The same might be said of ShanghART Gallery and Lorenz Herbling, whose stoic calm was felt throughout. Also, thanks to William Zhao for his help and support.
Thanks to ICA Curator Matt Williams for working directly with the artist to realise every facet of this ambitious project. Thanks also to ICA Managing Director Karen Turner for her work with KAF, also Katharine Stout and Naomi Crowther. Special thanks to the ICA Technical Department, Zeyad Dajani, Ben Moon and Eliza Moore, as well as James Anderton and Jon Stonton. A very special thanks to ICA Associate Artists Femi Adeyemi, Sean McAuliffe and Tabitha Thorlu-Bangura of NTS Radio for helping us to secure fourteen performances over thirteen days, comprising twenty-six bands and musicians.
A big thanks to all the musical acts who participated, including Antidröm & Andrew Spyrou, Bo Ningen, Chronoautz, Cam Deas, Diaphragm Failure, Vision Fortune, Wild Daughter, Wanda Group, Heatsick, Dave I.D, Bill Kouligas (PAN), Kelvin Lords, Lukid, Rob Lye, Rosen, Powell, Joanne Robertson, Amnesia Scanner, Casual Sect, Throwing Shade, Natasha Trotman, Phill Wilson-Taylor & Samantha Taylor, Tapes, Lord Tusk, Scientific Dreamz of U, and Moon Zero. Our thanks to Arts Council England.