A collaborative project from Nini Sum and Gregor Koerting, the imagery of Idle Beats is deeply associated and intertwined with Shanghai's own homegrown underground music and arts scenes. Relentlessly cool hunted domestically and from abroad, if you've spent any amount of time in the city, you've come across the screen printing studio's work, either in the form of an exhibition, a flyer for a show, a t-shirt, a fancy limited edition silkscreen poster print, a mural, or any of the other miscellany they've got pumping out of their little DIY cottage industry.
Maybe you've even got some of their artwork on your walls yourself, hanging there over your bed in your apartment in silent testament to your own good taste and hipness.
SmartShanghai has been following Idle Beats' prolific career for almost a decade now in Shanghai, every since the independent screen printing studio began their work in 2009. The posters from their extensive collaboration with the Sub-Culture underground dance music platform based out of The Shelter (RIP), line the SmSh office walls, mounted above the office coffee machine in silent testament to our own good taste and hipness.
It's hard to encompass Idle Beats' style. And given that they've worked with dozens of artists over the years, it would be reductive to try to trace a through-line to the hundred of Idle Beats posters out there in the world. But whatever, we'll try anyways. There's a basic surrealistic quality to their work — a dreamy experimenting with combining unusual and disparate shapes, colors, and figurative elements —as well as a bedrock reproducible "graphic" comic book sort of style throughout. From these elements, it tends to spin out into individual introspective and / or otherworldly grapplings with music and pop culture ephemera, as they clash in the given artist's psyche and experience. Better to see for yourself. They've got a lot of content on their Instagram that you can check out.
So, after bouncing around for a few years, Idle Beats has jumped on to something more stable, moving into a new studio at 485 Xiangyang Nan Lu. It's nice. It's clean. It's grown up. Onwards and upwards. They're doing good. SmSh went down to get a look at the place and to take pictures of them working...
...and ask them a few questions about their new projects and workshops that they'll be rolling out — in particular the IB Print Club — in conjunction with settling in to their new home.
SmSh: Tell me about the new studio. What's new about it versus your previous locations?
Gregor Koerting: Our previous spaces were arranged for creating and executing our own print series', whereas the new studio is meant to work as a community space where artists, designers, and art lovers can print their individual projects.
Now, we can offer a full range of printing tables and machinery for doing whatever is possible concerning screen printing on t-shirts and fabric, as well as on various paper formats.
We're founding something called the "IB-PrintClub", which means people who know how to screen print are welcome to become members and share the space with us.
SmSh: You've also extended the services? You do workshops and team building events? How does that work (for individuals and groups)?
Gregor Koerting: We've extending our workshop program for teaching people the basics of the printing method as well as offering advanced courses for diving into the depths of what's possible with the form. The goal is having a broad workshop program that covers all the specifics, such as multiple layer printing on paper or shirts; file and screen preparation, and so on.
Firstly, though, our workshops are fun activities for people to try out. As well as for people who want to do small runs -- say for getting a small run of shirts printed for a band or a friend's upcoming stag night. Workshops are every Sunday. Spots can be booked via our WeChat or our webpage.
For companies who want to do team building event, schools, or group workshop events, we can also accommodate that on weekdays, and ask organizers to get in touch directly to discuss options.
SmSh: What projects are you currently working on or have coming up?
Gregor Koerting: Due to the studio renovation over the last months, we couldn't really find time to work on our personal projects. Though we're already making plans for our annual studio exhibition, "Tale Of Two Cities", where we show our latest art print series together with works of another print artist collective from abroad.
Nini is currently experimenting with shreds of screen prints composed to collages on a mural art scale. In the past few weeks, she released two brand new art prints which are available at our store. After I getting everything in the Print Club running smoothly, I'm considering to commence work on a small series based on William Gibson's "Neuromancer". Something I actually wanted to do for years already...
SmSh: How does it work if people want to visit and purchase prints, shirts, swag, souls?
Gregor Koerting: For the first three items, visitors can swing by at our studio shop weekdays from 12pm-6pm, though we appreciate advance notice through email or WeChat. Sometimes we're busy with printing or having a workshop and might not be available for questions and chatting.
For souls, one just need to subscribe to our newsletter through the website.
SmSh: How has your own aesthetic style changed looking back over the years?
Gregor Koerting: Style is changing as a ongoing evolution, which is driven by the way we change work modes, medias, environment, formats, and subjects we're become obsessed with. If I compare it with the imagery we've had going on maybe three years ago, our prints are brighter and more easygoing. Especially in those first years we did some pretty gloomy and rather dramatic stuff.
Connect with Idle Beats: www.idlebeats.com; WeChat ID: IdleBeatsIBPrintClub; Weibo: @idlebeats; Instagram: @idlebeats_china / @ibprintclub; Facebook: IdleBeats Art Print.
Idle Beats is at 6/F, 485 Xiangyang Nan Lu, near Jianguo Xi Lu.