Fanfare for a Non-Place

A new video work psycho-mapping the train journey between Beijing and Shanghai with the help of progressive rock.

The video had its London premiere at Red Mansion Art Prize Exhibition at the Hockney Gallery, Royal College of Arts in March 2018.

Several video stills below:

Video blurb :


In just five hours China’s high-speed railway travels the distance between the two major economic zones surrounding Beijing and Shanghai.

Fast-growing towns dot the industrialised and urbanised flat lands that lie in-between; their residential topography expands upwards, in repetitive vertical patterns.

The vastness of this manufactured expanse, and the relentless drive for progress propelling it further, prompted memories of Aaron Copland’s piece “Fanfare for the Common Man,” composed in 1942. In this eight hundred-mile stretch of reformed landscape, the “Fanfare” becomes an ode to the millions who inhabit the pre-fabricated high-rise clusters scattered across it.

In 1977, Emerson, Lake & Palmer recorded a progressive rock rendition of the Fanfare. ELP lined Copland’s awe-inspiring piece with new sounds whose eclectic, repetitive, progressing qualities
resonate uncannily with China’s contemporary culture.

The train journey footage entwines the train passenger’s perspective with ELP’s epic sound, building a visual narrative on its distinctive soundscape.

“Fanfare for a Non-Place” starts in solemn tones, true to Copland’s original piece. Yet as the ELP tune descends into a more psychedelic realm and prog-rock takes over, the footage, in turn, delves into an infinite progression of look-alike non-towns. Irrevocably, they deprive the viewer of even the tiniest flicker of hope of making out the differences between individual places.

Beijing-Shanghai, 2017

Fanfare for the Common Man,
Aaron Copland with Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Video and Editing:
Dejan Mrdja


The video is available for purchase as a limited edition. For more info and password to the video please contact

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