Just People, Just Timing (HomeShop, Beijing, 2008-2013)

Before HomeShop, 8 November 2010. Image of the front of the building at HomeShop’s second location on Jiaodaokou Beiertiao. Photo by 何颖雅 Elaine W. Ho.

During HomeShop, 7 June 2011. Image of the front of the building at HomeShop’s second location on Jiaodaokou Beiertiao. Photo by 何颖雅 Elaine W. Ho.

Years later after HomeShop, 4 June 2017. Image of the front of the building at HomeShop’s second location on Jiaodaokou Beiertiao. Photo by 何颖雅 Elaine W. Ho.

HomeShop, Today.

Clicking on the words 关于我们 ABOUT takes you on a short scroll over a large white surface that's trying to hold together some of the disparate elements of what HomeShop once was or aspired to be. Upon arrival, you see an image of a tiled storefront space with a blackboard surface on the left, lots of pieces of paper temporarily arranged on the glass window, and about 20 pots, newly planted and neatly arranged. In front of the half-open glass door, a person is standing with a red bucket over their head. Below the image reads:

HomeShop began as a storefront residence and artist initiative in Beijing 2008. Nestled in the centre of the city on one of its old hutong alleyways, the space and its window front were used as the beginning points from which to examine ways of relaying amidst public and private, the commercial, and pure exchange as such. Artists, designers, and thinkers came together via multiple, interwoven series of small-scale activities, interventions, and documentary gestures, processes by which HomeShop served as an open platform to question existing models of economic and artistic production. Here, daily life, work, and the community served as explorations of micropolitical possibility and of being in common.  

HomeShop was initiated in 2008 on Xiaojingchang hutong by 何穎雅 Elaine W. Ho in conversation with Fotini Lazaridou-Hatzigoga and 欧阳潇 Ouyang Xiao. Two years and 250+ square meters later, the second space at Jiaodaokou Beiertiao hutong brought together the collective efforts of Elaine, Fotini, and Xiao along with 小欧 Orianna Cacchione, Michael Eddy, 曲一箴 Twist Qu Yizhen, 植村絵美 Emi Uemura, and 王尘尘 Cici Wang.

This text hasn’t been updated to clearly state that HomeShop closed in 2013, even though that is alluded to in the loading animation on the website: “Please be patient while it loads, our hearts are heavy.” Apart from such first impressions, formulated and agreed upon a long time ago, the “history” of HomeShop is complex and myriad, and any attempt at articulating that history spurs endless conversations, internal ruminations, and occasional disagreements. Such disagreements may often have less to do with the matter at hand and are perhaps more a symptom of the sentiments that HomeShop as a collective project still carries for each one of us, which could be one explanation why several of our own members, as well as many other disintegrated spaces and collectives, choose silence over the awkwardness of collaborative reflection and archiving.

HomeShop, 31 December 2013.

There have already been a series of attempts at grappling with the history of HomeShop. As the space was closing its doors at the end of 2013, we produced a publication called 附录 Appendix which included 43 contributions and moments collected by people who have been close to HomeShop over the years or in passing. The back cover reads: “Perhaps we can propose this appendix as the image of a tail — a tail that doesn’t trail on forever, but the autonomous tail from which a salamander’s body might magically sprout forth.”

HomeShop is a place that we still want to talk about and still carry some desire to relate to, no matter how many emotional, financial, and whatever struggles we experienced. And by talking about it and re-connecting, we realize there is still emotion. (植村绘美 Uemura Emi)

HomeShop, 2018.

Even if seven years later we are still emotional when discussing this space where we invested so much of our time, hearts, and energy, it is crucial to contextualize HomeShop within a broader sphere of understanding: artist-run spaces that have a tendency not to survive; socially-engaged and activist practices that wear down (or clamp down upon) individual spirit; the need to re-evaluate measures of success or failure. […] That is why it’s difficult to encapsulate what HomeShop is or was, and what it has meant to us. There are just so many moments… so, so, so many moments. And maybe it was always HomeShop’s modus operandi to try to avoid inasmuch as possible being encapsulated, neatly categorized, or appropriated. Did that lead to our own demise? Perhaps. (from “40th, 10th, 5th: Anniversary Parties by HomeShop Party Members,” 2018)

HomeShop, 2007.

In terms of beginnings, HomeShop crystallized from less formalized, ongoing conversations and practices. At the time, the space was literally a home and a workshop/studio, and as the name implies, housed within a converted storefront space in the old hutong residential alleyways of central Beijing, where it served as a mini launchpad for collaborations between, and next to, passersby, visitors, and neighbors. These interactions, commonly known as “getting to know one’s community,” were highlighted by the camaraderie between artist-researcher Elaine, architect Fotini, scholar Xiao, and Twist — a neighbour who lived further back in the maze of the hutong compound — and life both documented and not, including a blog of observations and exchanges between Elaine and geographer Beatrice Ferrari, or hanging out with children who lived on the block.

Contextualizing from a larger radius, there were several impetuses which led to HomeShop’s more formal entrance as an “off space” in Beijing’s cultural sphere. For one, the insularity and commodification of what was being promoted as worthy art in the confined arts districts at the outskirts of the city attracted a reverse exodus into the Second Ring Road center. Secondly, the optimistic dynamic in the lead-up to the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics was a contagious flurry of activity further charging the public/private dynamics of a rapidly transitioning urban environment still clouded over by limits to the publicness of speech and critique. And more climactically, a number of events which occurred in 2008 — the Sichuan earthquake, riots in Tibet, and the Beijing Olympics — created a triangulated media spectacle spurring our reaction, analysis, and critique. We announced our first activity with an open call for proposals for hutong interventions during the Olympic games.

HomeShop, 2010–2013.

In 2010, the end of the lease of the first space and a growing dynamic of more voices in the collaborative dialogue resulted in the expansion of the space into a larger shopfront a few blocks away. Several other people became involved, including artists Michael Eddy and Emi Uemura, fresh university graduate Cici Wang and art historian Orianna Cacchione. The rhythms that gradually developed between seven or so people intersecting at the realms of art, design, philosophy, language, and/or serendipity would form an organizing group over the three further years of this larger HomeShop project.

The multiplicity of origins is much more honest, but often it’s too big and banal a volume to narrate, especially in an interview scenario. [...] [T]he practical uses of origins also beg, in a certain manner, larger questions of affinity and ‘how to keep the thing together’ that imply process and growth over origins. In this sense, ‘origins’ are negotiated between the different actors involved, and an “opening” insinuates a multiplicity of understandings of where origin begins, about the space that creates the possibility for special types of encounters and numerous starting points, and the real conditions these reflect. (from “Between 緣分 Yuanfen [fate], Real Estate and Serendipity,” 2012; Grand Domestic Revolution Handbook)

HomeShop grew out of a desire to explore different modes of self-organized economic and artistic production, different ways of living and working together. One notable aspect of this group of people was the diversity of backgrounds and interests. We could say that it was roughly half local Chinese and half folks born elsewhere, and that there was no central goal of the project according to any particular discipline. Rather, the courtyard hosted a plurality of interests, and the shopfront was a frame for relations with the surrounding neighbourhood, and it was this mixture and a sense of openness that proved to be the most singular characteristic of HomeShop. The organizing group would meet regularly, exchange ideas, and take collective decisions on daily practical things, upcoming projects, events that we were asked to host, as well as the general direction of the space-as-project. Each person would contribute according to their own interests, availability, and abilities, and varied attempts were made throughout the years to resolve problems or establish certain infrastructures or habits that would encourage the sharing of responsibility and labor. There was not much formal organization per se, but we would constantly experiment (to debatable success) with how to establish a relatively porous structure that would allow and encourage participation while also protecting and nourishing the processes and activities that were already in place.

The lack of any funding or institutional affiliation were facts that structured how the space was run. Studio rental and the setting up of a co-working space (at the time not yet refined as the slick, latte-flavored business model it is today) were therefore means to sustain financial independence of HomeShop but also a way to involve more people into the daily activities of the space. Other services were offered — such as design work, photocopying, translation, meal delivery, language courses, dog walking, etc. — in order to effect some means of sustainability conflated with playful ways to interact and get in touch with neighbors and passersby. 

But now that the space is long gone, maybe finally we can clear the cloud a bit: to equate the various forms of labor based upon a collective pooling of resources is a consideration of work itself — and the relations between artist and collector, designer and client, or performer and audience as “the work.” This, then, is in fact a larger rumination and experiment with forms of self-organized life, which in our terms, is an alternative schematic for work, love, and society. (何穎雅 Elaine W. Ho, from “40th, 10th, 5th: Anniversary Parties by HomeShop Party Members,” 2018)

HomeShop maintained several layers of activities, very few of which could be categorized as traditional exhibitions. Participatory events started at HomeShop’s earlier location, as did the practice of self-publishing. For instance, the 2008 Beijing Olympics and its effects on the city and its people spurred a series of neighborhood games, interventions, discursive events, and watch parties whose documentation and parallel texts were then gathered in the first edition of 穿 Wear (“Games ‘08”), HomeShop’s independently produced journal. This approach of organizing events as a gradually unfolding series of “documentary gestures” was carried over in the second space, as well as in two more editions of 穿 Wear (#2 “Cultural Exchange”; #3 “Ballsy”) and other publications. Some of these publishing practices created a platform for investigating ideas of publicness and locality and often welcomed large numbers of contributors with diverse backgrounds, an aspect that was specifically engaged in HomeShop’s newspaper projects (北二条小报 Beiertiao Leaks, 2010-2012; 黄边日报 The Yellowside Daily, 2011; 绿盒子阜利通 Greenbox Leaks, 2013). In external projects where HomeShop was invited to participate as a sort of “collaborative author,” attempts were made to recreate how dynamics played out at home, meaning ideas and roles were shared and additionally opened to other contributors if possible, with a focus upon immediate local contexts and surroundings.

Aside from such more punctuated events, the daily rhythms of living and working together kept the space very busy. Everything from meals together, a sharing library of books and other treasures (万物库 Ten Thousand Item Treasury), public interventions, rooftop gardening, a reading group, screenings, sound performances, and hosting other discursive events like the China edition of the Continental Drift project, WaoBao! exchange meets, and the Calendar Restaurant series, generated various scales of participation and production in the space.

HomeShop attracted a mixture of people, often in unexpected or unlikely combinations. Sometimes the workshops or events that took place happened to attract a more specific group of people because of language, content, or the ways that fluid networks work in the city. But there was such a range of activities which by default appealed to differing audiences or publics. In addition, there were the organizers and other participants coming to the space on a regular basis (e.g. dropping by as neighbors/friends, or sharing the workspace), also a mixture of often young Chinese and non-Chinese residents living in greater Beijing, interested and/or working in culture or with non-profit organizations. At the same time, the central location, large courtyard space, and a most often open door meant that there were also passersby who would curiously step in, assuming it was a commercial space, and then either step out in disappointment or curiously stay a bit longer to learn more. This ambiguity between a “store,” “community center,” and “art space” — or a “utopia” (as we were often described by visitors) — was a deliberate strategy. And it is from all of these varying “publics” that we sought for a disparate community to emerge.

HomeShop, The Last Year.

The initial impetus for beginning the very long and strained discussions of whether or not and how to continue HomeShop was the very concrete fact of our lease contract for the space ending and the owner asking for three times the amount of the previous rent to renew the lease. This was of course not an option, so it sparked many discussions and brainstormings for other possibilities, including finding a new space, rent sharing, commercial initiatives that would be able to sustain the higher rent, grants, etc. While many were hopeful for the continuity of HomeShop, these ideas would have certainly changed HomeShop to a large degree, and the additional fact that several co-organizers were leaving Beijing at this time contributed to the inability to reach consensus for any of the proposed ideas. It was interestingly the disappointing last resort of a “democratic approach” by a count of hands (voting was rarely practiced at the space, only when we were too tired or torn to continue discussion) which determined the end of the HomeShop name. This decision to let the name end instead of “re-branding” or adapting an existing identity is the result of an acknowledgement that the mutual desire to continue working together was complicated — as important an obstacle as financial considerations. When so much physical, financial, creative, and emotional energy is expended on an experiment like this, the stakes for collaboration are high. The diversity of interests swirling around the space, which made HomeShop singular, was predicated on a willingness to work together through differences. When people started drifting apart, the shared project became vulnerable to breakdown. It’s a story familiar to many self-initiated spaces.

In truth, the ending of HomeShop was consensual, not in the sense that everybody felt or understood this moment in the same way, but that there was a certain tolerance of the delicate balance of others’ positions. As the contract limit approached, there were impassioned debates about what an ending means. For some, it was the space; for others it was embodied in the related people; for others still it was carried on in the activities or program of the name HomeShop. (from the「我的负能量是你的正能量,or,或者,The Grin Without The Cat」 guidebook, 2014) 

Post-HomeShop, 2014–ongoing.

So, what remains?

In 2016, an official, municipal beautification campaign to “clean up” the inner-city hutong alleyways of Beijing went beyond the usual wall-painting and sign refurbishing. In line with the larger urban plan to focus the city within the Second Ring Road as a commercial and tourist destination, the area’s courtyard houses were bricked over and “restored,” including both of HomeShop’s former storefronts as well as those of many of our friends. Migrant worker residences in districts surrounding the city were also razed, and many art studios and spaces were either demolished or displaced as a result. Numerous venues and live houses have been forced to close as well. Beijing has always been changing, but Xi Jinping’s ascent has only seen cultural homogenization occurring ever more extremely. While new initiatives have popped up in the city, the large number of friends who have either moved to Shanghai or complainingly report that Beijing is no longer “fun” anymore insinuate that indeed, the time of HomeShop is over — or perhaps simply that it is hard to talk about continuity in a context like Beijing.

But while the name HomeShop has been cast away, perhaps we can be reassured by the offshoots and spirited relations which continue — among them, 凹凸 Aotu (initiated by former HomeShop participants Ray Wu and Pilar Escuder), Hutong 𝝿, and Cici Wang’s project space 弹脑门儿 Flicking Forehead. Active from 2014-2016, Flicking Forehead continued to use “exchange” as a method, triggering various events occurring within the limited confines of a shared 大杂院 dazayuan compound. As Cici describes it: “By trying to set up a parallel micro-reactor between cyberspace and physical space, Flicking Forehead aimed to explore how different relations, processes, and structures interact and chemically react within it. As blood, flesh, and bones.”

Shortly after the disintegration of HomeShop, Qu rented a small space nearby and hosted several academic lectures. Although the space was small, it was very active, and later in conjunction with poet and designer Zeng Lin, another friend and former participant of HomeShop, their joined effort called Hutong 𝝿 still continues today, even despite several moves of location. Despite the interference from authorities leading to a shrinking of scale and volume, they currently host “private gatherings of a salon-like nature, activities which cannot be called activities,” but still nurture exchange.

We support one another and grow together. Perhaps that is the true meaning of creating space? Thinking about it carefully, after HomeShop every step I have taken seems to have countless ties to it. When it ended, I was very sad and full of regret, but now I feel that the disintegration was also timed just right. Rationally speaking, it is unnecessary for a collective to exist in the long term, for a long existence does not necessarily produce new elements. It is only with the metabolism of constant circulation that vitality can be sustained. Space, synthesis, and collectivity are all pursued to create new forms of life. (曲一箴 Twist Qu Yizhen)

HomeShop, “Retrospection is production.”

Back in 2014, almost one year after the space had closed, HomeShop participated in the group exhibition “Unlived by What is Seen” curated by Sun Yuan & Peng Yu and Cui Cancan, where the detritus of the space was regathered as an almost “ethnographic” installation under the title「我的负能 量是你的正能量,or ,或者,The Grin Without The Cat」. An attempt to retrospectively address five-and-a-half years of work and play, the archive of 102 items was self-described as “a sampling of ephemera and residuals — from daily life, from the structures of organization, from other possibilities and dead ends, from things that never were, and, from a few ghosts.” Recounting histories may in actuality lead us on any number of narrative journeys.
And so, the “impact” or “legacy” of an endeavor such as HomeShop is always hard to pin down, especially for those that are no longer in Beijing. But voiced reminiscences, scattered inquiries, and rumors reach each of us from time to time. At the invitation of 同时 Companion, an art and activist publication of 黄边站 HB Station in Guangzhou, a few late reflections from four former participants of HomeShop have attempted to trace connections that have meandered into other, undocumented forms, and a new publication will be released in late 2020.

Coming back to the image of an “autonomous tail from which a salamander’s body might magically sprout forth,” the truth is that we are still looking for those baby salamanders on the walled-up streets of Beijing and in our walled-up hearts. They may be hard to catch, but we know they are there — because there’s always something tickling.


Visit the website of HomeShop to read more stories, listen to an audio tour of the space, and glimpse a few visual impressions. There you can also find an email address that you can write to if you want to say “你好 Hi,” “吃了吗 Have you eaten yet?,” “回来啦 Back already?,” or any other of the hutong vernacular that may or may not get a conversation going.


HomeShop was a storefront residence and artist initiative active in Beijing from 2008-2013. Nestled in the center of the city on one of its old hutong alleyways, the space and its window front were used as the beginning points from which to examine ways of relaying amidst public and private, the commercial, and pure exchange as such. Artists, designers, and thinkers came together via multiple, interwoven series of small-scale activities, interventions and documentary gestures, processes by which HomeShop served as an open platform to question existing models of economic and artistic production. Here, daily life, work, and the community served as explorations of micropolitical possibility, and of being in common.

If you can:


Right People, Wrong Timing (RPWT) is a series of texts on defunct or inactive independent Asian arts initiatives that had crossed paths or ran parallel to Papaya’s own 20-year history. With new posts every Friday from August to December 2020, RPWT is kindly supported through a local grant by the Japan Foundation Manila.