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Shanzhai Lyric: Canal Street Research Association

November 4th - December 31st, 2020

327 Canal Street, New York City

Wednesday - Saturday, 1pm - 5pm

Appointment Here

On Canal Street, Artists Revisit Histories of Exchange While Courting the Boundaries of Authenticity

Canal Street Research Association, is a temporary center of operations for itinerant research unit Shanzhai Lyric. Bringing their roving investigation of bootleg goods to the epicenter of counterfeit culture in New York City, Shanzhai Lyric repurposes 327 Canal Street, a branch of Wallplay’s ON CANAL, as space for gathering ephemeral histories, mapping the major thoroughfare’s lore, past and present, and tracing the flows and fissures of global capital. A purpose-built space designed in collaboration with architectural collective common room demarcates areas for research and performance, spread across four zones of poetic reflection: Archive, Library, Timeline, Hamlet. Construction materials of plywood and concrete form distinct modular areas to collate ongoing research materials, blurring the lines between display and process. The project is the first phase of a larger body of work examining counterfeit culture in relation to contemporary notions of property. In the midst of the current retail apocalypse, Canal Street Research Association revisits projects both massive and minute that have transpired on the storied block, speculating new modes of inhabiting this complex interplay of hustles. The public is invited to share stories and personal artifacts, forming a living archive that will accumulate throughout the space.“


Canal Street is a crucial site of contact and collision where the circulation of counterfeit goods rubs up against the luxury aspirations of local and international developers,” says Shanzhai Lyric. “The implications of the bootleg market are of increasing relevance amidst uprisings and so-called ‘looting’ across the US, where the protection of property so often takes precedence over the protection of life. Shanzhai, the Chinese word for ‘bootleg,’ translates literally to ‘mountain hamlet,’ referring to an area on the outskirts of town used by bandits to stockpile stolen goods for redistribution among the poor. Our project departs from the liberatory implications of this image, celebrating certain forms of theft as political, philosophical, and artistic acts of rebellion against a much larger theft of land and resources.”


Curated Constanza Valenzuela and Jack Radley, Shanzhai Lyric’s Canal Street Research Association will engage the cultural and economic histories of Canal Street over the course of several months to collect, contribute to, and archive information about the neighborhood’s legacy as supply hub and artistic muse. A microcosm of global trade routes, Canal Street has held allure for generations of artists to occupy this zone of exchange where high meets low, art meets commerce, and original meets copy. Historically central, Canal Street Research Association is just down the block from the famed Fluxhall and right beside the site of Yoko Inoue’s 2001 “Sale,” in which the artist unspooled alpaca sweaters featuring the Twin Towers to offer raw materials as tourist souvenirs.


During this exceptional moment, when a street that is typically packed with frenzied tourists looms largely empty, Shanzhai Lyric takes stock of the neighborhood’s inherent contradictions, inviting visitors and passerby to both glimpse into and engage in the process. In the midst of economic distress wrought by global pandemic and the acceleration of online commerce, the future of Canal Street remains indeterminate, yet full of radical potential. Shanzhai Lyric embraces this pause as a moment to assess the cultural legacy of a neighborhood that has birthed numerous experimental and iconic happenings, traversing both art and commercial contexts.


In the final months of 2020, Canal Street Research Association will play host to a series of COVID-responsive programming intersecting in various ways with neighborhood lore including screenings of Jack Smith’s nearby Hamlet production as critique of Landlordism, plein air portraiture by neighboring street artists, radio broadcast of found sound footage, and scenes re-staged live that will be visible to passersby through the window. Locals, business owners, and artists influenced by the culture of Canal Street are invited to share their own stories with the neighborhood, which will be documented in a forthcoming publication that maps these connections. Inaugurating the office space, Shanzhai Lyric unveils a new logo by Bing Lee, best known for his iconic subway tiles at the Canal Street Subway Station and integral role in the downtown arts scene.


Shanzhai Lyric’s archive of poetry-garments will be available for consultation by appointment hereProgramming details & research findings will accumulate at @canal_street_research.


This project received significant support from Wallplay and the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. 



Shanzhai Lyric is a body of research focusing on radical logistics and linguistics through the prism of technological aberration and nonofficial cultures. The project takes inspiration from the experimental English of shanzhai t-shirts made in China and proliferating across the globe to examine how the language of counterfeit uses mimicry, hybridity, and permutation to both revel in and reveal the artifice of global hierarchies. Through an ever-growing archive of poetry-garments, Shanzhai Lyric explores the potential of mis-translation and nonsense as utopian world-making (breaking) and has previously taken the form of poetry-lecture, essay, and installation. @shanzhai_lyric



Jack Radley and Constanza Valenzuela are a curatorial collective who have produced exhibitions and programs throughout New York with an emphasis on new commissions.  They recently co-organized the colloquium “What Can NYC Art Museums Do For Immigrants?” at NYU, featuring representatives from MoMA, the Brooklyn Museum, the Queens Museum, and the Department of Cultural Affairs. Radley and Valenzuela currently work at Creative Time to realize new commissions of socially engaged work throughout the city. Selected by NARS’ competitive Curatorial Open Call, their exhibition Transient Grounds will interrogate the environmental, political, and military histories of Governors Island when it opens next year.

For more information contact

@canal_street_research         @shanzhai_lyric         #oncanal 

Canal St Research Assoc_20201114
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