In this photograph, the artist Zhang Huan appears naked in a public toilet for his performance 12 Square Metres (1994). Garbage is strewn on the filthy floor of the twelve-square-metre space. Smeared with honey and fish sauce, Zhang’s body attracted swarms of flies during the hour-long performance, which ended with the artist immersing himself in a pond. Artist and photographer Rong Rong documented this and other activities of the Beijing East Village group, a collective of avant-garde artists and musicians who lived in the impoverished area of Dashanzhuang in the early 1990s. Residents dubbed Dashanzhuang ‘the East Village’ in reference to the neighbourhood in New York City, which has long been associated with the arts. The Beijing East Village artists explored ideas of the body and the environment, often through performance and photography. Their radical nude performances led to a police raid in 1994, forcing the artists to leave Dashanzhuang, but Rong Rong continued to document the collective’s activities until the late 1990s. The area was later developed as part of the Central Business District of Beijing. The East Village series reveals Rong Rong’s early work with photography, as a participant, an observer, and a model for self-portraits. The photographs form an important archive of performance art and signal the emergence of conceptual, experimental photography in China.