It is necessary to share some basic facts about Taipei and Taiwan, then to mention two favourite artworks (by Su Yu-Hsien & Su Hui-Yu) from our curatorial visit & to end on a special A- – -Z mix with Taiwanese sounds from historical to recent films and current musicians. (List below).
Taipei, capital of Taiwan (Republic of China):
- Population: 2,704,810.
- 40th most-populous urban area in the world—roughly one-third of Taiwanese citizens live in the metro districts.
- Age: half of the population is aged over 40 years.
- Average income – NT$39,953.
Comparing Taiwan with mainland China & the Politics in Taiwan:
- In China, 8% of the population live under the poverty line, against 0.95% in Taiwan.
- Taiwan’s press freedom ranks 32nd in the world but China is in the 163rd place in the world and only better than 6 other countries.
- As of now, most Taiwanese identify themselves as Taiwanese.
- The China-friendly former ruling party, Kuomintang (KMT) made a comeback, winning 15 of the 22 cities and counties in Taiwan, defeating the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
- Kuomintang (Chinese National Party) was the ruling government when the Martial Law (strict regulations, propaganda and censorship on any new political parties, publications, media, and other art or creative forms) was imposed in 1947 and lifted only in 1987 – after the Japanese settlement was defeated (being present since 1895 when China ceded the island).
- In December 2018, to pressure the government over changes in the tax system and to make it more transparent, Taiwanese people marched down the street and wore yellow shirts and vests (in the same spirit as the movement in France). They also protested against the unfair policy of levying taxes and for delaying the implementation of tax exemption.
Two works stayed in my mind, they both responded to older references and were exhibited in the Taiwan Biennial, Wild Rhizome, in the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Art in Taichung – co-curated by Chou Yu-Ling (in-house curator) and Gong Jow-Jiun (Guest Curator) – a review of the past two years in the Taiwan Art scene.
In the “Wild Image and Alternative Histories” section, the curator Chou Yu-Ling presented to us a series of archival documents (films and photography) in relation to a group of artists, filmmakers, actors and musicians who published a quarterly ‘Theater’. All were active after the lifting of Martial Law, bringing a new wave of creativity and engagement in theatre, film and visual art. The video Prophet (2016) by Su Yu-Hsien was originally written by Huang Hua-cheng (1965). The experimental play centered on the dialogue between a couple sitting in the audience facing an empty stage. When it was first shown at the theatre, the actors were placed on stage facing the audience, as the original script was not accepted by the conservatism government of the time. This script represents the start of experimental writing in Taiwan after the second world war. Half a century later, actors Chuang Ling and Liu Ying-shang interpret once again the original play in front of the artist, Su Yu-Hsien’s camera. The couple argues, the woman pointing out the man’s failures; him nostalgic, representing the modernist intellectual collapse, aspiring to be better but never able to reach his ideal – thinking that he could have had an influential role since the May Fourth Movement in China.
With humour, these two characters are set in a surreal landscape, apparently waiting in an empty row of seats in a theatre or a cinema – waiting to see a play, a film, or contemplating for an instant at the end of a show. Godot’s Beckett comes to mind. The script places us, spectators in their anxiety, in their deepest & most intimate regrets and past aspirations, a lifetime has passed and nothing has changed.
The other work, The Glamorous Boys of Tang (2018), is a video by the contemporary artist, Su Hui-Yu – a new interpretation of a 1985 long feature film, Tang Chao qi li nan, (Tang Dynasty Beautiful Male) by Chiu Kang-Chien. Su Hui-Yu often researches aesthetics from the 1970s and 80s from films, pop culture, eroticism and porn. In The Glamorous Boys of Tang, he created a response to the original homoerotic movie which at the time was received with heavy criticism and censorship, two years before Martial Law was lifted.
Su Hui-Yu’s work, presented in a four-channel installation, is projected on four giant folded screens emphasizing the theatrical ‘mise-en-scene’, bringing the spectator almost behind a screen, or showing what is behind, accentuating the idea of a hidden setup being revealed. The uncanny story and atmosphere are a graphic, fantastic and phantasmagoric depiction of erotic bodies and flesh, where sex and murder occur, leading to the threshold of deepest passion. From the original film, Su Hui-Yu mentions the discrepancy in details between the script and the film, it seems that his work has translated these missing parts to another universe. The Glamorous Boys of Tang is honed, sharp, slick, dreadful and eerie; it is a tragedy that brings us into a catharsis.
Link to mix on Soundcloud, list of tracks below:
Film extracts + Soundtracks:
- Documentary with After Journey in the London Grime Scene, RADSII China, 2018
- Rebels of the Neon God by Tsai Ming-liang, soundtrack extract by Huang Shu-jun, 1998
- Hou Hsiao-Hsien, A City of Sadness, 1989
- A Touch of Zen, 俠女, pinyin : xiá nǚ, by King Hu, sound extract, 1971
- Murmur of youth by Lin Cheng-sheng, sound extract, 1997
- Zinnia Flower by Tom Shu-Yu Lin, sound extract ,2005
- Sonia Calico, Sawa Dee Ka, 2017
- Sonia Calico, Desert Trance, 2018
- Ruby Fatale, Cell Division 2018
- Ruby Fatale, Whisper, 2018
- 勸世美少女 – 姆湯溝阿捏, 2016
- Jolin Tsai, Play, 2014
- Jolin Tsai, Medusa, 2014
- Lexie 刘昱妤 X Al Rocco – City Lights 城市灯火, 2017
- Vinida, 场上称霸(Run This), 2017