For the Unnamable Next Second
The next second, one that is approaching the coming future, is both real and almost nonexistent
to the performers in a performance—if it is not “brought to life by the performance,” it will just
pass imperceptibly. The reality in theater always relies on the performance that emphasizes on the
next second. In this next second lies the true meaning of various keywords, such as “live,” “flow,”
and “improvisation”; and the so-called practice, enculturation, and thinking are all meant to build
the foundation for this next second to come.
The twenty-year-old Taishin Arts Award (referred to below as the Award) is like a large banner
waving in the ever-changing wind of Taiwan’s progressive institutionalization of cultural governance. For the Award has continuously examined whether its observation–review–selection mechanism is adapted to the times, and has facilitated innumerous “artistic dialogues” via the nominated and awarded works to tangibly demonstrate “interdisciplinary” thinking. The true benefit it has reaped— like the wind blowing through the banner and forming a dynamic interplay of light and shadow—is that it has enabled and led people to spot “the surprising gems buried in the grass.” “NEXT: Taishin Arts Award 20th Anniversary Exhibition” (referred to below as “NEXT”) continues the Award’s fervent attention to performing arts, and showcases many performing arts works that “concentrate on the next second.” The venue for showcasing these productions is not a theater, where seat occupancy rate is often a vital point. Instead, these works are staged in an art
museum, where visitor flow rate is an important factor, and even happen at remote sites, where seat occupancy rate or visitor flow rate is of little to no importance. However, it is by doing so, we are able to perceive the attitudes and approaches of different performing arts groups as to how they set up and carry out their works.
Several renowned groups who are currently busy with scheduled performances, including Century Contemporary Dance Company, Bulareyaung Dance Company, and U-Theatre, all have experiences of performing in art museums. Nevertheless, whether they are thrilled about incorporating the view of passing MRT trains outside the museum into their works or decide to conduct a moving performance inside the museum, they all focus on demonstrating the collective spiritual power. On the other hand, Chou Shu-Yi and Lee Ming-Chen are ready to interpret the space with their works, and convey an attitude of reading the art museum itself radically, while embodying a creative thinking reminiscent of the auteur theory. Snow Huang conceives a music concert, which brings together theater musicians, independent musicians, and social activists to review the twenty-first-century history of protest in Taiwan through poetry and music, and celebrate the twentieth anniversary of both the Award and Against Again Troupe. Dancerchoreographer Liu Kuan-Hsiang and actor-playwright Yang Qi-Yin respectively utilize an Indian epic and a Osamu Dazai play to introduce their individual routes of forging their art in “NEXT.”
For this exhibition, two art groups revisit the core concepts of their award-winning works, and put a different spin on their previous productions to respectively create a new version imbued with a new charm: Dear John created by Lin Kuei-Ju and M.O.V.E. Theatre produces a motorized installation combining a prepared piano and a seesaw, engendering a simple and playful atmosphere. This edition of work visualizes the artist’s attention to children, as well as their aim to engage more audience in participation. Another work is from Wang Shih-Wei, Tien Hsiao-Tzu, Helmi Fita, and Li Tzu-Mei. This group of artists deconstructs their awarded work, Masses, and uses sound, installation experience, and performance to lead the audience to navigate solitarily “the loneliness and confusion when being among the crowd.”
Additionally, there are performing artists who delve into the creation of films or dialogues, and present “ways of viewing” that are rather ingenious or culturally enriched: Huang Ming-Chen, who goes by the name of “Mr. Candle,” exhibits a special version of the film from his twenty-year film project, which has now passed half of its expected duration. The film is both a commemoration of the Award’s twentieth anniversary, and the arrival of a new family member. Yeh Ming-Hwa finds her inspiration in Wang Jun-Jieh’s David’s Paradise. She attempts to cross different media to create her presence, which makes her work a conceptual dialogue with art, one that is comparable with her brilliant project of questing for the self by gazing into the lives of renowned Taiwanese and Western female dancers in the twentieth century. Fangas Nayaw’s long-distance two-way streaming project is rather inspired. Utilizing tech devices and consistent internet connection, the work establishes a basis for audiovisual telecommunication between the art museum and the meeting place in an indigenous village with both sites having an equal number of streaming spots, and carries out viewing and exchange that is both quotidian and random.
This time, there are also multiple horizontal collaborations between the award-winning artists or art groups, which considerably demonstrate these performing artists’ willingness to challenge the future: With live improvisation, performer Chen Wu-Kang joins Cheng Hsien-Yu’s project to interpret scripts produced by AI. Choreographer Su Wei-Chia leads his dancer to participate in artist Chen I-Hsuen’s “work scenarios” to mainly continue the dynamic interactions between dancers and photographers, as well as the dance body and the filming camera, to possibly improve their understanding of each other’s profession. In the two works, the artists do not intentionally arrange rehearsals to increase the performativity. In fact, it is difficult to predetermine what script or film will be produced in the end. Does this not beckon the fact that we are not able to foresee the issues and entanglement of power, ethics, publicness, and emotion, which exist more or less in such a work scene?
How about the work scene outside the art museum, then?
Pisui Ciyo from UTUX, Pan-Spirit's Men for Music and Dance organizes an art action before the opening of the exhibition, and leads a nearly ten-people group consisting of scholars, members of the curatorial team, and a filming crew, to embark on a trip that lasted two days and one night. The main part of the action comprises a two-hour workshop of music performance, singing, group dance, and without talking, combined with a visit to a Saisiyat village before the workshop and another one to the Guanwu Forest afterwards. In the museum, the audience will be able to get a glimpse of the action, along with the sacred beauty of the mountains, via a documentary video, a live performance, and a workshop.
Another work performed in Keelung in the form of environmental theater originates from new media artist Peng Hung-Chih’s house-hunt in Keelung. This very action, which resembles the opening of Pandora’s box, has become the starting point of Peng’s continuous art projects, including the collaboration with Gang-a-Tsui Theater to be presented in “NEXT.” This collaborative production constitutes of two interfaces—the new media artistic creation and that of environmental theater. The artist and the theater company both challenge and collaborate with each other to develop the work. Meanwhile, the production has gained the support of a local community and temple. Consequently, the entire exchange mechanism of the work encompasses the interaction between people, as well as the interaction among humans, gods, and spirits,
conducting an overture to “The Thousand and One Nights” for the community.
There are many stories yet to be told. No matter what, one should not rest and stop. Besides, there is still John Cage’s idea of “tacet” —a full four minutes and thirty-three seconds of it. Afterwards, we shall head to the scene, and for the next second of the works that always in pursuit of the next second, to catch up with the performances.