We consider travelling as one of the most exciting and fascinating experiences. Although we are conscious that a forced travel can be a horrible trauma, a loss of identity and pure loneliness; in our case the cultural shock is just the opposite: The possibility to grow and explore our limits, a source of inspiration and a motor for creativity. Travel, as Miriam Beard in the “Realism in romantic Japan” described, is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.
With the globalisation the airports became sort of cathedrals and internet an open holy scripture, artists are more and more using the travel as a life model, feeding their works with discovery.
Our plan started in Berlin one year ago, when we got in contact with the director of Outsiders Factory, Nobuo Takamori, through the initiative of the curator Wang Chun-chi. We decided to create a collaborative exchange in which some Taiwanese artists would travel to Berlin and we would go to Taiwan. The exhibition that Takamori presented in Berlin was called Sommerreise including the artists Hou Yi-Ting, Lin Shu Kai, Adiong Lu, Niu Chun-Chiang, Ablica Wang, Yeh Wei-Li and Tsai Chi Minh.
In our initiatory journey to Taiwan we did not come like the Portuguese and the Dutch explorers pretending that we are the first and that we can reach some kind of truth; we came to visit, to observe, to be impressed and to share all the curiosity through our works. The exhibition in the Howl Space turns into a laboratory, as a digestive apparatus where we transform our daily experiences in Taiwan in an ongoing installation.
The idea is that we will never reach a final result, every day we transform our installation until the last day. The viewer has the opportunity to see the show in its process, as it would be a breathing being.
High Under Tai presents and reflects the cultural clash of two Europeans in Taiwan, in the form of an installation that transformed the space of Howl Space in Tainan.
The public was involved from the beginning and at every stage of the artistic process.
The doors of the gallery, turned into workshop, were open the public every day and the installation was created by testing various participatory mechanisms.
Our aim was through performances and interventions to accompany the visitors in the research and make them participate in the reflection, the action and the creation.
We tried this new form of exhibition that we consider it fits with the concept of Artist in Residence and generates a different communication between the center and its social environment.
Many people came to visit us repeatedly wanting to join and curious about the changes.
Our time was divided in one hand with the work outside the gallery, going to the streets in the search of inspiration and materials, as well as generating encounters with culture; on the other hand a research on written sources and images; and parallel with the time creating inside the gallery space. Every day of the exhibition the installation was modified until a final day that was also the closing day.
During this process we documented the project with photos, notes and video; and also a blog that served as a platform for communication and networking and receiving comments.SEE BLOG
What we from the beginning realized is that Taiwans reality is not easy to understand. Taiwan has not even the status of country. From the perspective of international politics it is often considered a province of China. But most of the Taiwanese are very convinced that their identity is unique and don’t feel identified at all with the Chinese Dragon.
Their past is full of diverse occupations (Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese) mixed with colourful aboriginal origins, which have forged a distinctive identity. Of course there are many cultural aspects that develop from the pre-communist Chinese classical culture; but this has evolved in a unique and different form.
A great found for our research was the poem Discovering □□, of the poet Xiang Yang.
Translated into English in the compilation: Sailing to Formosa / A Poetic Companion to Taiwan, edited by Michelle Yeh, NGD Malmqvist and Xu Huizhen. Published by University of Washington Press. (2006)
A week after arriving in Tainan we visited the library of the Literature Museum as part of our research visits. And we like to think that the poem found us, because after a short search we found what we consider the “perfect description of the country”: Embodying the political situation under the controversial policy known as Deliberate policy of Ambiguity, which defines the status of Taiwan.
The poem was a key and decisive confirmation of what at the time was only an unclear perception. We decided that the poem had to be part of the exhibition.
THE CALLIGRAPHIC MACHINE
Inspired by the possibility that the temples in Tainan offer to ask direct questions or wishes to god, as well as with the tradition of Planchette-writing or spirit-writing, in which automatic writings serve to bridge communication between men and spirits, we created our calligraphic machine.
The Machine uses a “Made in Taiwan” special device normally used in market places, hanging above sweets or fresh food products to get rid of the flies.
It was a big surprise for us how much the people (old and young) took our machine so seriously and really believed that a superior force was communicating with them. This reaction would not be possible in our European context.
How to use the Calligraphic Machine:
1- Prepare a white blank sheet of calligraphic paper
2- Suck the brush in black ink
3- The visitor asks for a wish or a question
4- The visitor presses the button to activate the calligraphic machine while concentrate in the question
5- The answer will be created in the form of an abstract drawing
6- The visitor can take the drawing home and interpret it in calm
PERFORMANCES WITH THE AUDIENCE
Participatory action the day of the final presentation.
During those dates, thousands of students following the “Occupy model” closed themselves inside the parliament in Taipei.
In our project we wanted to include a reflection on what was happening. We simulate an event such as the occupation of the parliament and we ask all visitors to send the image through social networks.
The subject focuses on the student demonstrations that were happening just at the time when we were in Taiwan: Protests against the political decisions by the Taiwanese government giving big trading rights to China.
Another intervention consisted of distributing “Made in Taiwan” labels and ask the public to look for the labels in their clothes. If it was “Made in China” they had to replace them for ours.