From the Curator of Tainan Arts Festival 2020
As we explore the significance of groups in an era of distancing,
encounters become a highly mobile method for sparking imagination and memory.
Among interactions with this land, we compose a memo for the future.
At the beginning, this land had no name. As human experience grew and history progressed, our space became defined and the places around us labeled. Through experiences, we grasped the meaning of space. With our bodies as a focal point, we continuously built upon this “land.” Within just one city were to be found innumerable, overlapping individual and collective pieces of “land”—each facing toward a different angle of space and time.
These “lands” are also where encounters are to be had—where memory is awakened and renewed. Similar to anthropology’s “contact zone,” this is where cultures meet, interact, come into conflict, communicate, or see-saw between each other. And through such encounters and contacts, a wide range of possible interactions are born.
Under the cloud of this pandemic, we’ve reflected upon our city’s roaming spirit and the mobile significance of this art festival. In an era of social distancing, we thirst for connection and contact. As the pandemic continues, however, it reveals the already present dangers of overconsumption and surveillance. We need to slow our footsteps to learn how to coexist and connect with the world.
Reflecting on social distancing vs contact, and encounters vs space, we inquired if the Tainan Arts Festival could become a meeting place of heterogenous groups and a container for a range of voices—thus allowing memory, fantasy, historical legend and social events to converge. We pondered if we could, in turn, narrate the stories of struggle and acceptance, or even the experience of being forgotten and scattered. In the end, we hoped that by applying a wide range of creative and mobile projects, the festival could serve as a medium through which to explore and share the memory of this land.
As pandemic numbers continued to change and the situation on the ground remained fluid, we faced a time of uncertainty, forcing us to prepare and plan for different eventualities. Postponing our original plan, we drew up a community art action plan in the short time still available to us. Tightening the requirements for participating groups, together we looked to create a new vision for the festival.
Upon this foundation, the theme of this year’s festival, Encounter—Here and Now, was born. The festival continues last year’s “site-specific” concept of redrawing the city’s map and leading audience members to various districts in Tainan such as Yanshui, Liuying, Houbi, Annan, and Zhongxi. New this year, however, is the division of the festival program into three creative dialogues, themselves based on three separate encounters.
The first, “Encounters with Legend”, features contemporary adaptations of traditional classics and a reinterpretation of various spiritual positioning. Following, “Encounters with Society” reflects on contemporary existence through issues such as generational plight, social connections, emotional structure in a technological era, and the disappearance of the individual within a capitalist society. Whether traditional stories interpreted or a reflection on social topics, all performances feature original Taiwanese creations brimming with the spirit of experimentation.
The third creative dialogue, “Encounters with Community,” is this year’s curatorial program and a social participation platform that looks to inject art into non-urban centers and areas. Meeting and co-creating with local groups with existing self-organizational abilities, this creative platform considers how art can take root in previously empty, but fertile, ground. The platform is multigenerational, with senior citizens and children both participating. Their participation is introduced through interviews and recordings, workshops in which videos or body languages are created, mobile performances, public participation, and curatorial initiatives featuring local publications and homegrown wisdom. Through group-based investigation, participants engage in a process of discovering the body, join in a reflection on ecological changes, and find hope for possibilities of co-existence. Similarly, the land itself is brought to light in the use of these unstructured art forms.
Mobility is for encounters. The Tainan Arts Festival hopes to offer encounters with different vectors of experience that allow us to dive deep into an understanding of each piece of “land” and its history, as well as the individual body and its memory. Ultimately, these encounters are an opportunity to use art to experience and reflect together as a community. They are the key to opening up differing paths of investigation—searching for old ways previously erased or unsealing new opportunities and hidden roads.
As we explore the significance of groups in an era of social distancing, encounters become a highly mobile method for sparking imagination and memory. Among these interactions within this land, we compose a memo for the future.
CHOW Ling-chih, Curator of Tainan Arts Festival