The second Langasan International Performance Art Festival (LIPAF) was held in Hualien according to plan despite the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic. Although the situation with the pandemic outbreak in Taiwan is well under controlled, it has not completely subsided. Therefore, this year’s LIPAF saw the absence of foreign artists and the cross interaction of performance art internationally. At a time when everyone resorted to presenting performances on virtual platforms as a result of the pandemic, the live performances of LIPAF reflected the important essence of “liveness” in performance art as well as in various performances. In addition, the performance venues in LIPAF are not the usual comfortable or typical indoor performance spaces. Instead, they focus on “site-specificity”. The three-day performance schedule allowed artists to present works in three different outdoor locations. From a personal point of view and my experiences from participating in performance art festivals in the past, there were interesting things happening which deserved some form of discussion in terms of LIPAF’s execution.
6/26 (Fri) Biexi Timolan Ecological Field (Cilamitay)
6/27 (Sat) Matai’an Lalan’s Home
6/28 (Sun) The front square of the eighth building in Hualien Cultural and Creative Park
Time for all performances: 13:30-17:00
There are a total of seventeen artists participating in LIPAF this year, and each artist are limited to fifteen minutes of performance. Based on the total amount of time calculated for three days, each artist had about forty-five minutes to present his or her work. This was an obvious strategy of ‘quantity over density’, allowing artists to brainstorm various ideas according to the venue of each day during the three-day intensive program schedule. Under this arrangement, the artists can choose to present three works with different concepts, or a series of works to under a sole concept.
The following notes are records of my personal observation:
Although I am from a country located around the equatorial region, I feel that performing under the scorching sun is an exploration of the physical limits of the body. The subtly formed “micro-energy” invisibly act as a spontaneous guidance at that particular moment for artists in presenting their work.
Movement (body – venue)
During the three-day festival, the body of the audiences and the artists are constantly in a state of “moving”-the artists were moving from south to north in three locations, and the movement of the audiences and the artists within the performance space of the venue. This state of moving to another space every fifteen minutes is somewhat a form of “flash mob” with the audience and the artists collaborating as “flash mobber.” In this state of moving, the audiences also get to experience ‘physical labor’ of the body in performance art, blurring the boundary between the artists and the audience. In the field of performance art, an audience is obviously no longer a mere viewer, but will definitely need to experience the work through some form of “physical practice.”
Sound (vocal – music – non-sound)
Various kinds of “sound” can be heard in many of the works. Chen Yi-Ju’s “〇〇〇” calls out her own name with sound and the changes of vocal tone generated through her body, referring to the talking voices of people with a face masks in times of the pandemic; the sound of “ài-爱-I-唉” (I-I-I-I) in Chen Hsiao-Chi’s “Sound Journey” series perked up a feverish atmosphere; the various musical instruments in “To Meet in Music, No Distance Can Isolate Us” by Lin Yu Fong, and Ding Liping’s “Sound of Thought” enabled the audiences to listen attentively to the “non-sound” in the bottle. These different man-made “sounds” were emitted in the nature environment, attempting to harmonise with sound from the nature as one, thus impelling everyone to experience a different form of “listening” experience.
One of the works in this year’s LIPAF left a deep impression on everyone. Director of Langasan Theater Adaw Palaf Langasan presented “Enjoying the Moment” on the third day. He used his body to perform with chicken manure that exuded a strong smell. This also precisely reflects that certain on-site characteristics in the medium of performance cannot be replaced by technology. Even in the ever-changing era, the viewing experience cannot be justified through electronic screens. Technology is always creating a lot of distance in our human world.
Like many domestic and international performance art festivals, LIPAF is also an “artist-initiated” project. The significance of such self-initiated festival lies in the possibility of creating opportunities to perform for a certain group without waiting or relying on large commercial entities to organise. This method responds to the spirit of autonomy, and has an open and flexible operating mode. Performance art as an artistic form is still marginalised and difficult to be classified. In addition, performance art is often excluded in institution curriculum which leads to the misunderstanding of performance art for many years. LIPAF has opened up the path of performance art in Hualien, a rural area in Taiwan. Through the connections of local groups, it enabled people outside the city to experience and understand what performance art is.
Unlike the first LIPAF that was held last year, the program for this year only had actual performances, and the performance art workshop was omitted. Performance art festival is a method to promote performance art. In addition to the presentation of the artists’ works, holding workshops for art practitioners, students, or the public who are interested, allow them to experience and learn. Furthermore, there are geographical advantages in rural areas outside the city. If the next LIPAF considers holding a workshop, it will provide the audiences a chance to participate through physical experience, so that the entire performance festival can play more effective roles.
(Original text in Chinese. Translated by Jason J S Lee)