Mr. Wing Theatre Company – A Journey towards sentiment (kanshoo ryokoo)—My Endless Melancholy Becomes Siberia Comprised of Oblivion After You Left for the Southern Villages, performance view at Guling Street Avant-Garde Theatre, Taipei, 2021. Image courtesy HSU Ping.
Broadcast online from Taipei on Jul 2, the 20th Taishin Arts Award ceremony proved to be a memorable occasion in more ways than one, as Mr. Wing Theatre Company became the first recipients in the history of the awards to win in multiple categories in the same year. The Taiwanese theater company first shared the NT$ 1 million Performing Arts Award with Body Phase Studio for their coproduction Prince Hamlet, and then enjoyed the NT$ 1.5 million Grand Prize all to itself for A Journey towards sentiment (kanshoo ryokoo)—My Endless Melancholy Becomes Siberia Comprised of Oblivion After You Left for the Southern Villages. Both productions were mounted at the same venue, Guling Street Avant-Garde Theatre, an independent theater located in a historic former police building in Taipei. Rounding out the prize winners was LI Yi Fan, who took home the NT$ 1 million Visual Arts Award for his multimedia work howdoyouturnthison (2021), presented at the 2021 Asian Art Biennial.
Established in 2002, the Taishin Arts Award recognizes outstanding works of performance, visual, and transdisciplinary art presented in Taiwan during the preceding year and is one of Taiwan’s most prestigious distinctions for cultural achievement. This year’s awardees were chosen by a seven-member jury chaired by independent curator Amy Cheng. The jury described Mr. Wing Theatre Company’s A Journey towards sentiment as “a theatrical work, a literary piece, and a political inquiry” that revisits the context of left-wing history in Taiwan. Directed by LI Huan-hsiung, the production starred TSUEI Tai-hao in a solo performance based on the life of novelist CHEN Ying-Zhen, who was born under Japanese rule in 1937 and was active throughout the latter half of the 20th century. The jury commended the work for critically tracing “the ideal and the loss of the avant-garde and modernity, offering both a testimonial interpretation as well as a splendid translation of the languages of different generations.”
The Performing Arts Award also went to a solo performance. In Prince Hamlet, playwright and actor YANG Qi-Yin reinterpreted Hamlet through the lens of the 318 Occupation Movement of 2014, also known as the Sunflower Student Movement, during which students and other citizens occupied the Legislative Yuan in protest of the ruling Kuomintang party’s unilateral passing of a controversial trade agreement with China. Commending Yang’s script and solo performance and the use of mise en scène by director WANG Mo-lin, founder of the Body Phase Studio, the jury praised the work as a performance that “takes on the loss of gravity of existence without evasion, critically exposing the politics of the body with the exploding momentum of anarchists across generations.”
Above: Body Phase Studio and Mr. Wing Theatre Company – Prince Hamlet, performance view at Guling Street Avant-Garde Theatre, Taipei, 2021. Image courtesy HSU Ping. Below: LI Yi Fan – howdoyouturnthison (2021), video, 17 min. 30 sec., Asian Art Biennial 2021, Taichung.
Li Yi Fan’s Visual Arts Award–winning video howdoyouturnthison was on view from Oct 30, 2021, to Mar 6 of this year in the Asian Art Biennial at the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts in Taichung. Made using game engines, the work addresses how virtual reality technology has altered our image-making tools. Li employs a metanarrative structure whereby he interweaves imagery of video production processes with video images produced through these processes. In its citation, the jury notes that Li “overturns the historical toolbox of ‘machinima,’ skillfully manipulating his avatar that wriggles without physical constraints. The ghost in the shell stimulates the viewer’s bodily perception, and its murmured confessions draw everyone to unconsciously enter the inner world of image production. The mutual generation of post-human body and virtual reality modeling language (VRML) reflexively exposes the alternative reality of the Internet generation, releasing the becoming of images and liberating the narrative language.”
In addition to the conferral of prizes, the landmark 20th edition of the Taishin Arts Award was commemorated with a speech by award chairman Thomas Wu of Taishin Holdings. Reflecting on the mission of the awards, Wu stated that “the Taishin Arts Award supports Taiwanese artists with substantial prize money, assisting artists to shine on the stage, while guiding the direction of the Taiwanese arts and cultural scene.” In her remarks, jury chair Amy Cheng asserted that the awards’ combination of a long-term focus on local production and a horizon deeply informed by localness provides a foundation for the event and is what makes it so unique.
A recording of the award presentation is available for viewing on the official website of the 20th Taishin Arts Award.