Lecture by Huang Sun-Quan: Multitude: Till We Have Faces!—The Images of Social Movements in Asia

Praxis School is the thematic lecture series to be hosted by TheCube Project Space in 2016. Inviting experienced professionals, we organize the lecture series into systematic courses/workshops in which the lecturers will dilate upon the subjects and thoughts they seek to share with the participants.

The first series will be delivered by Huang Sun-Quan, a renowned social activist and cultural researcher, with “Multitude: Till We Have Faces!” as the theme that runs through this series. Based on his long-term research and practice in social movements, along with the content of Multitude.asia (i.e. an image database of social movements in Asia established by him and his team), Huang will deliver a series of three-hour lectures on a monthly basis and give the participants a contextual and systematic understanding of contemporary social movements in Asia. This series is scheduled for each month of 2016, during which the participants will be requested to discuss the associated readings and organize a thematic exhibition collectively in collaboration with the lecturer. It is not only an intellectual activity but also a collective creative project.

About The Theme of the Lecture Series

By Huang Sun-Quan

Innumerable terms such as people, public, crowd, mass, multitude, and class have been created to describe social gatherings. Intellectuals and populists have shown as much enthusiasm as the top-down power deployments have done in applying these terms. Thanks to the advances in network technologies, these terms have appeared on various communications media and have been increasingly referring to the exactly opposite affairs that fall in line with the preferences of elites, minorities, and the bourgeoisie. Today, we attempt to redefine the meanings of these terms. However, our purpose is not so much to give these terms rigid definitions as to interpret them variously until they take on diverse appearances. Invoking the metaphor of plants, we are looking for the seeds of social dynamics rather than its flowers.

Nevertheless, what we advocate is by no means an individualistic strategy for radically changing the world, since the idea that “I will keep moving forward against all odds” represents an intricate hybridization of the neoliberalist morality and the priority over scientific R&D. Instead, we examine the questions as to how a group acquires knowledge and promotes practice through self-learning and how it develops the autonomy and ability of mobilization through its connections and interaction with other groups. Treating Asia as the point of departure, we plan to build up an archive of group interaction in the lecture series, and thereby explore the diverse appearances of multitude.

Topics and Schedule

# 1
The Trilogy of Empire: Empire, Multitude, and Commonwealth  (Part I)
2-5 p.m., 23 January 2016 (Sat.)

A new type of empire has risen. Different from the Second Hundred Years’ War fought between Great Britain and France throughout the eighteenth century and the American global hegemony after the Second World War, the empire referred to in this lecture is a new form of sovereignty that restructures the subjectivity of the world and individuals. This lecture will collate the contemporary global politics and the resistant subjective agents therein by reference to Empire / Multitude / Commonwealth, the trilogy co-authored by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri.

# 2
The Trilogy of Empire: Empire, Multitude, and Commonwealth (Part II)
2-5 p.m., 20 February 2016 (Sat.)

# 3
Neo-liberalism and Neo-imperialism
2-5 p.m., 2 April 2016 (Sat.)

Neo-liberalism and Neo-imperialism are two sides of the same coin. We will learn the force principale of global political and economic structures by reading two books written by David Harvey. Instead of regarding the globalized space as a predetermined outcome, we must contemplate the globalized production in terms of spatial production. Since space is no vessel, its status quo is not directly dictated by (economic and political) globalization. Rather, space per se is the dominant factor behind the redistribution of global capital. Only by closely investigating the process of spatial production can we transform the claim of “all things in their being are good for something” into the action plan for reclamation. Given the dual-structure of Neo-liberalism and Neo-imperialism involved, we should transform the space of anti-globalization into an alternative one of counter-globalization.

# 4
A Companion to Marx’s Capital by David Harvey
2-5 p.m., 30 April 2016 (Sat.)

Karl Marx’s stimulating idea is an invaluable source of reference for us to acquire the knowledge of analyzing current global and local predicaments as well as the content of the previous two lectures, whereby we achieve liberation. Reading Das Kapital: Kritik der politischen Ökonomie may be a daunting challenge. However, we can grasp the essence of the key chapters (particularly those in the first volume) of Das Kapital and map globalization with minimal effort by reading David Harvey’s A Companion to Marx’s Capital.

# 5
Social Movements in Hong Kong: Media, the Arts and Action Plans
2-5 p.m., 28 May 2016 (Sat.)

Founded in Hong Kong, 2004, Hong Kong In-Media (http://www.inmediahk.net) has engaged in a riotous profusion of social movements such as the protests during the WTO Hong Kong Ministerial Conference (2005), the preservation campaign of Star Ferry and Queen’s Piers (2006-2007), the Choi Yuen Village event and the Occupy Central movement (2009), the campaign against the Northeast New Territories Development Plan (2011), and the Hong Kong dockworkers strike (2012). It has become a base for social mobilization in Hong Kong and a platform for opinion exchange. Meanwhile, it gradually re-orientates itself from an antagonist of mainstream media to a professional electronic media platform.

# 6
Investigating the Social Movements in Taiwan since the 1990s
2-5 p.m., 25 June 2016 (Sat.)

Taiwan’s economy hummed along to its peak growth rate in the 1990s. New urban social movements emerged out of opposition to the state-capital liaisons in development-oriented cities. They galvanized people into collective actions, forged people’s project identities, and mounted the resistance against bourgeois dreams of avarice. By virtue of theoretical perspectives and field studies, this lecture reviews contemporary urban environment and cultural governance in Taiwan as a direct consequence of many social movements such as the Snails without Shells movement, the Anti-Green Bulldozer movement, the Treasure Hill anti-relocation movement, the sex workers’ rights movement, the movement of preserving Lo-Sheng Sanatorium and Hospital.

# 7
The Tent Theatre and the Art Occupy Movement in Japan
2-5 p.m., 30 July 2016 (Sat.)

Daizo Sakurai’s tent theatre is a great cultural legacy of the student movement in Japan from the 1960s. It appropriated the form of theatre to make political noise and mount resistance. The theatre has never received any subsidy from governments and enterprises. By virtue of his unique way of working, Daizo Sakurai created an autonomous system of theatre and performance in Japan, Taiwan and Beijing, a system that wields profound and far-reaching influence on the next generation of intellectuals.

# 8
After the Gwangju Uprising: The Wild Chrysanthemums, People’s Daily and the Left-wing Artists
2-5 p.m., 27 August 2016 (Sat.)

Paik Nak-Chung’s ideas about overcoming the crisis of division system and creating the 2013 regime serve as a critical entry point for us to understand the social movements in South Korea. This lecture introduces three cases, namely the Wild Chrysanthemums (the most iconic band in South Korea’s democratization process, formed after the Gwangju Uprising in the 1980s), People’s Daily (the first crowd-founding newspaper in the history of South Korea), and the artworks created by left-wing artists, for the purpose of identifying the approaches of South Korean cultural practice after democratization.

# 9
Two Leftist Bookstores: Tangshan in Taiwan and Pirate ISBN in Malaysia 
2-5 p.m., 1 October 2016 (Sat.)

Tangshan bookstore run by Chen Long-Hao and Pirate ISBN by Zhang Yong-Xin (transliteration) have respectively cultivated a new generation of students with leftist thoughts. Over the past three decades, the two bookstores started up by piracy and self-publishing, and then re-orientated themselves to supporting the publishing of less-profit seeking social thoughts series. The young people who benefited from them are now becoming the ideological backbone of both societies.

# 10
The People’s Science Movement in India
2-5 p.m., 29 October 2016 (Sat.)

A number of nuclear scientists who studied abroad in the Soviet Union gave up their high-paying jobs as researchers and devoted all their energies to the anti-illiteracy campaign in India. They redefined science by editing textbooks, staging dramas, performing music, and organizing workshops. Science is a tool for people to acquire knowledge. Literacy refers not only to the ability of reading and writing but also to that of problem-solving. Nowadays, ten thousands of volunteers engage in the movement and millions of people benefit from it.

# 11
Wrap up / Exhibition Planning
2-5 p.m., 26 November 2016 (Sat.)

Each participant is required to submit a thematic report, sharing his/her case study on pivotal social movements or artistic practice in contemporary Asia, so as to formulate a proposal concerning the arrangement of the exhibition on Asian multitude through reciprocal learning and discussion.

# 12
Wrap up / Exhibition Planning
2-5 p.m., 7 January 2017 (Sat.)

Participants clarify the concrete content and the division of labor for the exhibition, and thereby transform their one-year reading and studying into actual curatorial practice.

Lee Kit’s solo exhibition “The more I ignore you, the closer you get.”

This exhibition, titled “The more I ignore you, the closer you get.” started on view from 18 February until 9 April, 2017. Lee Kit has been active in the international art scene, and also represented Hong Kong at the 55th Venice Biennale in 2013. In recent years, he has not only shuttled between Hong Kong and Taipei but also frequently travelled for his exhibitions around Asia, North America and Europe. Lee tends to project the indescribable spiritual dimension of our quotidian existence to the exhibition venues with paintings, texts and images based on the dialogues that embody his personal attributes and implicit political struggle for survival. His artworks always leave the spectators with a feeling of empathy for his deep sentiments and acumen.

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Towards Mysterious Realities

Sponsored by the 2015 Production Grants to Independent Curators in Visual Arts of National Culture and Arts Foundation of Taiwan, co-organized by TheCube Project Space and TKG Foundation for Arts & Culture, and curated by Amy Cheng, the exhibition Towards Mysterious Realities will open on December 10, 2016 at TKG+ in Taipei.
The curatorial context of this exhibition aims to encourage profound reflection on Asia’s relationship to the world. Focused on the postwar experiences, this exhibition provides a point of departure where viewers are invited to see the world through the lens of Asia, which allows for a closer investigation of quotidian experiences and social spaces, thereby constructing different angles to approach the realities of today’s global landscape.

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Artist Workshop|Artificial (sonic) Sweeteners – by Bani Haykal

BANI Haykal, one of the thirteen participant artists of the exhibition Towards Mysterious Realities, is currently having his 3-week residency in Taipei. On 3rd of December, his workshop Artificial (sonic) Sweeteners (or how much calories we have stuffed into our subconscious so far) will be held at TheCube Project Space from 7 to 9:30pm, a group of 25 people will be invited to join in.

The participants of the workshop will need to register online before Dec. 2.

About the Workshop

artificial (sonic) sweeteners
or how much calories we have stuffed into our subconscious so far

In the 1950s, sound engineer Charles Douglass invented The Laff Box, a tape-based analogue synthesizer which expanded his conception of the laugh track used for television sitcoms. The laugh track, also known as “sweeteners”, is still a prominent ingredient in television today, primarily used to emphasise / prompt a response from both a live studio audience and home viewers.

artificial (sonic) sweeteners is a project which seeks to create a public repository of canned laughter and applause as a method of addressing the roles and privileges of being an audience / observer for various political shifts such as state surveillance and cultural diplomacy. For the workshop, participants will be involved in creating a list which consists of instructions for laughter and applause, followed by a recording session to document the list being performed. The recordings will be uploaded online and made public.

About the Artist

BANI Haykal (b. 1985) experiments with text and music. As a soloist, he works primarily with acoustic instruments, both traditional and/or hacked, and his studies revolve around narratives, structured improvisation and spoken word. He is a member of OFFCUFF and b-quartet. An Associate Artist with The Substation, Haykal has collaborated, exhibited, performed and toured internationally, as an artist and a musician, participating in festivals including Media/Art Kitchen (Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and Japan), da:ns Festival and The M1 Fringe Festival (Singapore) among others. Haykal was also a member of the Singaporean avant rock band The Observatory, with whom he has toured Norway (2012) and Italy (2013). Haykal was a recipient for the Young Artists’ Award (2013) and has been selected for the 2015 President’s Young Talents.

Zheng Bo: Weed Party II + Toad Commons

Invited by TheCube Project Space, Chinese artist Zheng Bo has spent multiple periods in Taipei working as an artist in residence since the summer of 2015. On September 3, 2016, Zheng will present Weed Party II + Toad Commons at TheCube Project Space and the nearby Toad Mountain.

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Working-Through: Vandy Rattana and His Ditched Footages

TheCube Project Space is pleased to present Cambodian artist Vandy Rattana’s first solo exhibition in Taiwan, titled Working-Through: Vandy Rattana and His Ditched Footages, curated by Fang-Tze Hsu.

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The Bianwen Book: Images, Production, Action and Documents of Chen Chieh-Jen

TheCube Project Space is honored to present Chen Chieh-Jen’s solo exhibition The Bianwen Book: Images, Production, Action and Documents of Chen Chieh-Jen. Date of the exhibition is from October 24th, 2015 to January 10th, 2016, and the special screening “Realm of Reverberations Returns to Losheng” and the artist talk will be held on 3-6pm, Sat., January 9th, 2016.

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Archive Frenzy – On the practice and methods of archives

An increasing number of artists in recent years seem to regard “archives” as a highly kinetic media in their process of artistic production, both in expressive form and contemplation; utilizing large quantities of archives in their the performance and exhibition of their work. Archives are not only material for but a proposition of multi-layered perspectives. Artists reflect on the fundamental significance intrinsic to “archives”, and expound on its possibilities for awareness. In addition to reinterpreting archives, there is intent to use the archive format as a basis for “re-creation” and “re-exposition”. This suggests that applications of archives are no longer limited to previous modes of appropriation or reproduction, but have become a methodology of constructivism. It initiates dialog on three relevant levels in this still-expanding domain: the field (experience), genealogical excavation (knowledge), and thought (creativity); and collaborates with the three aspects to construct an alternative knowledge and artistic form. This series will explore how archives have become a new method of practice, and how this method manifests, by reevaluating the ways in which archives have been implemented and its meanings converted in various art forms in recent years.

For this lecture series, four panels of speakers have been invited to open up discussions on the significance and applications of “archives” in contemporary art production. I. How and why do artists utilize archives: artists James T. HONG and CHEN Yin-Ju (October 2) dissects their creative concepts and their purposes for utilizing archives through examples in their own work where vast amounts of archives are revisited, appropriated, and even reinterpreted; II. Archives and thought patterns: Historians SING Song-Yong and GONG Jow-Jiun (October 9) discuss how the process of “a return to archives” instigates the occurrence of new practices through the curatorial practice of two contextual paths of Taiwanese video art and Taiwan New Cinema that are currently being researched and implemented. III. Archives and Freedom of Speech: Head of the Research and Publication Department at the OCAT Institute in Beijing, DONG Bingfeng. (October 16) discusses his in-depth observations after years of personal involvement in the research of “moving images” in China, and the challenges of preservation and survival confronted. IV. Fieldwork, documentation, and archive: With his years of working in the field of sound recording as a starting point, sound artist and recorder Yannick Dauby (October 30) explores the significance of recording sound and its ability to be heard repeatedly.

Through these themes and cross-sections of archives and its relevance in contemporary art explored in these four lectures, we hope to illustrate the complex relationship of archives with concepts, actions, and applications; as well as to raise follow-on questions worthy of attention and exploration in the “archive frenzy” of the current artistic environment.

(Curated by Amy Cheng / TheCube Project Space)



#1 Remarks on Prejudices and the Archive Appropriation — Archives

Moderator:Jau-Lan Guo / Curator and Art critic
Speakers:James T.Hong, Yin-Ju Chen / Artists
Date: 2nd October, 2015
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Remarks on Prejudices and the Archive
“Who controls the past, controls the future. Who controls the present, controls the past.”

For the American band Rage Against the Machine, these words from George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four are a rallying cry of resistance. To me, they are simple institutional facts concerning archives. The largest archives, such as the U.S. National Archives or Corbis/Bettman, are usually state run or owned by corporations. They and other archives and libraries like them control the distribution of a nation’s collective memory – in this case the United States. Their ultimate reason for existence is to validate the continuation of the state, and as such, they will always be meaningfully incomplete. However, there are possible exceptions, such as Wikileaks and the “stolen” archives of Edward Snowden.

As an artist researcher, I never enter an archive without an agenda. I already have an aim or I am looking for evidence confirming an accusation. My motivations and personal background provide an interpretative context for everything that I find within an archive. I will never discover an unadulterated “truth.” The search for truth is never a primary motivation for archival research. There are simply too many irrational motives and implicit presuppositions. This is one formulation of the “hermeneutic circle” as developed by Martin Heidegger and Hans-Georg Gadamer.

My prejudiced thesis is that the archive researcher, even the occasional apolitical artist type, always has an ideological agenda, which is frequently nationalistic. Moreover, the initial creation of any archive reflects the ideological motivations of the founding archivist(s).
Some topics:

  1. Hermeneutic circle
  2. U.S. National Archives and the Hoover Institution
  3. Corbis/Bettman Archive
  4. Taiwan’s Academica Historica
  5. Creating an archive — > Apologies
  6. Wikileaks and redaction
  7. Edward Snowden
  8. Richard Holbrooke and historical bullshit

Appropriation — Archives
Archival information can be categorized into four formats: text, photographs, moving images, and sound. These have been appropriated under the creative framework of contemporary art for over fifty years. In the category of photography, I will give a brief overview of Archive Fever: Uses of the Document in Contemporary Art curated in 2008 by Okwui Enwezor at the International Center of Photography in New York. In the category of textual history, I will introduce artist WANG Hong-Kai’s Dancers of the Millions (2015) unveiled at the 2015 Kyoto International Festival of Contemporary Culture; discuss in appreciation The Military Industrial Complex, another work that is primarily a textual reading, by this year’s Turner Prize nominee Bonnie Camplin; and compare my most recent practice Notes on Psychedelics(2015). In reviewing the category of moving images, I will also share the creative contexts for my own works Action at a Distance(2015), this work appropriates a significant amount of found footage/ archival footage.

The interweaving of artistic creativity and archival data continually produces new meanings in contemporary art. The artist’s research methodology for creative themes has become an important aspect of the work that guides the viewer to the artist’s creative and research context rather than merely satisfying through a visually dazzling transformation. In the process of de-visualization, I will take a few minutes to review some art history, namely the rise of conceptual art. The work of self-documentation Post-Partum Document (1973-1979) which took conceptual artist Mary Kelly seven years to complete will be discussed as an example of an artist creating her personal archival repository.

#2 For that which will not occur: an alternate Image history of Taiwan

Moderator:Amy Cheng / Curator
Speakers:Jau-Lan Guo / Curator and Art critic
Gong Jow-Jiun / Associate Professor of Doctoral Program in Art Creation and Theory of Tainan National University of the Arts
Sing Song-yong / Associate Professor of Graduate Institute of Animation and Film Art of Tainan National University of the Arts
Date: 9th October, 2015
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It’s been 33 years since the beginnings of Taiwan New Cinema in 1982. Though the movement came to a close in the 1990s, have we truly experienced the completion of Taiwan New Cinema with the occurrence of various debates and limitations in the domestic cinema system? Hsieh Chinlin’s Flowers of Taipei – Taiwan New Cinema which premiered in Taipei in 2014 represents a shift in perspective and renewed contemplation. In this age of the internet, the “ ACT: Revival Rhizome Plan for Taiwan New Cinema” attempts to reintroduce a plan to resurrect Taiwan New Cinema as an audio-visual archive that presents a potential path for audiovisual diversion and archival contemplation in contemporary art.

In the year after the birth of New Cinema, a new creative trajectory for video art made a first appearance in the developmental history of Taiwan’s image art: KUO Yi-Fen and KAO Chung-Li each unveiled works of video installation and video sculpture. Three decades later, the exhibition RewindVideo Art in Taiwan 1983-1999 due to open at the Kuandu Museum of Fine Art this October begins with vintage reissues as a starting point for reconstructing Taiwanese video art, then gradually completing a timeline of work completed around a similar era. Vintage reissues are more than mere archival embodiment, but are a curatorial method: the exhibition becomes a form of conceptualizing archives of video art.

#3 Prohibition, Resistance, and Self-Organization: Video Art Archives in China

Moderator:Anthony Yung / Project manager of China research projects at AAA (Asia Art Archive)
Speakers:Dong Bingfeng / Academic Director of OCAT Research Center
Date: 16th October, 2015
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In the past decade, the retrospection/exhibition, archival excavation, and historical documentation/writing of Chinese contemporary art history has reached an unprecedented fervor and intensity. Specifically, endless discussion and research on the topic of the “85 New Wave”, and the New Wave art movement in China in the 1980s has created its own school of thought.

In light of this surge, the ecology and status of Chinese “video art” which began in the early 1990s seems comparatively isolated and marginalized. On one hand, it is difficult to carve out a niche for “video art” in the overall marketization of Chinese contemporary art; on the other hand, the innately heterodox (anti museum) character of image art such as video art (anti museum) or art-house and independent films (anti establishment), have always attempted to seek out new linguistic and political autonomy and mobility.

The lecture will explore effective actions of definition, research and publishing of “video art” in China through case studies of two non-profit organizations for the archiving and research of video art, Li Xianting’s Film Fund (established 2006 in Beijing) and Video Bureau (established 2012 in Guangzhou and Beijing), in order to seek out a alternate angle to reflect on and imagine a pluralistic future and potential for Chinese contemporary art in the midst of rapid social change.

#4 Sound Report from the Field

Moderator: Jeph Lo / Curator and Sound culture researcher
Speaker: Yannick Dauby / Artist
Date: 30th October, 2015


Field recording is an unpredictable audio practice. It does not merely capture a sonic event or environmental sound, nor does it objectively document reality, it also involves dialogue with random situations, including sonic spaces, tools, participants, flora and fauna, atmospheric phenomena, and various accidents.

When and how do recordings made in this context achieve the status of reliable documentary? What is the significance of a listening experience that is mediated by a microphone and headset? What does it mean to enable sound memory, or to transform ephemeral sound into something that can be repeatedly played? What is a sound archive? How is an archive established?

In this lecture, sound artist Yannick Dauby who works primarily with field recordings will share his experiences working in Taiwan, as well as his research on sound culture, sound environment, and sound creation.

The Starry Heavens Above and the Moral Law Within

The exhibition titled The Starry Heavens Above and the Moral Law Within is collaborated by James T. HONG and Yin-Ju CHEN.
Contemporary analyses of “drugs” are mostly confined to the disciplines of medical science and jurisprudence. In this collaborative project, the two artists innovatively address the issue of “drugs” in an interdisciplinary context by examining in depth its relationship with modernity, clashes of civilizations and consciousness awareness. Adopting various media by juxtaposing files, historical documents, paintings and videos to create the perceptional atmosphere and narration, the two artists not only investigate the concepts and metaphors of “drugs,” but also transform them into the media as reflections of the human spirit, history, culture and society.

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ALTERing NATIVism at Taishin Arts Awards

ALTERing NATIVism-Sound Cultures in Post-War Taiwan (Taishin Arts Award EXhibition) currently shown at the Museum of National Taipei University of Education is an excerpt of the exhibition which was held at the Museum of National Taipei University of Education in Taipei and the Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts respectively in 2014, including part of the sound archive of the exhibition, the documentary films Sounds from the Lower Rungs of Taiwan (Crystal Records, 1992 ), 1995 Taipei International Post-industrial Arts Festival (HUANG Ming-chuan, 1995) as well as TENG Chao-ming’s To Sing or Not to Sing? (commissioned work by the exhibition).

ALTERing NATIVism is a curatorial and research project initiated by TheCube Project Space and based on research on sound cultures in post-war Taiwan. In 2014, jointly organized by TheCube and aforementioned museums in two cities of Taiwan, the exhibition is funded by the 2012 Production Grants to Independent Curators in Visual Arts of the National Culture and Arts Foundation.

ALTERing NATIVism explores Taiwan’s various post-war sound culture movements by presenting historical documentation, audiovisual archives, and artworks. In the original exhibition, it begins the discourse with the album Lang laile: Qingting, Taiwan de hua (waves are coming: listen carefully, Taiwan is speaking) released by Crystal Records (now dissolved) in 1997. It is a 47-minute recording of waves crashing on the shore in Ji’an Township in Hualien, Taiwan. The sound is natural rather than man-made, but in the marketing process it was entitled “Taiwan is speaking”, which suggests that the sound, or this sound making, has a definitive political implication.

Beginning with this album, the exhibition excavates the issues that cannot be avoided in the shaping of Taiwan’s modernity, and explores the context of sound culture movements, including the songs banned during the post-war martial law period, American pop songs, the search for our own music in the Folk Song Collection Movement and the Folk Song Movement, and the underground music scene, Noise Movement, Raves and sound art in the post-martial law period. Sifting through the soil of Taiwan’s social history, the exhibition compiles a genealogical record of sound, and hopes to explore more implications of this record through the process of re-examining the sound making.

In addition to featuring the albums, posters, flyers and documentary films collected by the research team, the exhibition has invited 15 groups of sound and visual artists to expand the discourse with art works. Rather than presenting a comprehensive history of Taiwan’s sound cultures, this exhibition proposes an “approach for listening to and explaining Taiwan’s sounds”, and attempts to investigate history through the sense of hearing, in order to stimulate further discussion.

Sounds in this exhibition

Hot Music
Taiwan seemed to be in the grip of American hot music fever with the stationing of American troops in the 1960s. A large number of young people were itching for a chance to start a band during that time. The thriving club culture happened to create plenty of venues such as cabarets and saloon bars from where professional and amateur bands may gain invaluable experience of performing. The Sun Shine (formed in 1960) and The Raymond (formed in 1962) were the flagships of them. Based in southern and northern Taiwan respectively, they made a name of “the North Raymond and the South Sun Shine” for themselves as excellent and iconic bands.

Folksong Collection Movement
An atmosphere of “total Westernization” pervaded the Taiwanese music community in the 1960s. What could be learned from music academies were mostly Western skills of composition, while collating the folksong literature since the 1930s remained the primary concern of the intelligentsia. Between 21 July and 1 August 1967, Shih Wei-liang and Hsu Tsang-houei organized an expedition for folksong collection, which was divided into two teams that comprehensively collected the recordings about local folksongs along the eastern and western coasts of Taiwan respectively. The collected recordings were used in systematically collating and analyzing Taiwanese folksong culture and establishing an independent discipline, through which the two leaders expected to forge new connections with the international academic network of music studies. What is worth noticing is that the Folksong Collection Movement was not so much an occasional activity of academic material collection as an intellectual, cultural movement comprised of appeals, theories, actions, objectives, and vision.

Chen Da
Born in Da-guang Neighborhood, Heng-chun Township, Ping-tung County, 1905, Chen Da went partially blind due to an obscure disease, which was why people called him “red-eye Da’la.” He was one-quarter of aboriginal descent and uneducated throughout his life. His self-taught skills in singing and playing moon-lute were derived from the imperceptible influence of his environment of growth. His singing sounded desolate yet emotionally rich. He was proficient in improvisatory writing and singing songs, which made him a minor celebrity in his hometown. Hsu Tsang-houei recorded Chen’s singing on the expedition of folksong collection in 1967. Then Hsu produced and released Chen’s first album. Afterward, Chen was invited to the Scarecrow Café in Taipei as a singer-in-residence, since when he attracted the attention of Taipei’s cultural community. He died of a car accident in 1981 at the age of 76.

Sounds from the Lower Rungs of Taiwan
Between 1992 and 1995, the Crystal Records initiated Sounds from the Lower Rungs of Taiwan, a long-term fieldwork project that aims to document the sound performances of Taiwan’s grass-root sub-culture in the forms of sound, image, and text. The recordings resulted in two albums with three CDs. The content encompasses a diversity of vulgar sounds from Nakasi music and pirate radio broadcast to vendors’ hawking in night markets. The repertoire includes some replicas of the songs in lost records. The members knew very little about the Folksong Collection Movement of the 1960s when they launched this fieldwork project. Nevertheless, their results unwittingly contributed to remedying the deficiency of the Folksong Collection Movement that emphasized simply the academic and artistic dimensions and ignored the riotous profusion of folk cultures and sounds.

The Taiwan Sound Archive
Based on the success of Sounds from the Lower Rungs of Taiwan, the Crystal Records launched a more ambitious fieldwork project – The Taiwan Sound Archive. This project assembled scholars of ethnic music, anthropologists, photographers, documentary writers, and graduate students of ethnic music, uniting them to actively record the folk music which was on the brink of vanishing. The recordings were divided into three parts, namely sound, image and text. The members’ efforts resulted not only in the release of records, but also in the publication of the quarterly The Sound of Taiwan wrapped in the CD box set. The Taiwan Sound Archive consists of six main categories, including folk song, traditional opera, narrative and singing, instrumental music, dance music, and sacred music. Each category further consists of two sub-categories, namely “tradition” and “modern,” amidst which the Crystal Records attempted to construct the full picture of the sound of Taiwan.

The Crystal Records and the Wave of Taiwan New Music
Founded in 1986, the Crystal Records was the first label in Taiwan that not only advocated “non-mainstream music” but also sparked the wave of “Taiwan New Music.” Along with the publications and released records of the label, the new Taiwanese song movement exerted significant influence on the mainstream music at that time. Taiwan New Music sought to transcend the institutional confines of mainstream labels and carved out a new path. The movement not only overthrown the traditional forms of pop music, but also reflected on the stereotypes of “localization,” to wit, nostalgia and sadness. The Crystal Records was a small label with limited amount of capital. However, the fulfilment of “localization” had been loftily expected from such a small label since the lift of the martial law. The label began to reduce its scope of business in the 2000s, and unfortunately collapsed later through mismanagement and lack of proper financial controls.

Aboriginal Popular Songs
The popularization of aboriginal songs emerged as an important phenomenon in contemporary aborigines’ social life and civilian literature. It not only encourages a high level of participation but also exhibits the characteristics of diversity, hybridization, and non-excludability. It is the most vibrant and vigorous part of aboriginal pop culture. The popular songs, whether in Chinese, Japanese, or aboriginal languages, that circulate among all tribes of Taiwan’s aborigines have been recorded and sold in the form of vinyl recordss or cassettes since the end of the Second World War. The compositions and ways of expression plainly and vividly depict the aborigines’ living experiences in a carefree and vivacious manner. These songs originated from the chants sung by the workers of forest compartments, the elegies sung by the aboriginal construction workers who were previously hunters in their tribes, the messages from battle zones, the love songs that cement long-distance relationships, and wayfarers’ wistful nostalgia. The lyrics and melodies of these songs are, among other things, melancholy, resounding, gently flowing, softly sweet, or witty, which faithfully reflect the real life of Taiwan’s aborigines in the past decades.

Founded in 1996, Underworld was a famous live house in Taipei for cultivating numerous well-known and unheard-of independent rock bands. Since the attributes of live houses have never been clarified in Taiwan, their legal status is often questioned by the government or local residents, which resulted in frequent inspections and residents’ repelling. Underworld closed down in 2013 due to its ambiguous legal status and government’s strict regulations, even though it had been cherished as an invaluable asset for the development of Taiwan’s independent bands.

The Realist Folk Song Represented by Li Shuang-tze and Yang Tsu-chuen
Li Shuang-tze and Yang Tsu-chuen stood out as extraordinary singers in the folk song movement arising in the 1970s. In 1976, Li provoked the moderator and the audience publicly at a campus concert of Western folk song by chanting the slogan: “sing our own songs.” Yang devoted herself to a touring folk song concert around Taiwan and organized the Green Field Charity Concert in 1978, the first large-scale outdoor concert in Taiwan. What Li and Yang have in common is that they both treat music as not only the means to voice the opinions among the lower middle class and the oppressed groups, but also a practical approach of musical aesthetics used for social critique. Their works were officially banned because they were considered potentially detrimental to the authority’s legitimacy of ruling at that time. It was not until the lift of the martial law that their approach was followed by several independent bands such as the Blacklist Studio, Chu Yeuh-hsin, Black Hand Nakasi, the Labor Exchange/Sheng-xiang Band, and the Village Armed Youth.

Blacklist Studio
Founded in 1989, the Blacklist Studio consists of a number of singers and musicians, among which Wang Ming-hui, Chen Chu-hui, and Keith Stuart shoulder the responsibility for music production and conception. Wang Ming-hui, the director of the Blacklist Studio, proposed the idea of New Taiwan Music to summarize the Blacklist Studio’s musical practice and aesthetics that try to blend folk perspective, history, knowledge, and the Third World sound into pop music. They not only introduce salient documentality into the production of musical albums, but also serve as the mediator between history and sound, trying to enrich our understanding and cogitation of the world with music.

The Black Hand Nakasi
Founded in 1996, the Black Hand Nakasi is one of the few bands that have a long history in evolving and cooperating with blue-collar workers and labor movement organizations in Taiwan. It participated in over three hundred rallies and parades in support of social movements concerning various issues such as labor condition, gender inequality, occupational injury, migrant worker, environmental protection, anti-war, anti-relocation, and vagrancy. The members sang songs to raise the participants’ spirits and strengthen the momentum of social movements. The Black Hand Nakasi has not only tried to create their works in collaboration with blue-collar workers, but also organized workshops and activities that help them and disadvantaged minorities to voice their heartfelt wishes with their own language.

The Labor Exchange/ Sheng-xiang Band
Lin Sheng-xiang and Chung Yung-feng, the leading members of the Labor Exchange/Sheng-xiang Band, redefined the scope of “Hakka” with music. They not only give their voices as Hakkanese, but also represent the concrete living conditions and the diverse, complex backgrounds of farmers, workers, foreign spouses, and young people who go back to their roots. A variety of issues have been touched on. Their music encompasses a riotous profusion of genres from folk music and rock n’ roll to the innovations of traditional instruments such as moon-lute, Pipa, and Suona, as well as the traditional Okinawa melody in collaboration with Japanese musicians. They keep exploring new possibilities for composition, finding rhythmic delight in simple melodies. In their works, music not only reflects realities but also bears the signature of realism. It is a controllable medium for aesthetic and social practice.

The Village Armed Youth
The Village Armed Youth is dubbed the “Big Band on Ketagalan Boulevard” on account of its spirit of street protest. The purpose of their music is to defend Taiwan’s agriculture and disadvantaged minorities. Its members participated in various social movements such as anti-relocation of San-Ying tribe, anti-Su-Hua Freeway movement, anti-relocation of Lo-Sheng Sanatorium and Hospital, anti-water allocation to Central Taiwan Science Park, and anti-land expropriation in Da-Pu. They tend to participate in a variety of social movements that focus on justice and human rights, challenging the impotent government by using rock n’ roll and guitars as their weapons. They dissed the police and cursed the bureaucrats at the sites of demonstration. They devoted themselves to protecting Taiwan’s agriculture, environment and human rights, sparking revolts against the injustice with their songs.

L.T.K. Commune
L.T.K. Commune coined the term “Taike Rock.” It marked the heyday of underground culture in the post-authoritarian Taiwan, and the flourishing scene lasted for years. Its membership has changed several times since its establishment in 1989. The members have adopted music and various actions to combat the boredom of life when they were still students. They not only overthrew the so-call rock n’ roll with vulgarity and riots, but also transformed local folk culture into avant-garde noise. They often take part in street demonstrations and maintain a close association with activists of student movements. L.T.K. Commune is the most long-lived underground band in Taiwan. Although most of the founding members (except the vocalist Ko Ren-chien) left the band and the other members are now middle-agers, L.T.K. Commune still persists in finding more possibilities for music and actions.

Zero and Sound Liberation Organization (Z.S.L.O.)
Zero and Sound Liberation Organization is a prominent group that galvanized the Noise Movement in Taiwan. Liu Hsin-yi, Lin Chiwei, and Steve Chan were still undergraduates in Fu Jen Catholic University when they established the organization in 1991. They made their public debut at the competition “ICRT Young Star” with outlandish costumes and un-tuned guitar improvisation, which successfully irritated the audience and established their orientation towards overthrowing the system with noise. In 1993, they released a self-titled album which is the first self-produced and self-released CD album in Taiwan.

Ying Wei-min
Ying Wei-min (nicknamed as Xiao Ying) is the leader of the Clippers, one of the pioneering groups of Noise Movement in the 1990s. In 1998, he hosted the Psychological Collapse of Xiao Ying, a program broadcasted by the Big Tree radio station (FM 90.5). He not only arbitrarily played a variety of sounds in this program but also designed its content in collaboration with his bosom friend Tsai Hai-en (one of the founding members of L.T.K. Commune). By virtue of this radio program, he tried to explore various possibilities for sound and talk show. This piece of recording is the last episode of Psychological Collapse of Xiao Ying that was off the air due to its inappropriate content.

Wang Fujui/NOISE
Founded by Wang Fujui in 1993, NOISE is the first independent label and magazine of experimental music in Taiwan. It released a series of selection albums of the works by domestic and foreign noise artists, which made Taiwan a node in the international noise network. In that period, the label not only promoted Taiwan’s works to the international sound art community, but also introduced foreign counterparts into Taiwan. Before the popularization of the Internet and e-mail, physical posts served as the only means for artists to do networking and exchange their works. The international connections established by Wang not only broadened the horizons of Taiwanese audience, but also laid a solid foundation for the Taipei International Post-Industrial Art Festival held in 1995. The album Killing Me Softly with Noise released by NOISE in 1997 includes Wang’s experimental sound work The Ford of Delusion published in the pseudonym of Ching-Shen-Ching.

1995 Taipei International Post-industrial Arts Festival
The energy accumulated early 90s after the lift of Martial law came to an outbreak in 1995. As a result, Broken Life Festival expanded into Taipei International Post-industrial Arts Festival. Lin Chi-wei, a contemporary sound artist served as planer, orchestrated performances from Britain, America, Japan, Switzerland and local Taiwan. This event took place in Banqiao distillery was held for several days. The x-rated visual and horror shows may hit a record high in live action in Taiwan: Thriller theater, artists’ physical aggression against women, LTK’s brutality toward its own member, Z. S. L. O. poured gutter water and splashed it to the audience.

Teng Chao-ming, To Sing or Not to Sing?

Sound, Poster, 2014

The work To Sing or Not to Sing? features the song Rainy Night Flower that has been sung for more than eight decades since the Japanese colonial period. Since Columbia (a Japanese record label in Taiwan) released this song in 1934, a variety of people, events, objects, and ideologies has been mobilized to cement its status as the “iconic Taiwan folk song.” The artist studied and collected various forms of this song, such as the albums that included it, the rewritten versions of its lyrics, its symbols and metaphors that people invoked, and the news about it. The artist then traced the history of this song by editing these materials in a chronological order.

The answer to the question of “how things happened exactly” is destined to be as incomplete as any other historical writing. The artist tackled such incompleteness by deconstructing the narrative into visual graphics and then reconstructing them into new and reusable texts, which resulted in five “diagrammatic surfaces” that help the viewers construct the narrative. The loudspeakers randomly blares the newly recorded overture of Rainy Night Flower, which prompts the viewers to reflect on the true meaning of “singing” a song. The whole work rests temporarily on a request, that is, “since the history of this song has generated some structures and systems, let’s ponder how we can utilize them to create new things.” (Teng Chao-ming)