這是一本活動紀錄﹐但它不只記錄過去﹐它同時也看向未來﹐一個新生命：我們可以在藝術家爬梳說明自己作品的文字當中﹐看到每一位藝術家的創作路逕是如此迴異多彩…可不可能為台灣藝術論述帶來一種清新的視野與語彙﹐甚至新美學？我們深深期待。（葉 子 啟）
If No More Yeh Tzu-chi
I Eyes for Strangeness
If you don’t shit on the street, cage yourself or stay out of any building as long as one year, kneel and hang yourself in the air, eat your own fetis…. If you don’t…well, don’t do anything horrible, strange, astonishing, or disgusting, what else can you do with performance art?
Should performance art be horrible, strange, astonishing, or disgusting? Should it fight against somebody or something? Are these the “political correctness” in performance art? If they are, then isn’t it referring to an existence of hegemony in this field?
If there were not volcano explosion, flood, earthquake, or mood flood any more, would there be nothing left to see on this planet?
Could it be possible that there is always some sort of turbulence and revolt in some small unnoticed corners? Isn’t that Picasso brought a giant revolution in the history of paintings when he painted quietly and unsurprisingly in his studio? And haven’t I faced my own claustrophobia when I enveloped my whole body with that giant heavy god-damned black cloth?
Could it be possible that performance art can show hundreds of thousands of other factors than just frightening, astonishment, revolt, anger or turbulence? Could it be otherwise poetic, funny, or full of the spirit of zen, etc.……. Just like all the other art categories, performance art can have boundless space and orientation to develop and form its own specific traits of history.
That’s why one can’t see performance art only with the eyes for strangeness.
II It’s art, not skill
“I do art.”
“Oh… What kind of art?”
??????????????????? That’s the mark full in the face of the inquirer.
“Well, it’s a kind of performance.”
“ Performance? Mmmm. Theatre? Dancing? Or Music?”
That’s usually the case I met. I also have to face from time to time the doubt and “disappointments” from the theatre people: so rough, so un-precise, and unskilled….. How can you call it art? Surprisingly, when I joined a performance art event in Israel in 2008, Tamar Raban, who has been doing performance for 30 years, also mentioned this kind of accusation from the theatre people in her country. So is this the utmost doubt for every performance artist to face around the world? However, in the same event, I heard another extreme viewpoint from a Chinese artist. He came across another Chinese man playing zheng, an old Chinese instrument, in one of the busy streets of Jerusalem. Before the man, there was a bowl with coins inside. In other words, that street musician made money with his art, which never happens to most of us, live performance artists. I remembered how cynical he was when he said “Performance art can’t make money. We deserve it, for we love art, not skills!”
These two opposite perspectives on the spectrum of performance explain how far it is between performance art and other categories of performance/art, among which theatre included! It doesn’t blur the fact, though, that performance art indeed overlaps with other types of performances and visual arts when coming to the middle of the spectrum. Yet perhaps because performance art is always both avant-garde and marginal, there are so little discourses about it and even worse the reports on the newspapers are often sensational slanted. It’s no wonder that most people don’t know how to see/appreciate the so-called live performance. They often see and judge it with the habit of watching a theatre or a visual art piece. The result is just like what Chinese people would say to catch fish by climbing a tree. It seems quite unfair to this art form and the artists who devote their life and passion to it.
The Lecture on Theatre and Performance Art by Marilyn Arsem in Taidung University is thus included here to clarify the similarities and differences between theatre and performance art.
III Please Come to the Scene
This is a documentary of ON THE WAY: 2009 artrend international performance art meeting. It documents durational performances in Taipei, Taidung, and Tainan, together with an indoor group performance in Kaohsiung.
Please remember that this is a documentary, not the event itself or the original works that happened in the event.
Live performance lives in the process of performing/happening. It dies at the very moment that it comes to the end. The artists and the spectators co-experience the life and death of the works on the very scene/spot of the live performance. All the documentaries: photos, videos, writings, exhibitions afterwards, etc. can never fully restore the scene itself, not even to the 30% of it, perhaps. It’s therefore very dangerous to judge if a performance is good or bad according to the documentation afterwards, because a good performance does not necessarily look “good” on a photo or sound “good” by a description/narration; and vice versa. We can even say that live performance and documentation/exhibition afterwards may be two different disciplines. The most dependable way would be: please come to the scene!
Yes, this is a catalogue documenting an event of the past, but we hope it also looks toward the future, a new life. By reading what the artists wrote about their own works, one can see how various the routes of creating performance can be. Could it be possible to bring a new perspective and vocabulary, or even a new aesthetic, to Taiwan’s art practice, discourse and research? Heartily we hope so.
(originally published in the documentary catalog of On The Way: ArTrend International Peformance Art Meeting Tainan, 2010)