The loud groans of a man masturbating prompt passersby to crane their heads and a security guard from an adjacent building to wander over to see what’s up.
Inside Project Fulfill Art Space (就在藝術空間), artist, curator and educator Wang Fu-jui (王福瑞) mans a makeshift recording studio complete with mixers, microphones, a megaphone and speakers belting out a variety of sounds, including a track by Japanese noise project The Gerogerigegege of a male furiously pleasuring himself. Wang aims to blow the minds, or eardrums (or both), of the six university-aged participants who have arrived for a workshop on sound titled Noise and the Other (噪音與他者).
The three-and-a-half-hour session forms part of The More the Merrier (多多益善), a monthlong project organized by German artist and curator Jens Maier-Rothe and New York-based Taiwanese sound artist Wang Hong-kai (王虹凱) that is intended to spark debate on the uses and abuses of sound. The project’s workshops, and a symposium at the end of the month, are open to the public.
Discussion of using sound in art, says Maier-Rothe, is in its infancy.
“In Taiwan, discourse on the use of sound in art is almost non-existent,” said Wang Hong-kai, who was recently chosen to represent the country at the 2011 Venice Biennale. “Even though sound companies are vibrant and active, I’ve hardly come across an occasion where people can gather to do a collective exercise or workshop [on the topic].”
The More the Merrier, the organizers hope, will help promote sound as a viable medium to “explore the politics of recording as a collective activity,” said Wang Hong-kai.
Noise and the Other, the first installment of the project, is an investigation into the history of “acoustic propaganda” in post-World War II Taiwan and the “presence of ideologically charged messages in [the] acoustic public space today,” according to the exhibition’s publicity material.
WHAT: The More the Merrier (多多益善): Workshop 01 — Noise and the Other (噪音與他者)
WHEN: Until March 27. Open Tuesdays to Sundays from 1pm to 6pm
WHERE: Project Fulfill Art Space (就在藝術空間), 2, Alley 45, Ln 147, Xinyi Rd Sec 3, Taipei City (台北市信義路三段147巷45弄2號), tel: (02) 2707-6942
DETAILS: Workshops are open to the public and will be held at the gallery on Saturday and March 19 from 1:30pm to 5pm. A symposium will be held on March 27. Check the gallery Web site (www.pfarts.com) for complete details (in Chinese and English)
Great, I thought: From the authoritarian-era suppression of Hoklo (also known as Taiwanese), Hakka and Aboriginal languages to the loudspeakers on Kinmen blasting out propaganda towards China, the theme had all the potential of spurring a lively debate, and could easily segue into a discussion on the contemporary uses of sound, such as during elections or at the night market.
Alas, it didn’t turn out that way.
Wang began the workshop with some heavily distorted sound that reminded this reviewer of 1970s punk and 1990s grunge. The participants’ reactions ran from confusion to enthusiasm. To this reviewer, it was just noise, and I got lost in Wang Fu-rui’s convoluted discussion about why he was presenting these sounds.
In an example of just how embryonic the subject of sound in art is, the workshop barely moved beyond talking about Wang Fu-rui’s beloved Japanese noise project.
Still, it was an interesting, if somewhat bizarre, start.
Then came a group discussion about our perspectives on the differences between noise and sound (the former, we generally agreed, is an unwanted version of the latter) and our opinions on sounds that are associated with Taiwan (the melodies that accompany garbage trucks or the clickety-clack of mahjong tiles). The politics of sound was tangentially touched on when we discussed the four languages used to announce stops on Taipei’s Mass Rapid Transport system.
Then one final track by The Gerogerigegege. The last few minutes were devoted to participants using a bullhorn to speak, or scream, their thoughts about sound into a microphone.