Kid’s stuff

The Taipei Children’s Arts Festival is back with events that bring out the surprising potential of machines

By Ho Yi  /  Staff reporter

Fri, Jun 28, 2013 - Page 12

Parents desperate to lure youngsters away from their tablets now have bait.

Starting Monday, Taipei Children’s Arts Festival (台北兒童藝術節) will offer puppetry, theater, music, acrobatics, exhibitions, film screenings and do-it-yourself workshops until August 11.

Going kinetic

This year’s theme is “Dynamic Body, Soaring Imagination” (動力身體 運轉想像), which translates into a focus on machines. Organizers want to show children that machines aren’t just computer games and laptops.

“We hope to show that there are a lot more possibilities of technology and machine than one dominant form, and that everyday objects can come alive and become different objects with a little imagination,” Liu Li-ting (劉麗婷), the festival’s vice executive director, told the Taipei Times.

Savanna — a Possible Landscape is a theater exhibit that uses machines to enchant. Israeli artist Amit Drori and Theatre Vidy-Lausanne of Switzerland have populated a savanna scene with meticulously crafted robot animals: elephants, snakes, birds, tortoises, snails and caterpillars. The machine beasts can be controlled with a remote control device or like a puppet to make intricate movements and express “human thought and emotion,” according to Drori’s notes on the festival’s bilingual Web site.

At the Bopiliao Historical Block (剝皮寮歷史街區) , an exhibition called Dynamic Tribe (動力部落) features interactive installations by five artists and groups that encourage visitors to see machines and their functions from a creative angle.

Mutienliao Interactive dot TW (木天寮互動雜工作宅) breathes new life into a recycled umbrella and turns it into a kinetic jellyfish. Noise Kitchen Workshop (噪咖事務所), a curatorial team formed by new-media artists including Wang Chung-kun and Huang Wen-hao (黃文浩), is at the festival with a singing cabinet. Visitors are invited to make music by opening and closing the cabinet’s drawers, each of which contain a device that plays a musical note when activated. On the other side of the exhibition, co-curator Cheng Hung-chi (鄭鴻旗) teams up with OpenLab.Taipei to offer 108 small robots that come in different shapes and perform different functions.

Community effort

In its 14th incarnation, the festival is a must-see event for families with children, and its paid international performances always sell out early.

For those who fail to get a hold of tickets, don’t despair: Event organizers have also put together an extensive program of free community performances and outdoor events that take place at various community centers, parks and schools across the city.

“The idea is to allow people, no matter which part of the city they live in, to see our shows easily at venues close by. But if they are willing, festival-goers can also venture into different areas to see a performance and explore a place they wouldn’t otherwise have visited,” Liu said, adding that there are a great variety of shows because organizers want to expose children to diverse forms of art.

The performance lineup for the community events includes many of Taiwan’s top children’s theater groups such as Puppet Beings Theatre Company (偶偶偶劇團) and Comma Theatre Company (逗點創意劇團). Chinese operatic art is demonstrated by the Chinese Opera Department at National Taiwan College of Performing Arts, while Capital Ballet Taipei (台北首督芭蕾舞團) introduces young audiences to various ballet choreographies.

The richest visual feast, however, is A-TA-KA, produced by Cal y Canto Teatro from Spain. Noted for using large kites in the shapes of animals, the company will stage a colorful parade in the sky that is remarkably in sync.

Other outdoor performances include a concert by award-winning Aboriginal a appella group O-Kai Singers (歐開合唱團), Shiukim Taiwanese Opera Troupe’s (秀琴歌劇團) operatic rendition of the Monkey King (孫悟空) and Sun Son Theatre’s (身聲劇場) The Wings of Hope (希望之翼), which combines live music, puppetry, masks and theater to tell the story of a lost dream.

Detailed information about the festival can be found at