Taiwan will showcase the sounds of ordinary people at the 54th Venice Biennale, which opens today. If the event’s preview is anything to go by, a number of “nobodies” are likely to become “somebodies” during the Biennale’s five-month run.
Featuring the theme “The Heard and the Unheard — Soundscape Taiwan,” Taiwan’s pavilion showcases the works of artists Wang Hong-kai (王虹凱) and Su Yu-hsien (蘇育賢), who have given a voice to retirees, collectors of recyclables and boat crew members from Indonesia, among others.
Wang, a US-based Taiwanese artist, is presenting a film called Music While We Work in which retired workers of the Huwei sugar factory in Yunlin County remember the sights and sounds of their old working environment.
The performers are all ordinary people who did not even realize they were participating in the making of a film until after the recording when Wang gave them honorariums for showing up.
According to the director, visitors to the Biennale’s three-day preview, which began on Wednesday, have been very curious about her film, saying that they felt it transported them into a different world.
The production method depicted is novel in itself because sugar in Europe is not made from sugar cane, Wang said, and because sugar production in Taiwan stemmed from the Japanese colonial era, the film also takes viewers back to memories of over 80 years ago.
The old Italian exhibition hall hosting the Taiwan Pavilion and the projection of the film onto a wall rather than a screen also gives visitors the feeling of stepping into another period in time, Wang said.
Su will present an audio recording called Sounds of Nothing. He made the albums with a group of people who rarely receive public attention, such as Indonesian crew members and collectors of recyclables.
The Taiwan Pavilion is located at the Palazzo delle Prigioni next to the Piazza San Marco. The Biennale runs from today through Nov. 27.