The Taipei Arts Festival is to open on July 31, with this year’s theme — “Super@#$%?” — aimed at reflecting on the human pursuit for the “super” within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The concept of the “super” represents the human desire to transcend humanity, said Singaporean Teng Fu-chuan (鄧富權), who has been the festival’s curator since 2018.
With recent crises bringing to light the overconsumption of resources, the festival aims to reflect on the ramifications of that pursuit in this “post-super” state, he said.
It also seeks to continue presenting the stage as an important gathering place, he said.
This year’s edition of the festival, which was started 22 years ago, has been organized by the Taipei Department of Cultural Affairs, the Taipei Culture Foundation and the Taipei Performing Arts Center, and is to feature 13 productions, including four free ones, over seven weeks.
There are to be a total of 55 shows, featuring local artists and troupes, as well as ones from Japan, France, the Philippines, China, Thailand, Canada and the US.
The program is divided into three series: the Pandemic Program (疫起策畫), the Main Program (核心節目) and the Think Bar (共想吧).
One of the highlights of the festival is expected to be Manila Zoo — a “work in pandemic” showing by Filipino choreographer Eisa Jocson, marking her third appearance at the festival, albeit through videoconferencing tool Zoom.
The work, to be performed in English, is a critique of Disney’s “empire of happiness,” and a follow-up of Jocson’s production last year, Princess, which explored the Disney standard of happiness through the eyes of Filipinos who work in theme parks around the world.
Manila Zoo is to be presented at Zhongshan Hall on Aug. 28 and Aug. 29.
At the hall on July 31 and Aug. 1, Horse (驫舞劇場) cofounder and artistic director Chen Wu-kang (陳武康) is to perform Dances for Wu-Kang Chen (攏是為著‧陳武康), created with French choreographer Jerome Bel, another frequent contributor to the festival.
Bel collaborated with Chen long-distance, as last year he decided to stop traveling by airplane for ecological reasons.
For the project, Bel ceded “choreographic control” by giving Chen the ability to “interpret and self-direct, sans authorial intervention,” Teng said in a statement.
Other shows include The Past is a Foreign Country; Is(o)Land Bar: Single Take (Cloudy) (島嶼酒吧: 如果雲知道 (無碼)); Sun Moon Lake is a Concrete Box (日月潭是一個水泥盒); CosmicWander: OnGon + NeZha (超自然神樂乩); No. 60; Transhumanism: A Fair (新人類計劃: 園遊會); The Grandmother Paradox (祖母悖論); and Disappearing Island (消逝之島).
For the Think Bar, a platform launched in 2018, organizers have picked Siang-Tshe-Kong (工尺鼓詩), SHE and The Library Tapes (圖書室錄音).
The Think Bar is to focus on the “transmission of knowledge and experience through the lens of the collective/individual,” as well as memories passed through generations, the festival organizers said.
At a time when many summers arts festivals worldwide have been forced to cancel, organizers said they felt very fortunate to be able to stage theirs.
“We believe that art is the way out — particularly in this very difficult time of COVID-19,” they said.
The performances are to take place at several venues, including the Wellspring Theater, Taipei Backstage Pool and Taiwan Contemporary Culture Lab (C-LAB).
Tickets can be purchased through the National Theater Concert Hall system at www.artsticket.com.tw.
A 25 percent early-bird discount is offered through July 13 — with the exception of tickets for Manila Zoo.
Additional reporting by staff writer
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