[中][ENG] 全然地接受未知，在彈性與慣性之間，探索生命對等的可能──專訪台灣編舞者、新媒體藝術家蘇文琪 An interview with Su Wen-Chi
從個人獨舞《迷幻英雌》、《Loop Me》、《ReMove Me》、《W.A.V.E──城市微幅》、《身體輿圖》等，進展到「彩虹三部曲」研究計劃中的《從無止境回首》和《全然的愛與真實》，近年感受到全球暖化帶給人類災難的警示和迫切性，因而創作了《人類黑區》。在不同的創作階段，她邀請跨領域藝術家們合作，除了認可彼此所堅持的創作質地，過程中意識到個體個性和養成背景各異，時常提醒自己要尊重不同的（領域）文化特質，如何建立彼此文化之間的對等狀態一直是文琪進行跨文化合作時所追求的平衡。
Accepting the unknown in full, exploring how to balance life between flexibility and stability
— An interview with Taiwanese choreographer and new media artist Su Wen-Chi
Original text: Gwen Chang Hsin-Yi
Translator: Tiffany Wong
Infinity Minus One ／Photo: Chen Yi-Tang
In May 2021, the worldwide pandemic has been going on for more than a year. After so long facing the uncertainty of the pandemic and the never-decreasing number of confirmed cases, it finally seems that, with the rise in vaccinations around the world, now at last there is a ray of hope of getting back to normality, every industry is looking forward to restrictions being relaxed. Creative artists were not immune from the dramatic impact of the pandemic, and suffered the same shock as the rest of the world. Only dependence on technology and digital tools could make it possible to break through indoor spaces and limited attendance to connect with others outside, in an immersive experience where the real and the virtual world co-exist.
A professional creative artist seeking to create her own life
Talking about works that skillfully integrate digital technology with dancing bodies brings me to Su Wen-Chi, a new media performing artist from Taiwan. I first encountered Su and her YiLab. dance group ten years ago. Her self-introduction “Combining the concepts and forms of new media and performing arts, she attempts to rethink the possibilities of performing arts from the perspective of new media, extending the controversy and reflection of contemporary art in the face of the impact of digital technology.”, means much more now, as if she foresaw the future trend creation would take. Today I have been able to meet Su online, thanks to video software which overcame the physical distance between two people in different time zones, and made our dialogue possible.
“Looking back at 2020, it was crazy! I don’t know how I made it through so many online activities, and eventually I realized my body was rejecting digital media more and more. The most direct impact on me from the pandemic was the physical alienation. I am eager to find a solid feeling of existence, a steadiness.” That was why, this year, Su made a conscious choice to limit her use of online community platforms, and spend more time working with dancers in the studio, to get back the feel of texture and pulsation in the body.
When she first entered the artistic arena as a professional dancer, moving from Taiwan’s Taipei Dance Circle to Belgium’s Kobalt Works, Su said to herself with certainty, “I know in my heart that I desire to create. I also have times of self-doubt, I feel the hunger for knowledge and am sometimes dissatisfied with my development”. Having majored in French at university made Europe a natural choice of destination when she left home. During this period, she was immersed in a multicultural performance-creation environment, living in a down to earth way, enjoying independence and freedom of personal thought, body and creative thinking. In the process of entering and exiting different positions, the body continues to absorb and to learn interesting things. The body becomes sensitive to the environment in which it finds itself, its awareness of the surrounding social cultures and atmosphere is heightened, which helps to raise awareness of problems. Su feels directly through her body what is the most suitable state of physical existence, as well as feeling a strong motivation and thirst for creativity through her heart. Later, when Su returned to her hometown, she founded the contemporary dance group YiLab.
From feeling the body to practising; understanding each other to experimenting together
Having received solid physical training at Taipei Dance Circle, Su feels that her body is very perceptive and sensitive to sound, and she always listens to her body's active signals (intuition), whether in creation, performance or life. She has always been interested in different forms of media creation, and fascinated by sound art, especially in how the development of science and technology affects human beings, social phenomena and even lifestyles. Su continued to explore and study, choosing the Department of New Media Art, which was still an emerging discipline in Taiwan at that time.
Her training in the thinking and logic of new media creation strengthened Su’s self-awareness, ability to question herself and motivation to create. This was followed by the digestion of her own questions through creative practice, and the mode of existence of artistic creation taking shape. When dance and new media are combined, Su believes that these two distinct art forms, or sound media, can produce intuitive feelings and give both creator and audience room for reinterpretation, thus creating infinite possibilities for imagination. Relying on her own acuity, Su focuses on listening to her body's voice in her creative journey. She has been observing creative artists from different fields for a long time and feels that they have made clear choices in their art forms and aesthetic expression, including their insistence on quality and the values they believe in. Based on her long-term observation, she has invited artists from different cultural and professional backgrounds to embark on a creative journey to explore the unknown together.
Off the Map／Photo: Luc Vleminck
Create, to reflect an era
Su’s work has progressed from solo pieces Heroïne, Loop Me, ReMove Me, W.A.V.E., Off the Map and others, to the publishing of Infinity Minus One and Unconditional Love and Factin her Rainbow Trilogy research project. In recent years, Su became aware of the warnings and urgency global warming has brought to humankind in the form of catastrophes, and created the work Anthropic Shadow. At different stages of creation, she has invited cross-disciplinary artists to collaborate with her. Apart from recognizing one another’s creative qualities, they are able to discover each other’s uniqueness and differences in background, reminding them to respect the different characteristics of other cultures. Achieving equality between different cultures is a balance Su always seeks in her cross-cultural collaborations.
The first prerequisite is to accept each individual’s own character without reserve. Su mentioned Infinity Minus One, where she worked with Senyawa, a band from Yogyakarta, Indonesia, who pursue breakthroughs in the format of musical creation, and use music to reverse social and political patterns. The band and Indonesian dancers have very powerful energy and are used to ‘working more and talking less’, jumping directly into activity to prove their theory. Compared to them, Su understood that her body is comparatively quiet, so she had to raise her energy to the same level as her collaborators in order to have the strength to conduct dialogue, and achieve equality.
During the creative research process, Su has visited scientists in several scientific research institutes. She talks about the spirit of scientists who never give up experimenting, and gives the linear accelerator as an example. She was stunned to discover that scientists may spend their whole lives seeking an answer they may never get before they die. Comparing the time spent by scientists and researchers on a potentially never-ending research project to creative performance art research, that usually spans just a few short years, made her ask a lot of questions of herself. Because creation is motivated by the awareness of problems and attempts to respond to external conditions through creativity, this experimental process is similar to scientific research, which requires time to develop.
Between the virtual and the real, she sets off from the ‘heart’ and returns to physical experience
We talked about how many artistic events had to be changed to online screening due to the pandemic, and the emphasis on integrating the virtual and the real, Su thinks that after restrictions are relaxed, live activities will still be mainstream, because people still yearn for real physical presence.
The impact of the environment has been forcing creative artists to make changes. Su emphasizes that attempts to make use of digital technology platforms for creative work and performances is not about chasing the trend, or seeking for ornamental styles of expression, and that it is essential to return to our own physical experience. In particular she thinks that creation must be consistent with what she wants and needs to do in her heart and mind. Looking back at her new media creations, she started a series of artistic experiments as a result of going through the crisis of survival, which stimulated her belief in herself and developed her consciousness of problems.
Now, as summer begins, she feels that this year is almost like starting from scratch, time to take a fresh look at the distance between people and relationships, feel the sensation of time returning to her body, and be aware of her unconscious actions. Looking to the future, she continues to feel and develop the third part of her trilogy, looking at impermanence and embracing the unknown in a more positive way.
Gwen Chang Hsin-Yi
Europe travelling dance cum circus producer, 2021 Weiwuying Circus Platform Curator