《Meniscus 》；編舞：鬼與約翰；創作舞者：（由左）Shum Pui Yung、Annie Knobbs、Keity Pook、Matt Bell、Alina Sakko、Jocelyn Mah；攝：Dominic Farlam
 編按：「Corona」一字取自引起疫症大流行的新型冠狀病毒「Novel Coronavirus」。
[ENG] Presenting art as we look across
Text: FrancisJohn Chan (from Ghost and John)
“I have had a nightmare.” one of the performers at Meniscus told me, two weeks before the premiere on 1 November 2019. “I have had a nightmare that we won’t be able to enter Hong Kong because we have presented this work.”
I am writing this article on the day that Boris Johnson has just announced that people in the UK should consider working from home and avoid clubs, pubs and theatres because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The disease is spreading and people are panicking. Ghost and I went to the supermarket this afternoon and the shelves had been emptied. It feels apocalyptic. “Corona!” people called us. They stared at us. They made us feel like aliens, that they were disgusted by the colour of our hair, the colour of our eyes, our skin, our facial features. It all came very suddenly, just like how everything has happened so suddenly. It feels like we do not belong. It feels like no one is hearing us. It feels like no one knows our struggle. It is fear and loneliness. However, being from Hong Kong, this kind of feeling has already been with us since June 2019.
‘It is not that fear is an alien thing in our lives. But this is fear that has very particular, though varied qualities’. It is the fear of injustice, the fear of unsolved crisis, the fear of helplessness. As we have been witnessing all the pain and suffering of our own people at home, on the opposite side of the planet, what kind of messages we should be delivering as Hong Kong artists and how we should express them when we get to put an audience in front of our work become the questions that we have on our mind all the time these days. Through these carefully displayed and presented artworks, we have attempted to leap the hurdles of cultural differences and geographical barriers and return to primitive emotions like the ones which have overwhelmed us as we’ve stared at scene after scene happening at home through our screens. The feeling is a mix of rage, distress, powerlessness, and more. It was with a sense of mission that we presented Meniscus, a multimedia ensemble work in collaboration with twenty-six other artists, in London last November.
Ghost and I believe in being on the phone, or more precisely, being on the screen. Only by being on the screen do we get to see what is happening at home. Only by being on the screen are we free from physical limitations in receiving information. Only by being on the screen can we feel like we still belong to where we came from. The screen, a reflective surface that shows us information from far away, was one of the main items in this experimental work. Mobile phones were heavily used by both the performers and the audience members. Together with the use of projection, mirrors, telecommunication tools and more, we saw text and images emerge on various surfaces in a choreographed manner. Ghost’s background as a coder contributed greatly to the feasibility of making this work, along with the collective intelligence gained through collaboration with artists of all kinds, from cinematographers to dancers.
Meniscus; Choreographers: Ghost & John; Devising Dancers: (from left) Claudia Silas, Adéle Diridollou, Keity Pook, Sunne Laundesgaar; Photo: Dominic Farlam
It was a liberating experience to see how things can happen through building trust between people. The space used for the premiere was two adjacent studios with the partition between them opened. It was not usually used as a performance space, or at least not for performances of our format. As with most art presentations, the amount of effort put into creation and into production were almost the same. When we invited Charles Webber, who we also collaborated with when we produced I'M NOT SURE ABOUT YOU, BUT I NEED ..., to be our production manager and lighting designer, it was just two weeks before the premiere. After watching the first run, he said: “Another ambitious one! Let’s see how much we can do this time.”
After some negotiation, we were able to put a black floor covering over the whole 29 metre by 22 metre space. We were able to eat and drink during the performance, despite the very complex health and safety regulations for theatres in central London. We were even able to use a knife to cut up fruit during the performance. All this came about through communication and positive attitudes between collaborators, trust in one another’s abilities and our shared passion for the work, for presenting an excellent performance.
The audience carried out different tasks with their own mobile phones and roved around the space as events happened. Uncertainty lingered in the room throughout the performance, but not in a way which would disturb people – instead, the idea was to intrigue them, to invite them to get closer to the performers and try to understand the subject matter. The landscape of the room was constantly morphing as bodies moved through space with objects and images. The piece presented itself as a showcase and demonstration of a fraction of this larger landscape that we live in. And through this process of discovery and engagement, the audience could come up with their own understanding of the work.
The work ends with everyone walking joyfully in a circle round the room. Ghost and I came out of the tech-box and joined the crowd. We saw an audience member crying, with a companion handing her a tissue. “Don’t cry lah. Let’s walk together.” I told her, and she cried even harder.
The work did come with a lot of assumptions. It assumed that the audience also comes from this digital culture of heavy use of mobile phones, has a basic understanding of the situation in Hong Kong and an interest in fragmented storytelling. The bar was set even higher when you take into account people’s aesthetic preferences, their expectations of what dance is and the sensitive nature of the topic we were tackling. However, if there is one thing that we are trying to convey through Meniscus, it is this: that making and presenting art really can be a way to break through cultural differences and open up gateways for communication.
 This is a play on a line from Freedom Hi by Papergang Theatre, a piece we performed on 10-15 Mar 2020.
Text: FrancisJohn Chan from Ghost and John
FrancisJohn Chan is a Hong Kong artist, half of Ghost and John, investigating the reception and social efficacy of arts. Website: www.ghostandjohn.art