The Island 2015
Performance, text and charcoal on wall, dimensions variable
Taiwan and the UK are both island territories, steeped in history, commerce, and an industrial past, and currently impacted by the speed and global pull of new technology. Yu-Chen Wang’s residency in Hong Kong, another territory including islands of similar cultural and industrial weight, resulted in another original vision of the future. What if your island’s technology is so unusual that it is weighing everything down, to the extent that your island is sinking? Imagining a future in which this scenario is being recovered from a lost historical period, Yu-Chen developed a work set in the post-industrial setting of Chai Wan, in which carefully-costumed performers embodied the strange “measuring devices” used by a long-gone panicking population, attempting to calculate their Island’s speed of descent. Other fictional devices for survival, explained in an accompanying text and possibly referred to in wall-based drawings, included the use of the Islanders’ favourite foods to counteract the erosive power of the sea, and some exploration of the idea of making the Island mobile, in order to move it out of harm’s way. The Islanders may have taken a vote on what course of action to take. But it was all in the past… allowing contemporary visitors to wonder if it is all about to happen again, closer to home, in a slightly different form.
Commissioned by WING Platform for Performance, Hong Kong, The Island was presented as part of the organisation's opening exhibition Tell me a Tale curated by Leslie van Eyck. The exhibition engages visitors in different narratives going from ancient myths and fables to science fiction, ghost stories and biographies. Focusing on books and storytelling through performances and artistic interventions, the story is seen as a vivid encounter between performer and spectator. The site-specific character of the festival in the industrial area of Chai Wan challenges the relationship between performer and audience, between author and reader.
During a two-week residency in Hong Kong, Yu-Chen Wang creates an in-situ work in close relation to the industrial neighborhood of Chai Wan. The drawings made on the walls of Industrial City Phase 2 directly refer to the story distributed by the ‘Messengers’ about a slowly sinking island built with ancient handmade machines and its paranoiac islanders. Wandering in the post-industrial setting of Chai Wan and dressed in a specially designed outfit the ‘Measuring Devices’ recall Hong Kong’s past industrial times. The encounter with the ‘Messengers’ acts as intriguing clue to the visitor. This hybrid work can be seen as a choreography in which the artist through different media meticulously guides the visitor into an anterior future about an island on the edge of disappearance and the way its terrified population desperately tries to change the course of history.
Project manager: Lara van Meeteren. With thanks to Tom Meganck and Hong Kong based performers, including PooN Chunho, Sarah Xiao, Kingsan Lo, Josh Serafin and many others.