Taiwan NOW is a transnational cooperation and exchange project with art at its core.
While undergoing constant fusion and innovation, the creation and performance of art are essentially the culmination of human civilization, transcending the barriers of borders, races, ethnic groups and even languages. From the past to the present, from tradition to the future, the diverse natural ecology and cultural ecology interweave to create the unique and abundant cultural landscape of Taiwan today.
Taiwan NOW, as its name implies, aims to present Taiwan in the now. It tells the rich and eclectic stories of Taiwan through the unique vocabulary of artists and creators in the context of art and culture to shape an impressionable imagery of Taiwan and create new values for Taiwan. At the same time, Taiwan NOW is also a cross-border cooperation and exchange project. Taiwan and Japan have had frequent interactions and connections in the long sweep of history. In recent years, the two have deepened their friendship with each other in the challenging times. The dialogues and collaboration of artistic creation allow us to Blossom TWOgether. We believe that a truly successful exchange is more than just a one-way communication of “who I am”, but more importantly, a mutual understanding and respect, a deeper co-creation and co-production of connecting and sharing of “who we are”.
The seeds of Taiwan NOW were sown two years ago, when the whole country of Japan was preparing for the Tokyo Olympics with joy and excitement. Sports events and arts and culture are activities that can connect the world across borders. Aside from the active participation in this mega sporting event, Taiwan also wanted to roll out a series of meticulously planned cultural programs to let the international community learn more about us. This led to the inception of the art project named Taiwan NOW, ready to be launched under the theme of “Flowers and Blessings”. But then came the end of 2019 when the world was hit by a pandemic that soon swept across the globe.
This pandemic has completely changed people’s lives, making many things that were once taken for granted a luxury or even unattainable. Mankind has also come to realize that no individual or country can do it alone in this fight against the virus—only by sharing and reciprocity can we forge the best weapons to fend off the virus. The 2020 Tokyo Olympics was pushed back one year after numerous considerations. It finally opened this past July despite all the difficulties, in hopes of channeling the hopes and expectations for a brighter future through the Games. Similarly, Taiwan NOW has not been stopped by the impact of the pandemic in these couple of years. As the virus spreads and mutates, Taiwan NOW has also continued to evolve and transform. With the determination of our partners in Taiwan and Japan, the difficulties and constraints have become the starting point for more creativity and possibilities. Through cyber-physical integration, multi-location simultaneous performances, and “releasing the source code”, we have reassembled the entire project into a show, made possible with the help from many workers, that is more in line with the post-COVID era. From Marunouchi in Tokyo to Weiwuying in Kaohsiung and a Virtual Venue, an art feast blending design, visual arts and performing arts is slated to open in the coming October.
Blossom TWOgether is the theme and core spirit of the Taiwan NOW art project. Flowers are nature’s most beautiful gift to mankind. In plant ecology, flowers mean maturity and reproduction. Meanwhile, owing to their attractive appearance, color and smell, as well as their respective unique characters, flowers not only symbolize love and happiness in many cultures, but are often invoked by creators as a motif or source of inspiration. And “TWOgether” part underscores the value that Taiwan NOW is eager to accentuate. There is a need for more understanding, more respect, more inclusivity, more harmony, and more cooperation between people and nature, between people and people, and even between nations. Only through co-existence can co-prosperity happen, only through sharing and reciprocity can nature and human civilization be sustainable.
This art project kicks off with the Fictional Garden: TAWIAN HOUSE design exhibition created by the TDRI (Taiwan Design and Research Institute), followed by two contemporary artworks displayed in the prestigious KITTE Building (former Tokyo Central Post Office) in Marunouchi. One is the large-scale installation Untitled Gathering (Tokyo 2020) to be housed in the KITTE atrium. A collaboration between artist Michael Lin and Japanese architectural team at Atelier Bow-Wow, this work draws inspiration from the flower patterns found on traditional Taiwanese fabrics mass produced in Taiwan in the 1960s. Together with the furniture designed by Atelier Bow-Wow, Lin’s unique translation of the visual imagery hinting at Taiwanese cultural traits becomes a space in which the public can participate. On the second floor of the KITTE building, Intermediatheque (IMT) operated by the University Museum, University of Tokyo (UMUT) will stage Our Labyrinth, a performance created by artist Lee Mingwei whose practice dwells in relational aesthetics. Marrying installation and performance, the dancers slowly sweep the rice grains to embody the life cycle of blossoming, maturing and withering of flowers, as this inner flower delivers blessings to the viewers. Floating Flowers, a special performance by young Taiwanese choreographer Benson Tsai, will be presented at the opening event. Based on the imagery of water lanterns in Taiwan’s folk beliefs, the concept of this particular performance is akin to the creator releasing the source code as he performs in collaboration with local Japanese dancers.
As the virtual venue connecting performances in Taiwan and Japan, the Virtual Venue is co-hosted by the Digital Art Foundation and features specially produced or selected music, drama, dance and video works. When viewers enter the venue, they are first greeted by a Virtual Atrium jointed conceived by Taiwan’s JL Design. Integrating the transition from two-dimensional to three-dimensional and from physical to virtual, it uses the physical connection of the dancing human body as the medium to cyber-physically present the flower blossom blessings through body language. After exploring the Virtual Garden, viewers can freely choose their next path. If they enter the Concert Hall, they will be immersed in the Virtual Concer Hall: People of Taiwan, a co-production by musician CinCin LEE, internationally renowned Taiwanese animation company MoonShine Animation and director Dolce Wang. It presents the music styles of Taiwan’s diverse ethnic groups as an international class show. During the performance, viewers can flow with the music melody and immerse themselves in animated sceneries of Taiwan’s beautiful mountains and seas, as a one-of-a-kind concert scenery is created by multiuser connection technology. If you choose to enter the Virtual Cinema, you can enjoy Roaming Transmigration by Alex Zhang Hungtai and Tseng Kuo-Hung, the youngest generation of artists in this project. They deconstruct and transform the script of Aphrodite Orchid from a different cultural and generational perspective based on the philosophical three-phase progression of “seeing a mountain as a mountain, seeing a mountain not as a mountain, and seeing a mountain once again a mountain”. It invites the viewers to follow this native Taiwan orchid on a spiritual journey that epitomizes Taiwan’s history and the course of human evolution. If you choose to enter the Virtual Cinema: Taiwan Wave, a space designed by NAXS, you can browse through our selection of contemporary Taiwanese artworks based on three concepts: contemporary tradition, cross-domain practice, and diverse vocabulary. The virtual viewing experience allows you to enjoy art at the comfort of your own couch.
We see ourselves in Aphrodite
We see the evolution of Taiwan’s history in Aphrodite
We will carry Aphrodite in our blood and continue to walk into the future
Orchid is a parasitic plant that can change its form with the environment to continue its life. The fungal species in their roots help them maintain a symbiotic relationship with other plants. Southern Taiwan is the native place of moth orchids (Phalaenopsis aphrodite). In Taiwan, it is called “Ah-po” due to the consonance of Aphrodite. Aphrodite Orchid is not only the finale of the Taiwan NOW art project, but also an exciting drama co-created by Taiwan and Japan. Miwa Yanagi, a well-known Japanese contemporary artist, has long been fascinated by the natural ecology of Taiwan and has participated in many Taiwan’s folk activities. Having a deep affection for Taiwan, she immediately devoted herself into the creation of Aphrodite Orchid with passion and fervor after being invited to co-create the show.
Aphrodite Orchid brings together outstanding creators and theater workers from both Taiwan and Japan. Building on Miwa Yanagi’s creative concept, it teams up three major Taiwanese opera troupes in Southern Taiwan—ShiuKim Taiwanese Opera Troupe, Chun-Mei Taiwanese Opera Troupe and Ming Hua Yuan Tian Zi Art & Culture Group—and invites script consultant WANG You-hui and composer CHOU Yi-Chien to use Taiwan’s unique moth orchid as the overarching theme to fuse Taiwanese opera with moth orchids. Based on the lyrics and music of Taiwanese opera, it combines modern video and lighting, coupled with mechanical installations of orchids, to push the boundaries of performing arts, from costume design to the innovative performance format.
This cross-domain and cross-national co-production introduces contemporary mentality and methods into the aesthetics of Taiwan’s traditional folk art. Due to the pandemic, the originally planned debut of Aphrodite Orchid in Marunouchi, Tokyo is not feasible. However, this contemporary innovative Taiwanese opera performance will still be performed at the outdoor plaza of Weiwuying, Kaohsiung in Taiwan in the form of live multi-location simultaneous performances and recorded broadcast. I hope this splendid finale offers us a way of connecting with each other with artistic creation in the post-COVID era as we Blossom TWOgether under love and blessings.