When was the last time you were challenged by art, noise and performance? Expand your mind…
I stood in the center of the room, with the bewildered audience staring at a plastic bag filled with water and a single goldfish swimming merrily. Armed with a needle, the artist, Sun Yi-Jou (孫懿柔), poked a few holes in the bag allowing the water to drip out. Then she painted the bag black, closed all the windows and switched off all the lights. The tension was immense as we listened to the dripping water in pitch darkness. Life was slipping away while we stood in the dark. After a few minutes, Sun Yi-Jou announced her act was over… (the goldfish was safe) and as such it set the tone for the immersing evening of art, performance and noise at Depopulate 03.
The Depopulate series of events celebrate cutting edge art, performance, and noise, and is curated by the team behind White Fungus, a global art magazine. If you get a chance to read this thought-provoking magazine, you can see how their ethos has extended to the Depopulate series. This is art that is intended to be challenging. There are performances that suck you in and extend what you deem acceptable. It is living breathing art that gets in your face and you have to learn how to deal with it personally.
One example of a performance that got in my face at Depopulate 03 was Zahra Killeen-Chance’s performance piece. Her hook was an alluding autobiographical account of her childhood pains, teenage rebellion, and adult success. Using a mix of spoken words and dance (live and on video), she slowly pulled in the audience with the personal yet surreally detached performance of her story. Without spoiling the experience for someone else, I came to the realization at the end of her performance that it was not as it all seemed to be. It was masterful manipulative storytelling.
Even within the noise genre, Depopulate 03 was superbly curated to the point where there were three forms of noise. In the Argentine Anla Courtis’ solo noise performance, he used the amplified sounds of a rustled plastic bag as the basis of his piece. He smashed, beat, scrapped, threw, stomped, banged and extended his frustrations on the poor plastic bag to coax out noise. Anla was telling a story and he used noise to communicate and accentuate the emotions of the story.
In contrast, Wang Fujui (王福瑞)’s set exhibited what is commonly associated with noise – lots of layers of white noise with EQ, sequencing and feedback. This form of noise might feel colder and harsher as it was not as engaging as Anlas was visually. However, when the noise started, it felt like a rough sponge running through my ears and cleaning it up. As my ears became more accustomed to the noise, the intricate layers, loops and tones started revealing themselves. Therein lies the genius of noise.
In between these two, Noise Steve (陳史帝) had an interesting set where we feasted on noise, gadgets, rhythm and pulsating lights. Noise Steve started by scrubbing the tabletop. Then I realized he had a gadget that used that scrubbing motion to generate a vast soundscape. Noise Steve hit me aurally and visually. He was constantly moving, skipping, and hopping from gadget to gadget. The indicators on his gear glowed and pulsated along with him like they were grooving to his extremely entertaining form of noise and rhythm.
There was a poetry reading, too (six performances for 100NT!). Local poet, Hsin Ya (夏宇), read lines of poetry while Anla Courtis played a sorrowful guitar solo. The lines made references to mundane day-to-day events but coupled with the guitar solo and Hsin Ya’s adhoc sound effects (eg ripping up paper, crumbling plastic bottles, banging on the table), the lines themselves took on sinister meanings.
Depopulate 03 expanded my horizons to the possibilities of art, noise and performance. It brings a challenging aesthetic to our scene. Expand expand expand and fill in the gaps with possibilities. More, please!