Tao Hui, Yu Cheng-Ta, Bruce Yonemoto
December 17, 2022 – January 20, 2023
Artists: Tao Hui, Yu Cheng-Ta, Bruce Yonemoto
Exhibition Dates: December 17, 2022 – January 20, 2023
Opening: December 17, 2022, 3-6 pm
Special thanks to the artists and galleries who have provided the works and supported the exhibition.
For our latest presentation “Rhapsody Unchained”, we made a special selection of recent video works in which song plays a central role in conveying political and artistic meaning. Participating artists are Tao Hui, Yu Cheng-Ta and Bruce Yonemoto.
Tao Hui, Being Wild, 2021
In Being Wild, a young woman acts as both the protagonist and the narrator, rollerskating across diverse sites: a college town, an old paper mill, a film studio and a central business district. Strolling on the empty streets, the soloist sings to songs from the 1980s by Taiwanese folk singers Tai Zhao-Mei and Wang Hai-Ling. The melancholic lyrics echo the light-hearted, unstrained script by Tao Hui, delivered in the artist’s signature style of affectionate, nostalgic yearning that directly addresses the viewer. Towards the end of the film, the protagonist abruptly breaks down, revealing a hysterical sincerity that summarises a period in time that is at once desperate and hopeful.
Roller skating became popular in mainland China in the 1980s, reaching its high point when the 3rd Asian Roller Skating Championship takes place in Hangzhou in 1989. Tao Hui sets Being Wild — named after one of Tai Zhao-Mei’s melodious hits — in scenes that appear frequently in Chinese soap operas, employing roller skating as a metaphor for the speed of the era. However marginalised, individuals map the city with their bodily presence in motion, negotiating the rhythm of life, both confined and televised. Tao Hui says: “I remember roller skating as a kind of sport that is very hopeful. If you are fast enough, you’d feel that you have reached a certain level, seeing things you usually cannot see and were previously unknown to you. It feels like going beyond time.” Orating and singing directly into the camera, the motivating, caring protagonist breaks down and cries towards the end of the film, hysterically repeating the cryptic yet viral phrase of “yasimola”. Torn open but for just a moment is an anachronism: time finally catches up as one falls, and returns one to a reality in which care and self-care practises manifest as tribulations.
Yu Cheng-Ta, Ode to Taipei Biennale, 2016
Within any biennial there always exists the dual problem of local voice and international position. It is an indispensable stage for performance, but conversely, it can also be an intractable burden. For 20 years the Taipei Biennial has strived to introduce Taiwanese contemporary art and to forge international connections. Looking back on this history and taking the 1996 Taipei Biennial as a starting point, Yu revises exhibition statements as lyrics to be sung a cappella. Making reference to the structure of the six male curators of the past, Yu invited six professional singers to perform in three parts – tenor, baritone and bass – in the Taipei Fine Arts Museum lobby with its rich atmosphere of modernity. A cappella was a common form of church singing in the 15th and 16th centuries, and it experienced a renaissance in the 19th century. Comprised exclusively of the human voice and sung in multi-part harmonies, it is a form of music that cleanses the heart.
In the video six men blend together many vocalisations and utterances based on the prescribed tempo. As the score constantly advances and the notes interweave, the pleasing harmonies within the high-ceilinged space refract the “identity of Taiwanese art” that the statements describe. As the piece concludes with two notes, what can be seen is a self-fantasy of Taiwan’s political state within current international trends.
Bruce Yonemoto, The First Karaoke: ENKA!, 2016
Before Social Media enabled political dissent and contributed to the rise of such political figures as Donald Trump, early Enka, a popular Japanese music genre, was a force for social change. Enka was first introduced as a form of oral communication to make political ideas accessible to the public as well as to avert police interference. More recently the audience for Enka songs has been older people, a musical vestige of a colonial Japanese past. Japanese-American artist Bruce Yonemoto has restored the original political intent of Enka songs by enlisting artists in Japan and Taiwan to write and sing contemporary lyrics to popular Enka melodies.
This work is a compilation of four songs, of which each variation shares the same melody. The lyrics were written and sung by Taiwanese artists, showing discontent toward the unjust society. The first part features a woman who left home to seek a better life in the capital. However, she experienced the complete opposite: a nightmare which she must condescend to her superiors. She was constantly kneeling and “kissing asses”. The second part presents a protester singing about the suppression he has been through during the days on the streets facing riot police and their water cannon. The third part features a man who sings about the life in a sanatorium, being completely isolated from society. The last singer is taking the role of a religious leader making sarcastic comments on Taiwanese sovereignty, which has yet to be acknowledged by the international community. As it is less likely that younger generations are having the ability to take care of themselves as well as their elders, one line that was sung for decades: “Mom, please take care of yourself”.
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