For this first collaboration between the Taipei Arts Festival and Taiwan Contemporary Culture Lab (C-LAB), the iconic transnational experimental music group, Far East Network (FEN), is invited to curate Noise Assembly 2019 ── No One’s Island. Together with eight Taiwanese musicians, foley artist Hu Ding-Yi, and Nanguan musician Huang Chun-Li, music will be presented in a way that resembles a cluster of islands, with interconnected, unpredictable sounds and performances presented in multiple ensembles to ignite the most exhilarating musical sparks. The event is to be held in the Chung Cheng Auditorium at C-LAB for a total of 2 performances presented on August 28th and 29th. Admission is free with advance reservation.
FEN is a collective composed of artists from different countries and cultural backgrounds, including renowned Japanese sound artists Otomo Yoshihide, Singaporean sound artist Yuen Chee-Wai, Chinese musician and poet Yan Jun, and Korean musician Ryu Hankil. Focusing on the concept of “island”, FEN has selected No One’s Island as the theme of Noise Assembly 2019. FEN’s debut performance was in 2008 at Festival MIMI in Marseille, says Yuen Chee-Wai. When asked about this experience with taking part in a music festival held on an island in Europe as someone of Asian descent, Yuen says, “When the four of us were on that island together, it felt like we had also transformed into islands out on the seas in Europe. This concept of island has since stayed with FEN in a profound way.”
FEN was on tour in Taiwan in the beginning of 2019, during which the members visited C-LAB to survey the site. Inside the old office building on this cultural heritage site, they saw several maps, detailing national defense strategies for Taiwan and its offshore islands, which inspired FEN to revisit this concept of island. No One’s Island references those strategy maps they saw, explains Otomo Yoshihide. With the arrangement of the performance space resembling defensive positions, the first performance is presented with the Taiwanese musicians situated around the members of FEN, and the arrangement is reversed on the second day, with FEN members surrounding the Taiwanese musicians, with interactive performances using sound, noise, and music presented.
For the performance on August 28th, the four members of FEN will take the lead in presenting musical performances of different combinations with eight other musicians including Lee Jiun-Yang, Nigel Brown, Hung Tzu-Ni, Xu Chia-Chun, Dino, Lu Yi, Betty Apple, and Jyun-Ao Caesar. Different combinations, including duos, trios, and quartets, will be presented by the musicians utilizing a performance format that resembles various “islands”, and members of the audience could freely move between these different “islands.”
The performance on August 29th will be joined by Nanguan musician Huang Chun-Li and foley artist Hu Ding-Yi, paying homage to their respective art forms which tend to be overlooked. While conducing a field survey in Tainan in 2018, the music of traditional Nanguan heard in temples left a profound impression, which led to the incorporation of Nanguan music in the performance, explains Yuen Chee-Wai. The documentary film, A Foley Artist, was how they first learned about the foley artist, Hu Ding-Yi. Due to his interest in Taiwanese New Wave Cinema, Huang Chun-Li often pays great attention to the sounds and the recordings in the films that he sees, and he sees a common thread between what foley artists do and FEN’s creative work, which led to the collaboration with Hu.
Noise Assembly 2019 ── No One’s Island will be performed in the Chung Cheng Auditorium at C-LAB, and Yuen Chee-Wai further explains that in the recent two years the group has chosen to perform in spaces that embody historical and cultural significance, and in addition to the music or sound performances presented, the intention is also to offer the audience listening experiences that could transport them to specific space-times. Visually, artist Hsu Chia-Wei’s video artworks, Marshal Tie Jia – Turtle Island and Marshal Tie Jia – Jingsi Village will also be presented as a prelude for No One’s Island, with concept of island and mythology highlighted. Additionally, the performances will also be accompanied by deep, ambient lighting designs by Liam Morgan, with shifting colors used to alter people’s sense of space. The light projected will appear like rippling waves in the air, presenting the audience with a visual experience that is unusual and spectacular.
No One’s Island extends out from musical performances of various combinations. Otomo Yoshihide explains that different unique sounds will be heard on the different “islands” formed, and the islands may be independent entities or they may interact with one another. Members of the audience will not just be passive spectators during the performance; they will also be sound engineers that contribute to the performances. They could listen, mix the sounds, allow the sounds to alter and shift in intensity according to their own preferences. The audience could freely move, select, and decide how they want to take in the experience, and similarly, the musicians could also decide when and how to perform. This is what makes No One’s Island an experimental experience.
The Taipei Performing Arts Center and C-LAB have always supported trans-disciplinary experiments and practices, and Noise Assembly 2019 ── No One’s Island is a result of the collaborative effort by the two institutions. Otomo Yoshihide expresses that all the musicians and artists are all very much looking forward to taking part in this collaboration and hope the audience will enjoy the music created by this group of musicians and sound artists from multiple generations. Yuen Chee-Wai, who grew up in Singapore, adds that “It is not easy to escape from an island, and the only way to get away is to transform oneself into a smaller island.” Referring to Southeast Asian ocean nomads, “In their eyes, the land is the sea, and the sea is their idea of land. Once they step foot onto land, they feel awkward and out of place. The sea is where they feel at ease and comfortable,” says Yuen. Through No One’s Island, the audience is encouraged to reevaluate their own comfort zone and think about the definition of “belonging.” And whilst enjoying the music and art, they could also try to discover a place where they feel the most at ease.