Erenlai - Items filtered by date: Friday, 28 December 2012
Friday, 28 December 2012 17:49

The Waiting Hall ─ Scenes of Modernity


The Waiting Hall. Scenes of Modernity is a discursive event taking place on the opening night of the Taipei Biennial 2012 in the vast entrance lobby of the Taipei Fine Arts Museum, where subsequently it will remain as an installation and archive. About seventeen people—artists, theorists, activists—are invited to engage in dialogues, which take place in secluded, small office-boxes installed in the lobby. Five dialogues take place in parallel, and audience members listen to their dialogue of choice on headphones, but they can also register themselves to become a partner in one of the dialogues. The installation is conceived as a backstage area and a waiting hall in the image of a Kafkaesque narration of bureauc­racy, inspection, and the pact between the one who waits and the one who keeps someone waiting. Scenes of Modernity creates a space for undecided modernities and their multiple "primal scenes." Each conversation will last thirty minutes and revolve around an image or description of this chosen scene.

What is modernity? One of the characteristics of this notorious term is that among different people and different disciplines, there is strikingly little agreement about its meaning and definition, dates and origins. Is this an epoch, a condition, a mental state, an idea, a method or a technique? There is a modernity of science, of art, of modern nation states, a technological modernity, a social modernity, a colonial moder­nity, a capitalist modernity, the modernities of the colonized, and the hyper-modernities of the contemporary capitalist cities and worlds. And yet, if there are multiple modernities, what do they have in common? There are modern mythologies, among them the myth of the one modernity with only one trajectory of "development," one model of progress, the myth of the anti-traditionalist ultimate break with an archaic, non-modern or corrupted past—a once powerful picture in the imaginary of modernity that in the present has been deeply destabilized and has become uncertain, as no presentis safe from the "returns" of the past.

In all cases, the question of just what constitutes "the modern" in modernity remains undecided and perhaps undecidable. But there is no scarcity, on the other hand, of "primal scenes" and myths of origin. The installation takes as its point of departure a primal scene of modern Chinese litera­ture: in 1906, Lu Xun, then a student of Western medicine in Japan, saw a slide show in which a Chinese crowd idly watched as one of their compatriots was beheaded for spying on the Japanese army in the Russo-Japanese war. Dumbfounded by this scene of decapitation, and in particular by the apparent passivity of the Chinese onlookers enjoying the spectacle, Lu Xun realized that before saving Chinese people's bodies, he first had to save their souls. He abandoned his medical studies and pursued literature. His short stories, poems, and essays are taken to mark the beginning of modern Chinese literature. Whether this event actually took place or is a myth retrospectively created by Lu Xun, "the case of the decapitation suggests that fiction and (private and public) history might have become inextricably confused, at the (textual) beginning of modern Chinese (literary) history." (David Der-Wei Wang)

What qualifies as a "primal scene"? All scenes of modern origins appear to be scenes of "division"—whether this is the cut­­ting off of a head from a body or an ultimate break from a tradition or a past. A "scene" or "scenography" also entails a relational diagram—a constellation between conscious actors, passive onlookers, and anonymous structural or systemic agency creating a complex moment in time, staging the paradox of modernity. All defi­nitions of "modernity" have such "primal scenes," events of rupture and myths of origin against which the very definition of just what counts as "modern" is measured.

The installation work of Hannah Hurtzig / Mobile Academy deals with the notion of knowledge and non-knowledge and how they are used and transferred in the act of communication in public space. Hannah Hurtzig's Mobile Academy projects explore the rhetorics and gestures of conversation, of one-to-one dia­­­logues, and new and old modes of assemblies. Each project is first a live event and later becomes an installation and an archive. In addi­tion, each project is dedicated to a specific theme/subject and explores it in an encyclopedic manner.


Please listen to the talks in The Waiting Hall recorded during the opening of Taipei Biennial 2012 on the 28th of September. The dialogue partners of the speakers are members of the public who could book the talks at a Check-in in the The Waiting Hall.



Dakis Pawan (ch)

The reservation of Taiwanese indigenous culture is mediated by modern methods, machines, and certification procedures. For instance, we learned there were nine tribes of Taiwanese indigenous people decades ago, but the Council of Indigenous People now approve there are fourteen, and perhaps more tribes would be approved in the future. It demonstrates how we employ modern techniques to reserve traditions nowadays. There are more examples, such as employing Roman spelling system to transcript oral languages for writing, education and documenting dictionaries. We use different machines to make audio and video recordings, and even make movies to preserve traditions. Nevertheless, we cannot only emphasize on how to preserve the old traditions. It is time to re-think the modern meaning of traditions in the new context. For example, it is impossible for us to kill people for the qualification of having a facial tattoo, which is considered to be a crucial testimony for our belief. So, the question is: what is the modern qualification of having a facial tattoo?

Dakis Pawan (Guo Mingzheng in chinese) comes from the tribe of the Seediq Tgdaya. He has published several aboriginal language textbooks and dictionaries, as well as and a behind-the-scenes book on the movie: Sediq Bale. He lives in Jîn-ài-hiong in Nantou. (Scene 6; Cabin No.1005; 8.00 pm)



Tseng Haunn-Tarng (ch)

The traditions of Taiwanese funeral services inherited from the Minnan culture that came with Zheng Chenggong (Koxinga) from the mainland China, and may even be further traced back to the mourning tradition of wearing hemp cloth as described in the Book of Rites in the Zhou dynasty. These traditions were still well reserved even during the Japanese occupation period. Tseng Haunn-Tarng, professor of life and death studies, points out that due to the urbanization process, the funeral industry stepped into the modernization in the past 30 to 40 years, along with the changes of the living environment, family structure and metropolitan lifestyles. The funeral industry started providing a great variety of accompanying services, and recently adapted the implementation of licensing and evaluation around 10 years ago.

Tseng Haunn-Tarng, Professor at the "Institute of Life and Death Education and Guidance" in National Taipei University of Nursing and Health Sciences. He is specialized in the fields of life and death disquisition, medical sociology, grief support, funeral service education, and training for nursing. (Scene 3; Cabin No.1002; 8.00 pm)




Wu Chia-Ling (ch)

Taiwanese views on childbirth began to change during the Japanese colonial era with training for a new style of midwifery, and have evolved into the present-day medical system. Most Taiwanese consider giving birth at a large hospital with the assistance of a physician to be the most hygienic, safest method of childbirth. The percentage of caesarian in childbirth is more than 30% in Taiwan, and ranks the top in the world. Yet now more and more modern women are seeking a more autonomous, intimate and beautiful childbirth experience, with diverse options of birth places, delivery methods, service personnel, pain relief techniques and technological resources, and seeking out modern midwives to assist in the birthing process. Sociologist Wu Chia-Ling shares observations of modern midwives in Taiwan and other countries to explore new definitions of modern technology.

Wu Chia-Ling is an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at National Taiwan University. Her areas of research include medical sociology; gender studies; and science, technology and society. She received a research grant from Taiwan National Science Council, to pursue a project entitled: Marginalized Reproduction: Gender/Sexuality, Class and Assisted Reproductive Technologies. (Scene 12; Cabin No. 1002; 9.00 pm & 9.30 pm)




Huang Hui-Yu (ch)

In the name of enhancing public interests as well as raising the GDP, in 1998 the Taiwanese government introduced the Urban Renewal Act. However, this act is a forced joint construction undertaking initiated be developers and thus allows the private sector to control the main components of urban renewal projects.The Urban Renewal Act is widely thought to be unconstitutional. As a result, the controversy have sparked civil movements against forced evicitions and the commodification of land.

Swapping an old apartment for a new one, square foot for square foot – what's wrong with that? Don't urban progress and modernization rely on construction to move forward? Recently, a series of controversies have arisen over urban renewal, gaining the attention of the entire Taiwanese society. Engaging in a dialogue with Peng Lung-San, graduate student Huang Hui-Yu explores the ideologies lying in the background behind Taiwan's urban renewal laws, and the economic, cultural and social changes urban renewal brings about. By sharing case studies, she focuses her vision on a more precise position: analyzing whether urban renewal is able to truly improve the quality of habitation for the original residents, and how economic development and the human environment can limp forward in the march of modernization.

Huang Hui-Yu studies at the Graduate Institute of Trans-Disciplinary Arts in Taipei National University of Arts. She became active in anti-eviction movements in 2009. Huang is a member of the Taiwan Association for Justice of Urban Renewal, and has joined hands with residents and activists from various backgrounds in helping urban renewal communities around Taipei to fight excessive developments and unjust policies. (Scene 14; Cabin No.1005; 9.00 pm & 9.30 pm)




Cheng Lu-Lin (ch)

The Freudian concept of the primal scene is a very intriguing departure point to reflect the violence, carnality, passion and fluidity on the birth of modernity. The photo, taken in November 30, 1986, documented the live conflict between the military, policemen and the crowd who welcomed the exiled political activist Hsu Hsin-liang to come back to Taiwan is considered as a turning point in the Taiwanese democratization by sociologist Cheng Lu-Lin. Cheng thinks, by the modern definition of politic, democracy refers to the equality and sameness of the mass, as well as the rational and objective pursuit of the truth agreed by the majority of the mass. However, from history, we often see democracy began with a passionate violent process, which was mobilized by the barbarian minority but not the rational majority.

Cheng Lu-Lin is a sociologist, and Associate Research Fellow at the Institute of Sociology, Academia Sinica, Taipei. His areas of research include economic sociology, developmental and organizational sociology. (Scene 16; Cabin No.1004; 9.30 pm)




Friday, 28 December 2012 15:56

The Sunken and Forbidden Islands

There are many islands strewn across the Pacific, they withdrew from the world, and hoped never to be found. The footsteps of the Han quietly snuck up upon them however, their persuasive words laced with the rhetoric of modernity and development. From Orchid Island to Yap, what does the trajectory of these footprints tell us?

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