Venue: Experience Theater
The Eternal Dialogue about Creation
In 2018, the Innovation Series of Drama of NTCH invited Co-coism to present its production, P.T.O. (Please Turn Over :), which brought its audience back to a testing room of the high school entrance exam. Together with the current high school students, the company created a reality which was also a metaphor for the differentiation of social classes. Due to the special style and theatrical language Co-coism employs, NTCH has decided to invite Co-coism and its three core members back in TIFA this year to present their new production Play God.
Play God started from the questioning about ancient mysticism such as astrology or fortune telling. Why do people still rely on the guidance of traditional beliefs even though they live in the 21th century, the era of science? Also, since one of the roles of art is to translate the fathomless mystic realm into artistic creation so that the general public can glimpse its essence, do performers play the role of Mediums/Shamans by using their performance system to express the philosophy beyond words in a language that people can understand?
These questions and dialogues made the three of them start this journey of Play God. In the halfreal, half-fictional process, they observed and learned from the spirituality process and debate about the performative elements in the process. Now they want to present this process and tell this strange story in which believers never doubt. It is real and fictional at the same time. And, like all good works, it allows the audience to linger in the imaginary realm.
Play God is a continuation of the “collective” creative model of the Co-coism. The three creators (HUNG Chien-han, HUANG Din-yun, and CHANG Kang-hua) are looking for performativity in traditional Taiwan religions and beliefs. Through our own participation and testimony, we try to rethink the relationship between theatre and contemporary performance.
It started from the initial fieldwork in Hsinchu, we luckily met a master medium who told us that he was born with psychic ability and can read people’s past lives. Through his eyes and ears, in front of the shrine, he connected with gods and read our past lives. Each of us got a copy of detailed information of our past lives. To our surprise, we realized that the three of us were connected with Shanghai in our past lives. We all lived in Shanghai for a period of time, and we knew one another. If all the world is interconnected somehow, there must have been some serendipity between our stories.
So, with a stack of files about our past lives in hand, we decided to embark an alternative journey to our own roots.
About Play God
We tend to look at coincidences as the result of serendipity. We usually firmly believe that all things in the world are interconnected in some way, so that events happened by chance or unpredictable can be explained. We may seek guidance through astrology, fortune-telling, or tarot. We may also look for answers from various scientific methods. But no matter what we do, we, the insignificant human beings, are trying to find some clues to survive on this huge and unfathomable world. We desperately need a reference coordinates so that we can examine the world by its operational rules and principles. Perhaps because of this hidden fear and the desire of control, human beings try to believe that “as above, so below” when explaining and predicting their own individual and collective destiny, and have developed many different customs and civilizations accordingly.
The operation of the world is so complex that no one knows the whole. There are only partial clues and hypotheses about it. Perhaps that’s why people need a certain kind of “Medium” to express and explain these unknowable things for them. The modern scientists use empirically tested models and hypotheses to construct our understandings of the material world and can be considered the most convincing Medium of the knowable world. In religions, human beings communicate with the world and look for omens through selected mediators with supernatural abilities and elaborate rituals. The psychic/ shaman/ medium has become the only way we communicate with the unknowable world. From the explanations and world views generated either by elite scientist or psychics with supernatural abilities, what we crave to hear are the “narratives” in different depth so that we can put together in order to help us understand and control our past, present and future.
These “Mediums” use different social gestures and daily performativity to emphasize their own specialness. Their predictions seem to follow a certain prescribed forms of expression. There are always special performance routines, ways of creating a circumstance, and conventions for explanation and description. These are what we are always curious about. It seems that “explaining the unknowable” is always a good business. These different ways of making prediction are just gateways for people to better control their destiny and create a better future.
With curiosity and questions, we started out data collection and fieldwork. In the process we unintentionally met a “Medium” in Hsinchu who can read people’s past lives. He read the past lives for the three of us. He revealed the details of our past lives including name, gender, birth place, occupation, marriage, and the name of spouse. He also told us all the major events and the details in our past lives, including who we owed, who helped us, and who we shall repay in the present lives. We also interviewed a few shamans about the process of divination and being in possession and about their life histories. The core beliefs in Taoism are “the karma relationship” and “how to avoid disasters and accumulate virtues.” People in the present life should accumulate merits in order to become immortal in the spiritual world. Therefore, we will start our journey and finish out present lives that are “destined but impossible to verify.”
HUNG Chien-han/ Taiwan
HUNG Chien-han is a co-founder of Taipeibased multi-creator collective, Co-Coism. Other works created by Chien-Han include Still Air in BIPAM 2018, The Measure Taken in Toga Festival 2018, Toyama Japan, P.T.O (Please Turn Over :) in NTCH Innovation Series 2018 (co-creator FENG Chi-chun and KANG Ya-ting). Concrete Jungle won “Best Director” of in Kanagawa Kamome Short Play Festival. Directing work: Shi Shi Mien Liao Mi was the finalist for 2017 TaiShin Arts Awards. Ever Never was the finalist for 2016 TaiShin Arts Awards. Also, it performed in Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2017. Zuo Zuo Tea House is chosen by 2017 WSD in Taipei and Macao City Fringe Festival.
HUANG Ding-yun/ Taiwan
HUANG Ding-yun ( b. Taichung, Taiwan) is a co-founder of Taipei-based multi-creator collective, Co-Coism. Other works created by Ding-yun include Taipei Arts Festival Provisional Alliance (co-creator Blaire KO) and “If on a Winter’s Night an Employee”-Bit the Tongue in TPAM Fringe (curated by River LIN) in 2018. NTCH Innovation Series The Pilgrimage (curated by CHAO Chingwen) and Macau City Fringe Festival Teapot Storm in 2017. NCAF-Young Artist New Vision Chaos in Chronicling in 2016. He was also invited as residency artist in Kunstenfestivaldesarts (Brussels, 2017), ADAM Artist Lab (Taipei, 2017-2018), ART HOUSE TPS Residency (Melbourne, 2018).
CHANG Kang-hua/ Taiwan
CHANG Kang-hua was born in Indonesia, brought up and educated in Taiwan. He is a co-founder of Taipei-based multi-creator collective, Co-Coism. His achievements include a grant from the NCAF as part of the Young Star New Vision project in 2014 and the Youth Gardener of Culture project in 2018 from Ministry of Cultural in Taiwan. He also participated in TPAC ADAM Artist Lab in 2018. His recent works have emphasized forms of performance that are outside the conventional theater space. By transitioning performance methods and spaces, he re-examines performing art works in the contemporary context and their dimensionality in terms of society, audience and issues.
Co-coism is a multi-creator collective company, founded in 2016 by three emerging theatre directors, HUNG Chien-han, CHANG Kang-hua, and HUANG Ding-yun. We prefer to work in cooperative/devised way then perusing for horizontal deliberation results. In recent years, we aim at “Live Exhibition”, “Responding Creation”, “Activism Project” and “Immersive Project”. We are also welcome to collaborate with different artists who have different backgrounds to see more possibilities of art and culture. Play God follows our collective creating pattern: we search for performatives through Taiwanese religion and ideology and verify by our own experiences to re-consider the relationship between theater and contemporary performance.
Recent works includes: participatory project Where is Ai-Guo, Lin? (curator: Wang Junjieh, Taiwan Contemporary Culture Lab, 2019), Tomorrow Inn (Taiwan, 2016), Between Meals (Taipei Artist Village - Treasure Hill, Taiwan, 2016), and You Can Sleep Here (MOCA Taipei, Taiwan, 2017 / Macau City Fringe Festival, Macau, China, 2018); immersive and mobile production Walking to the Moon (Taipei Fine Art Museum, Taiwan, 2018); live exhibition Waiting for Godot (curator: Jo Hsiao, Taipei Fine Art Museum, Taiwan, 2017); immersive production An Unidentified Dialogue ( Taiwan, 2017).
Organizer: National Theater and Concert Hall
◎Duration: approximately 90 minutes without intermission.
◎The Program is subject to change.
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