These writings explicate the politics behind artistic projects, of the life itself, and of deliriums.
THE (NEW) TRIAL
at Theater for the New City, 2015
“We have to enter the world through theatre,” states Julian Beck, the co- founder of The Living Theatre. Theatre can be found everywhere and is mirrored in everyday behavior. Theatre is more than a space; internally it reaches directly into the mind and heart, and externally it transforms the public and transcends the social strata. Theatre achieves this by exchanging thoughts or unnamed feelings which allow us to understand the complexity of life better and further to take on actions that address pressing issues.
Committed to revolutionary theatre, Peter Weiss has always aimed for changing the world through theatre by suggesting a direction, a method. However, “The New Trial,” inspired by Franz Kafka’s “The Trial,” does not strongly introduce a solution for the world that we are supposed to carry out as most of Weiss’s plays do. Rather, it represents the reality of the entire social system by depicting a mundane figure surviving and struggling in a blossoming international corporation. Different from Kafka’s world in “The Trial,” Weiss applies a Chekhovian method in his writing to replicate a reality that strikes the audience personally, and coerces them to reflect on their quotidian life, with an hope of stimulating actions on making a change, a change for a better living of the self and of others.
Hugely influenced by Peter Weiss in my theatrical aesthetics and politics, it is never my only intention to simply bring the world in Weiss’s plays to life. Rather, just as how Weiss treated Kafka’s “The Trial,” and as the reason for the existence of “The New Trial,” I aim for embodying my understanding of Weiss’s motivation for writing, and how to lead to social change through the latter. When confronted with the struggles of our society, it is neither one singular authority, nor one individual or one organization that can be singled out and criticized. When dealing with concepts such as confinement, oppression, and struggle, one has to understand that systemic improvement is paramount. It is not always the others that impose upon us, but we ourselves are sometimes our biggest obstacles. In “The New Trial,” it is not every single character or the entire corporation or the society that tragedies K’s life, but K himself allows it to happen and reinforces it. Weiss makes clear that it is K himself who imposes constraint, limit, and imprisonment onto his docile body, while masochistically embracing it where his enjoyment is procreated. Therefore, to really understand the society with its problems and to speculate about a change for a new culture, we have to re-understand and rebalance the relationships with ourselves and others. This is why we create “The (New) Trial.”
FREUD OUT LOUD—CIVILIZATION AND ITS DISCONTENTS
at Judson Memorial Church, 2015
With all the tumult in our midst, when we oppose one another with hatred, ignorance, and eternal evil, we are always searching for a solution. Yet, we only seem to put into practice all the contradictions that are writ large in Civilization and Its Discontents—religion vs atheism, individual vs community, id vs super ego, Eros vs Ananke, etc, This oppositionality does nothing but generate more problems. We are stuck in a vicious cycle, one we feel unable to escape. Like Sisyphus, we are always rolling the boulder up to the hill.
But isn’t it the case that human beings civilized ourselves in the first place and created our own suffering and discontentedness?
When reading Civilization and Its Discontents, I well understood Freud’s analysis of civilization. Nevertheless I am not satisfied with all the discontents bequeathed to and reproduced by us. Actually, human beings do not deserve all these “discontents.” We have yet to discover a better way forward. We forgot that we still have one transcendental power, the power of Eros—we love and need to be loved.
As a theatre director with a revolutionary vision, I strive to dissolve the many discontents civilization has produced and to create a new culture where we share love and respect only. This is the new civilization we are aspiring to inhabit.
In this performative reading with all the individual yet cohesive sections that the audience will encounter, I am staging many of the contradictions in Freud’s text, creating double images which involve the audience. From all these double images, what we may realize or understand more fully is nothing more or less than ourselves. We may wonder why we have forgotten to employ the Eros with which we were all born. As Freud suggests, “When a love-relationship is at its height there is no room left for any interest in the environment; a pair of lovers are sufficient to themselves,”
How will we re-examine ourselves in light of these double images, and start from there to make changes to civilization with using Eros? I cannot attempt to answer that question here, and neither did Freud. I simply hope from this performative reading of Freud’s text, we will all eventually start to figure it out.
“My love is something valuable to me which I ought not to throw away without reflection." — Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents
UPCOMING TRAIN/STOPPED CLOCK/UNTITLED WAITING
at Theater for the New City, 2013
I have been thinking about writing this play for years since college. At first, I was inspired by Walter Benjamin’s idea about traveling—when you are traveling, sitting in the train heading for somewhere, you are positioned in nowhere as if you were abandoned, in limbo. Thinking about that, I started to wonder if this liminal space, this liminal movement really has a destination that we are heading for, or we will indefinitely trapped in this liminality. Then Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” came into my mind. This question of liminality thus became the question of existence, a question that has bothered me as always, from Taipei to New York.
Sub/un-consciously, we regulate our quotidian life into mundanity—waking up at 8am, staying at work until 6pm, hanging out with family or friends on weekends. You might say you are creative at work, during your leisure time, or you might make more new friends, fall in love with different souls. There is always something new, something creative. Nevertheless, your life remains the same, and it is still a repetition.
When we interpret Godot as the salvation, or religiously, God, it seems we all give ourselves a possible end that. In this sense, time is linear, and we will eventually head for or end up somewhere. But, as you get to realize your repetitive quotidian body, you might really start to think if time is really linear, or would time actually be circular? If so, how is it possible for us to give ourselves a faint hope for the end, a solution to those unbearable in our repetition, in our quotidian body, and further, in the society we live in?
This is the question that I try to raise in “Upcoming Train/Stopped Clock/Untitled Waiting.”
Different from a theatre play that tells a comedy, a melodrama, or a tragedy, “Upcoming Train/Stopped Clock/Untitled Waiting” is to give the audience an experience of the time in the liminal space, and to encourage the audience to reflect on their quotidian body, and perhaps, to stimulate a possible change in life, in the society.
KISS ME, SO I AM QUEER
at Chashama, 2012
Queer, regarded as a genre of identity, has long been a mirror reflecting the imposition of ideology/stereotype upon which. It is phantasmic, deviating from the real. Queer, the existence of the deviation, is somehow stereotyped, confined by the hegemonic heteronormativity that immutates queer into the genre of identity. Performativity of queer in reflection of its “identity” as perceived today is opaque from realizing the true itself. It is one end of a scale where heteronormativity is located the opposite, polarizing the sexuality. Certain performativity tends to practice the stereotype/ideology so as to confirm its negation against the sexual hegemony, whereas relapses into the binarism so as to maintain the balance of both ends. Queer is simply strategically hidden by its quasi-identity and pseudo-performativity that Muñoz claims “we are not yet queer.” That how one becomes queer, and the fluidity of queerness are simply disregarded, or further, forgotten. Performativity henceforth totalizes queerness as an institution of pseudo-identity in its forgery along with its incompleteness, instead of an idiosyncratic one. This project performance, Kiss Me, so I am Queer, thus aims to manifest how certain ideology/stereotype is coined and further is imposed on queer identity. Afterwards, the collective pseudo-idiosyncrasies will be denied by performing how the queer becomes. The objective of the performance is to practice and reassert my queerness, and also to raise/deny the queer potential of the others who are involved in the project, and finally to suggest the essence of queerness.
The performance is divided into three parts. It undergoes the process of abject and contingent contact in order. In the first part, a short film dictating the queer body will be looping for the audiences for better understanding how queer is perceived and who I am as a queer. With the looping film, the performer sits/stands as a mannequin with his head covered by a paper bag, indicating the one’s dysfunctional sensibility, which coheres with the idea of the origin of stereotype/ideology. Afterwards, the performer’s quotidian life is displayed. In the second part, the performer dressed in white encourages audiences to mark their ideas about queer and perceptions of the performer as a queer on his clothes. The performer then enacts whatever is on his clothes. It represents how the stereotype/ideology constructs a queer body which actually manifests its pseudo-identity. Following that, in the third part, what is aimed to argue as the objective of this project is that queer identity is actually constructed by the self sexual desire within the queer body. The desire is manifested by requiring audience (specifically male) to kiss the performer. The performer’s queer identity as well as the engagers’ are reasserted/denied by practicing the such queer intimacy. Further, the clothes on the performer, which symbolizes as the pseudo-identity, will be cut into pieces with scissors. The performer at last ideally shows his naked body indicating his primal state of queerness that there is nothing embedded but his sexual desire.
Queerness, if not constructed by disorienting self, appears to be the performativity itself. This project practices queer performativity as the manifestation of the process of becoming queer with the kiss between Dionysus and Pentheus embodying their queerness in Dionysus in 69. For the moment of kissing, queerness is the naked body cruising in the utopian amniotic fluid, jettisoning identity, the name, and the expectation.The performativity can only occur with interactions involved. Resonating with Halperin that “where [homosexuality] it and how it is” to constitute queer relationally, Chashama’s storefront window makes the engagement possible, and simultaneously, with its semi-publicity reinforces the concept of the confinement and the demarcation of the queer world which resonates Muñoz’s idea, the inevitable revelation of the existence of a queer world.
曼哈頓一堂沒有english native speaker的ESL
這所學校名為Manhattan International High School，我在五樓，走廊末端的那間10多坪大小的教室。這是一堂ESL，所有在這堂課的學生的目的是學習溝通、表達、與領會。我在那裡不是重操舊業，是透過表演技巧指導學生如何演講。在這，我所體會的學習氛圍與台灣高中的英語課迥然不同。學習如何正確使用英文理應是這堂課的宗旨，但是老師的企圖卻更大，透過英文表達對於人權的關懷，同時結合了這所學校多元族群融合的特色。只透過了一個簡單的句法：everyone has the right to，我聽到的是這些來自不同世界的學生發自真心的去告訴班上其他人，everyone has the right to marry, to have medical care, to vote, to choose their own nationality, not to be arrested and sent back to their countries, and so on so forth。當每一個人用挾著濃厚口音的英文一字一字試著清楚的唸出，你的感動已經不是他們多努力的練習掌握英文，而是他們透過這所學校、這座城市共有的語言，去訴說他們或許曾經體會、耳聞的不公不義。他們或許不知道政治的險惡，但他們單純的訴求、對於尊重的瞭解，是一個教育者該感受到的驕傲，也絕對是在台灣的教室裡的每個成員值得借鏡的一幕。
這個星期二早晨的ESL已經不單純是一個學習的空間，而是如同布萊希特所說：theatre is not the mirror held up to reality, but the hammer with which to shape it，這是一座沒有第四道牆的的劇場，我宛如一名如癡的觀眾，深深的震撼著。