To Draw the Body’s Coordinates from the Margin – Disappearance, Archive, and Body of the 2020 Green Island Human Rights Art Festival
Written by CHANG I-Wen
身體的記憶、表演的痕跡、消失的檔案，迷漾著聯繫著彷彿是片段的密碼，有待人們重新發現其中的關連，表演藝術學者Diana Taylor在 “Archive and the Repertoire: Performing Cultural Memory in the Americas”一書中，指出記憶會一直保留在身體經驗之中，透過演出而流傳於世，也因此表演即是「活的文件檔案」。而今年《綠島人權藝術季》以「如果，在邊緣，畫一個座標」為題，從消失的檔案記憶出發，探討各種弱勢族群人權之議題，策展人羅秀芝邀請了十四組藝術家（包含兩組國外藝術家）參展，並與國立臺北藝術大學合作《記憶．邊緣 — 北藝大特展》，在展覽中有許多表演特質的作品，透過身體切入作品回應策展主題，召喚消失的歷史檔案。
從踏入「綠洲山莊」，觀眾就以活生生的肉身進入這個特殊的場域，漫步在遼闊而曝曬的園區內，對比室內建築的狹小和悶熱，異樣地讓人感到身體的不舒適，步入「綠洲山莊」八卦樓內令人煩躁和壓迫感十足的牢房間，來自尼泊爾的跨領域概念藝術行動者阿許米娜·蘭吉特(Ashmina Ranjit)之作品《2004 偶發: 事件發生現場》，透過現場藝術，紀錄了2004年正值尼泊爾內戰方酣之際，死亡籠罩，政府卻在首都加德滿都的暴動和示威進行暴力鎮壓，當時阿許米娜·蘭吉特與全尼泊爾共52個電台合作，持續一個小時播放由藝術家提供的——哀悼死傷者的哭泣與吶喊的聲音，而藝術家號召反對黨聯盟、學生黨聯盟、平民百姓，大家一起參與表演抗暴與被鎮壓的行動。而在八角樓的監獄空間內，《2004 偶發: 事件發生現場》的文件檔案在牆壁上展示著，牢房內播放著當時哀悼死者的恐怖呼喊和啜泣聲，迴盪在狹小而又略顯陰森詭異的八角樓廊道內，令人不寒而慄，觀眾一邊觀看著《2004 偶發: 事件發生現場》的照片與錄像，一邊被充滿歷史感的空間和驚悚音效環繞，彷彿又重新親臨2004年在加德滿的行為事件現場，彼處曾經發生的歷史事件，呼應綠島監獄裡，幽靈回返再現的可能出口。
Within the memory of the body, the traces of performance, and the disappeared archive obscurely and mysteriously connect segments of codes ready to be rediscovered and linked. According to the performance studies scholar Diana Taylor in her Archive and the Repertoire: Performing Cultural Memory in the Americas, memory will always remain in the bodily experiences and be passed down through performance, which makes performance “the living archive.” Under the theme of “If on the margin, draw a coordinate,” the 2020 Green Island Human Rights Art Festival departs from the disappeared archive and memory to touch upon issues related to the human rights concerning different minority groups. The curator Sandy Hsiu-chih Lo invites 14 artists and groups (including 2 artist groups from abroad), while she also collaborates with Taipei National University of the Arts in the accompanying Remembrance & Marginalization: the TNUA Special Exhibition to evoke the historical achive as a bodily response to the curatorial theme through its many performance-based works.
As a typical tropical island offshore from Taitung, Taiwan and surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, Green Island is most known for its history of prisoning political dissents during the Martial Law Period, especially the Green Island White Terror Memorial Park as known today whose name has a strong tie with transitional justice. Among the island’s many names throughout the history, “Bonfire Island” particularly reminds us of the suffocating heat, while the tall and huge fences extend the distance between freedom and fetters to infinity. From “Taiwan Provincial Security Command's Re-education Department” to Ministry of National Defense’s “Green Island Reform and Reeducation Prison,” its elegant nickname “Oasis Villa” served as a giant prison, and it is the main exhibition venue for this year’s Green Island Human Rights Art Festival. The Eight Trigrams Building inside Oasis Villa features a “Panopticon” architectural structure, famously used by the French sociologist Michel Foucault in his power-knowledge theory, with a center expanding to four directions and the radial wings are divided into narrow cells on both sides of the hallways as manifestation that how modern punishment may find a way to keep the body under surveillance by means of space and to provide parameters for personal identity.
Once stepping into Oasis Villa, the visitors enter the unusual space with their living flesh. They wander around the open field without any protection from the sun, as a strong contrast against the indoor crampiness and stagnancy, inevitably feeling a strange physical sense of discomfort. Inside the unrest and oppressive prison cells of the Eight Trigrams Building at Oasis Villa, the conceptual interdisciplinary “artivist” Ashmina Ranjit from Nepal visualizes the government’s violent crackdown against the protestors in the street riots breaking out in Kathmandu, the capital of a country suffering the life-taking civil war in 2004, through live art in her Happening: Present Situation, 2004, Kathmandu. At that time, Ashmina Ranjit has worked with 52 radio stations across Nepal to broadcast the hour-long recordings of crying and screaming to mourn the victims. Meanwhile, the artist called up the alliances of opposition parties, student groups, and civilians to participate in the event of the performed resistance. On the wall of the prison cell display the documents of Happening: Present Situation, 2004, Kathmandu, accompanied by the chilling sound of crying and weeping recorded from the mourning for the dead that resonates throughout the dark and creepy narrow hallway to arouse a sense of horror. The visitors look at the photos and videos of Happening: Present Situation, 2004, Kathmandu as they are surrounded by the history of the space as well as the horrifying sound effect as if to revisit the scenes of Kathmandu in 2004. The historical event that has once happened, as a response to the Green Island prison cells, become a possible exit for the ghosts to return and to reappear.
Lin Tzu-Ning’s performance _______what we cannot say interactively invites visitors to enter the disappeared memory of Green Island: inside a prison cell of the Eight Trigrams Tower, once the visitor hears his or her name being called by the artist/performer, they should make a silent “farewell gesture” to say goodbye to the rest of the visitors present; what happens then is that the called-up visitors will go to the prison cell next to the original one, where they get to see the video of the farewell gestures made by the previous visitors; in the end, following the guidance of the artist, the participators will share with each other what farewell gesture they have done, as well as to reconstruct the event taking place in the prison cell through verbal communication. The interactive participation thus allows viewers to embody the roles of the political prisoners on the Green Island. Interestingly, D-i-n-g．Watch at Remembrance & Marginalization: the TNUA Special Exhibition employs a similar immersive theatrical installation, where the three rooms – "Don't Forget the Time at Jyu," "Home Letters," and "Beautiful Future" – step by step lead visitors into an immersive theatrical experience, starting from the cross-strait slogan competition between KMT and CPC (the list includes “Kill Zhu De and Mao Zedong,” “Be Aware of the Spies,” “Reconquering the Mainland,” and “The Red Sun in the Hearts of People”), the collective oppression of being monitored and dominated, to the last room where the recorded conversation between a man and a woman revisualizes a political prisoner’s conversation with his lover on the eve of his death, evoking the most honest humanity with intimate and personal feelings for the listeners reminded of a tragic time.
LIN Hongjohn in his video Biodictionary: white impermanence, black impermanence, and the man with a blue shirt deals with his life experiences in retrospect, integrating the delusions of his father suffering from delirium and the vivid integration images of KMT’s investigation bureau officer together with Black Impermanence and White Impermanence from folk religion. The artist has found a group of old photos taken by the Central News Agency when they started to document and report the first-batch prisoners transformed to Freshman Training Office since 1965. The artist’s father who had just been become a law student at National Taiwan University might have known the connection. The real shock is how the dreadful memory of White Horror dictatorship stays a haunting ghost which reappears as delusions at the deathbed of his father. In the prison cell of the Eight Trigrams Tower, the video Biodictionary: white impermanence, black impermanence, and the man with a blue shirt juxtaposes the images of prison cell and hospital ward, like a phantom evoking the collective subconsciousness as proposed by Carl Jung. The visitors stepping into the installation are actually stepping into the collective silence and trauma shared by a whole generation suffering from the White Terror regime. At the bottom of the soul and the margin of the consciousness, Lin juxtaposes official footage with the life experiences from his father’s delusions to represent how the state authority can influence an individual. Starting with the spectatorial engagement and the architectural space, it explores the everyday political mechanism of the medical system as symbolized by hospital wards and prison cells, transforming the inner body into a more piquant critique of the state and other larger-scale external mechanisms.
The print studio and specimen room–did exist in 20th century by the Libera work-gang tells a story of disappearance which “did exist in the 20th Century.” With the contrast between “Print Studio” and “Specimen Room,” it demonstrates the myriad perspectives of the White Terror narratives: from the public’s perspective, “Print Studio” intends to transform the Green Island prison into the painting studio of “Freedom Painting society” in homage to its member Huang Jung-ts'un, whose sympathy for the victims of the 228 Incident as revealed in his woodcut Inspection of Horror cost his life when he was arrested by the intelligence agents, falsely convicted of treason, and sentenced to death. LIN Chuan-Kai and LI Jia-Hung from the Libera work-gang traveled across Taiwan, bringing the White Terror stories to each city and town for the local people, while the drawings and prints from the public as a response to the historical events were collected in the project as displayed on the walls of the exhibition space of “Print Studio.” As a comparison, “Specimen Room” adopts the perspective from the state, installing the straw figures used for tsè-kái, a fate-changing ritual in folk religion, in the room while each straw figure has its own story. The artist combines the straw-figure installation and the specimen frames to provide maps detailed by the intelligence agents with information related to every political prisoner’s daily route and work environment. These maps are like the specimen collected – the coordinates of space, which is how we locate body in the space – to suggest that the state authority is conducting a data collection with political dissidents as their target for the purge, marking body and the space of activity within the reign of its dominance and surveillance. In a poetic and inspiring way, it brings up the question – in an age of digital surveillance, has the contemporary “specimen room” really disappeared?
In these interaction-based or body-oriented works, “empathy” seems to create a connection among artists, artworks, and participators. Viewers are linked with the artworks through physical perception and respond with empathetic inspiration and impact rather than rational thinking. The body is the penetrating point to respond to the curatorial theme. To visit an exhibition is like to take part in an immersive performance. The artwork thus brings back the missing memory and archive through the agency of the body.