Sentence Drills for Grammar of Terror and Cross-Disciplinary Amplitude: Fringe Art at the 2020 Green Island Human Rights Art Festival
Written by GONG Jow-Jiun
If I had a car, I should be very happy.
If I were a bird, I could fly.
What would you do if you were in my place?
If I could go abroad, I would go to Japan. ──柯旗化，《新英文法》例句
秋田公立藝術大學在2017年出版了《邊境藝術最前線：生存所需的藝術經營》一書，書中呈現了秋田公立藝術大學、地方媒體、郡治旅遊部門與隸屬中央的文化廳支持合作，在秋田地區與公眾共創的文化藝術實踐活動成果。這個關於「邊境藝術」(Fringe Art)的文化藝術計畫就特定地域中的特定議題，如位於日本東北邊境的秋田男鹿半島、南秋田郡、五城目町，由秋田公立藝大學內部的相關研究與實踐者推動，從2015年開始，發展了各式各樣的文化藝術計畫。當我踏上綠島，這個國境東南的重要「邊境」，心念著要去參訪綠島人權藝術季的同時，卻被身邊各式各樣的潛水、海邊溫泉等旅遊訊息圍繞時，我不禁產生了一些關於「策展」的疑問，但與其用「策展」來說明我的疑問，不如用「藝術經營」(Art Management)來得準確，因為，我想綠島人權藝術季的策展人與團隊，或許最費心的問題，就是相較於海島觀光的傳統項目，究竟如何吸引「黑暗觀光」的特定客群、地方民眾與不同的藝術團隊，來到這個屬於偏遠邊境的監獄遺址，參與藝術欣賞、人權教育推廣，進而投入相關黑暗複雜歷史的研究計畫?
If I had a car, I should be very happy.這個例句的壓抑腔調，在沒有特定語音、韻律與唸白者臉孔出現之前，甚至是連它內蘊的壓抑腔調，都無法為任何人所發現。它是某種長期潛在的、受賤斥的文學。我們甚至無法承認它可以稱為「文學」。或許，任何熟讀卡夫卡那冷淡而極限低調的讀者，都無法想像如何將《新英文法》的寫作視為任何一種可辨識的「監獄文學」。然而，我們在黃崇凱2017年發表於《文藝春秋》的小說〈狄克生片語〉中，讀到了這些破碎的條件句例句第一次的解壓縮、超展開。賤斥的文學，在被代理、被解壓縮的過程中，才得以出現。這些文法例句陳述的是「表示跟現在(或未來)的事實相反地假設和想像」。小說家說：「當初他重新修訂至這個章節，發覺要不是能以這個形式寫作，自己可能活不下來。每個草擬的例句，都在幫他界定時空處境。正因為如此，他可以想像買了車，到處遊覽(If I had a car, I should be very happy.)；想像自己是一隻鳥，可以自由飛翔(If I were a bird, I could fly.)。對那些壓制他人的人丟出問句，假如現在你處在我這個地位，你將怎麼辦呢?(What would you do if you were in my place?)藉著句型練習，深深地隱藏心底的願望。」（註1）對於「受賤斥」的限界藝術來說，或許連小說敘事中的這些詮釋，都屬多餘，然而對不明白色恐怖究裡的民眾而言，這些言詮又屬不得不然。
雙格切割畫面與單格畫面投影，交互呈現著每個例句反覆唸兩次的韻律，第一次以英文字幕呈現句子，第二次以中文字幕呈現翻譯。但是，影像內容卻依次剪接了表演者唸著書上文法上的例句。影片的開始，由第一人稱的無聲回憶文字導入，綠島的美國駐台官員參訪歷史影像、新聞紙報檔案影像，然後才由語言學習機引入似有所指的連串名詞、介系詞、動詞，綠島感訓監獄的環境影像，以及家書往返的檔案影像，投映疊映在唸誦者的臉孔上，海水淘洗的影像，以及在書法書寫的墨汁中，例句暗示柯旗化阿茲海默症造成的遺化與創傷歷史的遺忘。在15分鐘的影音作品中，Bird can fly. Flowers bloom. I am teaching English now. This is where I work. I have lived here for ten years. They made me a prisoner.與這些看來不相連貫的例句練習相搭配的雙格畫面，顯示的是監獄牢房房間中的唸白者與自由飛翔的鳥、盛開的植物和單調空白牢房的依次對比，在家書影像的左右向、類對話的會話練習之後，最後，做為被賤斥處境中的祈使命令句型和極端不可能的願望句型對比出現，在非事實的現在與非事實的未來句法中，整個氛圍被推向令人難忍、造成情緒激動卻又壓抑至極的If I were a bird, I could fly.與突如其來的Can I go now?和再一次透過克漏字反覆被強調的We are still learning English grammar. 直至「遺忘」的主題出現He forgot what (way) to go。
事實上，〈K的房間：關於世界的創造與毀滅〉很巧妙地為整個展覽創造出一個連通了許多重要作品的通道。譬如：關於鳥的自由飛翔的例句練習，與阿許米娜．蘭吉特(Ashmina Ranjit)的〈迷陷〉中的鳥籠形成的共振；王鼎曄透過霓虹燈與震動裝置構造出來的〈親愛的，親吻我，然後，再會〉台語祈使句，與柯旗化的英文祈使句型形成的共振；林子寧〈不能說的是___〉錄像行為藝術中關於民眾參與「告別動作」的動作句法創作和守門人角色的「紀錄」監視句法書寫，以及〈我是台灣人〉的「禁聲」聲音句法的民眾參與創作；蔡佳葳錄像投影裝置〈數字〉中流淌消溶於冰塊上的墨寫數字和冷調的數字唸誦，〈我們牽掛的歌〉的聲音錄像投影中，關於密碼式、壓縮式的情動陳述與聲音表情；張恩滿〈眺島〉中錄像行為表演搬運石頭的勞動，與原民島嶼相關地域的紀錄片檔案中，原民青年的臉孔、個體性、表現性和願望主張的被抹除處境。〈K的房間〉成了一個歷史創傷的通道，If I were a bird, I could fly.這樣的句法練習，猶如將被賤斥者、受辱者的邏輯，做成一個凝縮的、蜂巢式的表現團塊，從觀者體內打開了整個展覽的隱密聯結網絡。而林羿綺的〈迴聲者群像〉，更透過五頻道的回應政治受難者與遺址中的歌唱演出影音，開展出遺址場所本身自我更新、反覆吟唱的慰靈迴旋返復曲。簡單地說，以〈K的房間〉為代表的聲音、重演、再演繹的影音行動，構成了「如果，在邊緣，畫一個座標」的嶄新座標與創傷療癒的可能通道，一個「展覽之眼」。
If I had a car, I should be very happy.
If I were a bird, I could fly.
What would you do if you were in my place?
If I could go abroad, I would go to Japan. -- Ko Chi-Hua, Sentence Examples, New English Grammar
The Akita University of Art published the book On the front line of fringe art: art management for survival in 2017, which presents the final results of the public-engaged art and cultural events in Akita in collaboration with the Akita University of Art, local media, the Tourism Bureau of County Town, and the Agency of Cultural Affairs, which is affiliated with the central government. Researchers and practitioners of the Akita University of Art facilitated the art and cultural project, “Fringe Art,” in response to specific issues in specific regions, such as the Oga peninsula, Akita, Minamiakita District, and Gojome. Since 2015, they have developed a variety of arts and cultural programs. When I step on Green Island, an important “fringe” in the southeastern part of the country, I was thinking about visiting the Green Island Human Rights Art Festival; however, I was surrounded by all sorts of tourist information about diving and seaside hot springs. I couldn’t help but think of several questions of “curation.” Yet, rather than using the word “curation” to elaborate my questions, the term “Art Management” would be more accurate. Insofar as, in my opinion, as opposed to the traditional island tourism, the challenges for the curator and curatorial team of the Green Island Human Rights Art Festival is how to attract a specific audience of “dark tourism,” local residents, and various art collectives to participate in this remote prison site for art viewing, human rights education and research project about the dark and complex local history.
Cao Qin-Rong, who participated in the planning and design of the Taipei 228 Memorial Museum and the Green Island White Terror Memorial Park, and the author of The Riptide 15: Green Island Girl Team and Beyond, once pointed out in a Public Television Service interview that the unique messages within the exhibitions, the deep human connection, and the quality of interaction are the core challenges of museum’s art management. The Japanese philosopher Shunsuke Tsurumi has also argued that the origin and interpenetrating relationship among “pure-art” produced in museums and academies, “popular-art” formed in practical consuming and spatial structure and mass media, and “marginal-art” created on the borderline between art and everyday life is perhaps the most challenging and complex issues in the regional thinking of contemporary curation and art management, such as the Echigo-Tsumari Art Field Festival in Japan’s Gosetsu Chitai (heavy snow area).
Therefore, this article aims to consider and criticize how Green Island, as the intersection of the “border” of a modern nation-state and the “margin” of modern art, confronts the curatorial theme of “If on the margin, draw a coordinate— 2020 Green Island Human Rights Art Festival” from the artistic practices and curatorial operation of the two concepts of “border art” and “marginal art.”
Abjection: Sentence Drill for the Marginal Situation
First of all, this is a public-engaged sentence drill project run by the art university. The special exhibition “Remembrance and Marginalization” of the Taipei National University of the Arts presents the results of field research and interview done in Wang Pao-Hsuan’s one-year course. Here, the audience can see Chang Yu-Yi’s “-ed,” based on the home letter/ death note written in prison. By attached the affix “-ed” to all the verbs found in the letters, Chang turns them into passive voice and voice records those documents, place the sound device in a cloud-like wire mesh installation at the corner of the bathing area at the corner of the single room. The audience should carefully put their head in the installation to hear the voice-recording. The repetitive chanting connects “White Discipline” and the subsidiary work “Repeated Revolution” by Wang Heng-Yu, Hsu Soul-N, and Huang Hsin-Tze. The slow rotation, clash, and mechanical abrasion of alternating light and darkness create the unique rhythm, sentence drills, vibrations, and sound of the entire space. The shattered skulls and the white powder scattered on the ground reflect the marginal situation and extreme existence of the humiliated and the abject in a burning hot exhibition space as a fired house. The audience is allowed to re-listen to and review those historical “sentence drills” in the home letters and death note of those political prisoners.
However, according to Yang Bi-Chuan, the author of A Brief History of Taiwan, the New Life Correction Center and the Oasis Villa were also spaces for co-learning and communication with the public. Ko Chih-Hua, who was once detained in the New Life Correction Center and the 6th section on the second floor in the Oasis Villa, Bagua Building, was a typical political prisoner who did “sentence drill exercise” under extreme conditions. In “K’s Room- the Creation and Destruction of the World,” the artists Hung Wei-Ling and Hsin Pei-Yi fully demonstrate the exhibition’s motivation to engage the audience in the sentence drill exercise in the marginal situation. In contrast to “-ed,” the artists recite sentence examples found in Ko Chih-Hua’s New English Grammar, which has been sold for more than two million copies in Taiwan. These sentence examples are more fragmented, more depressed, and closer to the abject foreign texts.
"If I had a car, I should be very happy." This sentence's depressing tone cannot be found and remain silent until there is a specific voice, rhythm, or narrator to presenting it. It is a specific genre of long-term hidden, potential, and repudiated abject literature. We cannot even acknowledge that it can be considered as "literature." Perhaps readers familiar with the cold and minimalist tone in Kafka's works cannot imagine the New English Grammar as any recognizable "prison literature." However, in "Essential Idioms in English by Dixson" by Huang Chong-Kai in his novel The Contents of the Times, we read the first decompressed, plot-twisted fragmented sentences. The literature of abjection emerges only in the process of being represented and decompressed. These grammatical sentence examples stand for the conditional tense, "indicating that the speaker regards the antecedent as impossible or unlikely." The novelist says, "when Dixson revised the chapter, he realized that he might not have survived if he hadn't written in this form. Every drafted sentence examples helped him to identify his situation. In this way, he imagined that if he had bought a car, he could travel around (If I had a car, I should be very happy), imagining if he were a bird, then he could fly (If I were a bird, I could fly). He even tried to ask those who oppress others in the question, 'What would you do if you were in my place?' With the sentence drills, he hid his deepest wished." To the "abject" marginal art, these interpretations for the novel may be superfluous; however, these explanations are inevitable for those unaware of the White Terror.
Audiovisuality and Faces: the Cross-Discipline Amplitude
If we reduce the redundant interpretations to a minimal level, and the extreme presence expresses its marginal situation, literature seems to have its limits. This is the significant reason why "K's Room" can almost be regarded as the "core of the exhibition" of If on the Margin, Draw a Coordinate. In the cell in the 6th section, two directors Hung Wei-Ling and Hsin Pei-Yi choose to present the audiovisual face reading performance, a montage of images of Americans visiting Green Island, and a cross-disciplinary installation projecting home letters within 200 characters. Interpretations in the novel were eliminated; thus, it appears the mechanical voices and figurative face images. However, we cannot recognize the nuanced expressions on the faces of those English teachers. All that remains are the sound intensity and the sound expressions within the changing rhythm, the unexpecting toilet-flushing sound from across the room, and behind the audience. The player for grammar drills, the rocking chair, and the blurred images of seawater on the closed-circuit television are what the audience sees at K's room. The scenario of K's keeping revising grammar drills and writing home letters resonates to the projection and objects in the space. However, the interplay among these elements is fragile and hopeless, highlighting the hidden emotional agent within these grammar drills.
The split-screen and single projection screen interactively show each sentence's rhythm repeated twice, the first time with English subtitles, and the second time with Chinese subtitles. However, the directors arrange the footage of performers reading sentence examples from the grammar book. The video begins with first-person silent narrative text recalling the memory, including historical images of the American diplomat in Taiwan visiting Green Island, archival images from newspapers. It then switches to the language learning machine, which introduces a series of nouns, prepositions, verbs, images of the environment in Green Island correction center, and archival images of the home letter correspondence. The projection overlaps on the performer's face. With images of the ocean waves and the inky calligraphy-writing strokes, the sentence examples suggest Ko's loss of Alzheimer's disease and the forgetting of traumatic history. The split-screen images pair with these disconnected sentences in the 15-minute video work, such as "Bird can fly. Flowers bloom. I am teaching English now. This is where I work. I have lived here for ten years. They made me a prisoner." It shows the reader in a prison cell, flying birds, blooming plants, and an empty prison cell in chronicle order. After the conversation practices and the images of home letters, the imperative sentences and the hope/wish-sentences for the unlikely future are made in an abject situation. In the sentence patterns of unlikely present and unlikely future, the whole plot comes to a climax of the unbearably emotional but extremely oppressive "If I were a bird, I could fly" and the unexpected "Can I go now?" The sentence, "We are still learning English grammar," repeatedly appears it doesn't end until "He forgot what (way) to go" appears.
So far, neither the geographical topology of "border art" nor the exploration of the intersections between everyday life and arts of "marginal art" seems sufficient to highlight the Green Island prison's specificity. The significance of Green Island's "marginal art" surpasses geography, the territorialization of art interfaces, and the boundary between art and everyday life, lying on Ko Chi-Hua's marginal life situation as an English grammar educator, a literary writer, and a political victim. In other words, only be referring to Ko Chi-Hua's life span and intensity, the audience would realize the power of "K's Room." On the other hand, only with the strong impact of "K's Room," the site-specific audiovisual installation, the audience can discover the significances of the author's life experiences behind the New English Grammar. Such amplitude of cross-disciplinary intensity transcends the fragment of modern nations and the world, putting together the seemingly insignificant fragments of the historical ruins in Benjamin's words, and feeling those faint signals drifting in the tremendous hopeless symbolic currents.
"K's Room-- the Creation and Destruction of the World" cleverly creates a gateway to other important works in the exhibition. For instance, the sentence example of the flying bird resonates with the birdcage in Ashmina Ranjit's "Caught Up." The imperative sentences in Ko Chi-Hua's English grammar book directly connect to the Taiwanese imperative sentences shaped in Wang Ding-Yeh's neon light and vibrating installation "My Dear, Kiss Me, and Goodbye." "K's Room" also links to the public-engaged "farewell gesture" sentence drill and the guard's surveillance "record" writing in Lin Tzu-Ning's video performance artwork, "_______What We Cannot Say," as well as the participatory "muting" practice in "I Am Taiwanese." The numbers flowing on the melting ice cube and the cold-toned recitation of numbers in Tsai Char-Wei's video projection installation, as well as the coded and compressed emotional narration and vocal expression in Tsai's "Songs We Carry." In Chang En-Man's "Milky Way," she presents the labor with the video performance of transporting stones. The eliminated situation of aboriginal youths' faces, personalities, expressions, and aspirations is then embodied in the indigenous islands' documentary. "K's Room" becomes a channel of historical trauma. "If I were a bird, I could fly." Such a sentence example is like condensing the logic of the abject and the humiliated into a beehive-like mass, opening up the hidden network of the exhibition from the inside of the audience. Lin Yi-Chi develops a self-renewing and repeatedly reciting strophic elegy in her "Group Portrait of the Echoers" through the five-channel video work presenting song performance in response to the political victims. To put it briefly, the audiovisual action of sound, representation, and reinterpretation builds new coordinates and possible channels for healing in If on the Margin, Draw a Coordinate, and forms the "core of the exhibition."
In the ends, beyond these channels, we should also pay attention to Fu Sheng-Ya’s “The Secondary Rainbow in the South” and “The Print Studio and Specimen Room—Did Exist in 20th Century” by the Libera Work-Gang; these two works are derived from the printmaking practices, directing to both the past and the future. Remarkably, the “collective” group practices and interpretation of the Libera Work-Gang have apparently exceeded the scope of artwork within an exhibition, forming a complex, reverberating, and interlocking entity of collective production the border of the artistic practice of a single artist. This is the original meaning of Shunsuke Tsurumi’s “marginal art.” In other words, it’s hard to tell whether the Libera Work-Gang takes the production as everyday life practices or art-making. However, for this reason, this project stays the closest to the concept of art production in “marginal art.” It is the “birth” in the context of ordinary life instead of the “production” in industrial manufacture.
However, Hsu Chia-Wei's "Two Archaeological Scenes" takes us back to the intersection of Green Island and archaeology. Through a 3D printed installation of a Western-style ancient ship and ceramicware made by amateur archaeologist Wang Hong-Bo, who was executed in the White Terror in 1953, we find an even more silent historical site obscurity: the archaeological perspective of Green Island currents. This is, under the view of "fringe art," perhaps there would be another Green Island situated at an alternative coordinate, beyond the mainstream discursive field. Perhaps there would be another Green Island where the White Terror and political prisoners met as the nation's fringe.
Just as in Yen Shih-Hung's No. 3 Chingtao East Road: My Centennial Memories and Taiwan's Absurd Era, there is a wide range of anthropological, folklore, and archaeological clues in his memories of Green Island. For instance, in Chapter 13, "1951, the Memories of Bonfire Island (Green Island)," Yen described an old islander's recollection. (This was the year when Ko Chi-Hua was sent to the Green Island New Life Correction Center.) This old islander described the spectacular war scenes when the Russian Baltic fleet passing by Green Island during the Russo-Japanese War in May 1905, as well as the scenes when the U.S. 58th Infantry Regiment parked around Green Island during the massive bombing of Taiwan in October 1944. Of course, he didn't miss the splendor scene when over a thousand warships passing by Green Island to join the war in the East China Sea in the Battle of Okinawa in 1945. Interestingly, the East Asian warfare did not cease after World War II. During the Cold War, the U.S. Seventh Fleet sailed from north to south and passed by Green Island at least five times. Yen has witnessed the voyages of the Seventh Fleet on the Island, and he tried to connect the scene of the fleet to the old man's memories. Green Island, in this respect, has already been a gateway to alternative history and the future, with the Pacific Current and the war machine as its coordinates. As the site directing to warship trajectory of the past and future, Hsu Chia-Wei's "Two Archaeological Scenes" implies that the so-called "draw a coordinate" in this year's human rights art festival is an imperative sentence drill given to the audience by participating artists: "Please draw a coordinate that has not been seen at the fringe."