Pan Austro-Nesian Arts Festival

Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts

2021.07.17 - 2021.11.14

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Compared to mainstream cultures of modernism, the concepts of “Austro” and “Nesian” enjoy relative “openness,” conveying fluidity and dissociation. Also, referring to the “Pan” concept, we hope to create a common ground through contemporary art, where issues are shared in a global cultural context and where communication transcends blood ties, languages, ethnic groups and national boundaries. The Pan-Austro-Nesian Arts Festival builds on Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts’ long-established research and interest in contemporary Austronesian art. By zeroing in on the islands instead of the continents, the arts festival embraces the fluidity and non-rigid territorial characters of the ocean, developing a new cultural brand for the city of Kaohsiung. Twenty-three groups of artists across Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Japan, Pakistan, and France are participating in this exhibition.

Fuengu (2021)

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Artist Wang Hong Kai has been invited to create this work, Fuengu by Alice, Nien-pu Ko for Pan-Austro-Nesian Arts Festival. 

My Soul Will Always Look After These Fields and Mountains - Uong e Yatauyungana

Listening precedes singing in the Tsou people’s oral musical heritage, therefore “listening” (tmayaezoyx) in the Tsou language assumes a humble and compliant attitude. This context of listening is not only the focus of songs performed in duets of traditional rhymes, but also of understanding and acknowledging communication with all sentient beings. We could say that Tsou music begins with listening and resolves in singing. How to listen is thus based on the Tsou’s symbiotic relationship with the mountains, enclosing a mental state of consciousness.

Uong e Yatauyungana (1908-1954), the first composer to lay down notes for Tsou music and songs, came to understand this profoundly. He was born to the Tsou people in Alishan and was a Taiwanese Tsou thinker, and composer as well as poet. When the political regime changed hands after the war in 1945, he adopted the Chinese name Kao Yi-Sheng.

During the Japanese colonial period, Kao Yi-Sheng became keenly aware that Tsou culture’s transmission needed documenting, and had assisted in Taiwan with international studies of Tsou traditional mythology and linguistics. Uong e Yatauyungana would adopt for the first time the Japanese name Yata Issey when Japanese ethnomusicologist Kurosawa Takatomo and his recording crew arrived in Tapangu to inquire about and collect Tsou music. As the war ended with a political handover in 1945, he would again revert back to the Chinese name Kao Yi-Sheng. Uong e Yatauyungana would see his name change many times with the ebbs and flows of tumultuous times, but he had always known that he was born in the mountains, and would eventually find his resting place there.

“Fuengu” means mountain in the Tsou language, but is not limited to its geographical significance as it also implies the dwelling place of the Alishan Tsou people’s spiritual belief. The meaning of the cosmic perspective established by Tsou gods in their mythology manifests in the mountain’s geographical space. For the Alishan Tsou people, the mythical Patunguonu (Jade Mountain) is the birth place of life and also the point of departure of mankind dispersing to populate the world after escaping the deluge. Mount Hohcubu, on the other hand, is the resting place at life’s end. When we listen to Uong e Yatauyungana’s musical works such as “bosifou ne Patungkuonu” (Climbing Jade Mountain), “pasu hohcubu” (The Song of Tashan), “mafuefuengu” (Blue Hills and Mountain Stream) and “The Mountain Train”, what we sense are memories of spaces in the mountains. The songs translate the Tsou’s spiritual consciousness contained in the mountains. His songs furthermore transmit his affection of the Tsou people, their mountains, trees and lands. Kao Yi- Sheng’s songs harness the sensorial memory of the mountains and forests, and the Tsou spatial-temporal perspective told in their belief and tales. Kao Yi-Sheng’s observation and comprehension of nature are encapsulated in his construing his feelings through the paysage, to become one with nature in order to reach enlightenment on human’s mutual connections with the universe and all beings.

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During these turbulent times, Uong e Yatauyungana was marked as a political dissenter and eventually executed for “espionage and treachery” during the White Terror. Though he was under tight political oppression, he had in mind the Taiwanese Aboriginal peoples’ foremost concept of autonomous community. The Sinvi collective farm on Alishan could be regarded as a realization of his utopian ideals. The model of symbiont with the mountains and self-sufficiency was the construct for the “mountains indigenous peoples autonomous county”. After the February 28 Incident, Uong e Yatauyungana obtained usage rights of what was military pastures during the Japanese colonial period and renamed them Sinvi and Cayamavana, to facilitate the planning of the Sinvi farm. The concept of Aboriginal peoples’ autonomous community doubtlessly became a cause for political oppression during the White Terror. However, in the three “uhne yoiana” (Song of Migrant) that Uong e Yatauyungana created, we can still observe his strong sentiment in encouraging his kins from Tapangu and Niae’ucna to migrate to the Sinvi collective farm which had arable lands. In 1952, the government sent Kao Yi-Sheng and others to the Taipei Military Prison for interrogation. He carried on with his musical creations in jail, and these pieces continue to insinuate a return to the mountain homeland as if accompanying his consciousness. “Who calls from the depth of the forests?” The music meanders along the mountain ridges into the heart of Alishan. Uong e Yatauyungana wrote in prison that he longed for a homecoming to the mountains, and promised that his soul would return to the mountains and guard this scenery. If consciousness can travel along a gust of wind to the mountains, what would it hear?

This commissioned work of Pan-Austro-Nesian Arts Festival, fuengu, is a continuation of Wang Hong-Kai’s practice of the past few years where she combines texts, memory and geographical sensorial experience to try to construct a collective and critical listening space. In this work, Wang used Uong e Yatauyungana’s extent musical compositions as materials to develop a research lead. She studied the relationship between various contexts and visited geographical spaces evoked in different songs as a memorial return both of listening and singing. She tries to explore the liminality of political and sociopolitical relations inside out and outside in. How does sound and listening help us detect the shapes of dissonant reverberations in history? As Paul Rodaway defined in Sensuous Geographies, “haptic” does not only refer to the actions of touching relating to the body, but also the trajectory of sensorial experience across environments of spatial emotions and memories. The body touches, moves, and travels through geographical space as the space of the body makes changes and encounters in bordering geographical space. Wang Hong-Kai leads participants in the actions of listening and singing which activate the interface of individual senses to be open and fluid. Therefore, the spatial-temporal boundaries of reality become loose too. Fuengu treats mountains as the variance point of multiple historical temporalities, outside of contemporary linear timeline. How do we construct the liminal space between sound and listening in a lifetime on a loop that exists on its own? How does sound permeate dreams? How does sound bear consciousness, memories and a multitude of lives?

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