New Vision Arts Festival

 The team behind Hong Kong’s electric NVAF tell IAM what to expect at this year’s extravaganza.
Akram Khan and Sacha Waltz & Guests are among the big-name choreographers bringing work to the island.
The biennial NVAF is organised by Hong Kong’s Festivals Office – Leisure and Cultural Services Department, currently headed up by senior manager Betty Au. Her team of devoted professionals are tasked with finding works by the best international contemporary performing arts producers and artists to create an eclectic programme complemented by the insights of local experts and practitioners.

What is the theme for New Vision Arts Festival 2016?
Betty Au:
The New Vision Arts Festival (NVAF) presents a fusion programme of contemporary East-West cultures over the years, developing a striking identity with its innovative, cross-cultural programming with an Asian focus. It has brought to local arts lovers cutting edge and highly original programmes from around the world. Embedded within the schedule are our aims to widen the cultural vision of arts audiences as well as enriching the performing arts palette available in the region.

Among NVAF’s signature highlights are a series of commissioned works and collaborations between artists across different art forms, cultural backgrounds and countries. What will happen on the opening and closing nights?

Opening the festival is Matsukaze by Sasha Waltz and Guests. For this, world-renowned German choreographer Sasha Waltz fuses minimalist Eastern theatre with textured Western opera in a fluid choreographic reinterpretation of this Japanese Noh classic.

Matsukaze © Bernd Uhlig
Matsukaze © Bernd Uhlig

Distilling the musical essence of Noh theatre in this modern dance-infused rendition, contemporary classical composer Toshio Hosokawa, acclaimed for his original envisioning of Japanese music, unleashes both the painfulness and purity of nature through a crystallised blend of the traditional and avant-garde, encompassing vocal, orchestral and even silent interpretation.

The ephemeral outcome is a radically new creative experience that was hailed by The Financial Times as ‘meticulously made and compellingly beautiful’.

The festival will host the Asia premiere of Until the Lions by Akram Khan Company (UK), whose commission will close the programme. The production was first premiered at the London Roundhouse to great critical acclaim in January this year, where it was praised as ‘a cosmic dance of destiny and revenge’ (the guardian). Based on his ceaseless fascination with the classic Sanskrit poem, The Mahabharata, Khan draws Amba, an unsung heroine in the male-dominated narrative, into the spotlight. As haunting harmonies and vocals suffuse the performance with a ritualistic aura, the trio of dancers unleash some breathtaking techniques in what is a truly enthralling display of energy and emotional intensity.

Together with Karthika Naïr’s thought-provoking scenario, Tim Yip’s mistily symbolic ringed tree stump set, and Michael Hulls’ luminescent lighting, this dense and timeless tale of women’s oppression and resistance to their fate is stunningly realised.

The festival is the co-producer of Until the Lions with Roundhouse and Sadler’s Wells London, MC2: Grenoble, La Comète Châlons-en-Champagne, Théâtre de la Ville/La Villette Paris, Danse Danse/TOHU Montréal, Les Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg, Taipei Performing Arts Center, Movimentos Festwochen Wolfsburg, Brighton Festival 2016, Maison de la Culture d’Amiens, Concertgebouw Brugge, Le Manège de Reims Scène Nationale, Holland Festival Amsterdam, Romaeuropa Festival, and Curve Leicester (UK).

What kind of work will be scheduled in the multi-arts strand?
A variety of multi-arts programmes will be presented in the festival including superposition by Ryoji Ikeda (Japan), One Zero by Hong Kong new media artist GayBird and award-winning film director Tsai Ming-liang and Wittgenstein by Zuni Icosahedron. Ryoji Ikeda is lauded as ‘the master of minimalist electronica’, and is renowned for utilising the beauty of mathematical precision to draw out the essence of sound and image, igniting a visceral purity that summons up a completely new aesthetic experience. Inspired by the mathematical ideas and notions of quantum, Ikeda observes nature from an infinitesimal perspective in superposition.

The production was described as ‘an astonishing work’ by ArtAsiaPacific, the sound and visuals projected onstage are a representation of digital data, orchestrating sonic and visual media into an awe-inspiring symphony of the universe.

GayBird is distinguished for his broad experience across different spheres in producing cohesive works integrating electro-acoustic music and live musical performances with the application of visuals, media technology, mechanism, programming, craftsmanship and installation. Tsai Ming-liang is one of the most celebrated and award-winning ‘Second New Wave’ film directors.

Tsai’s films are distinguished by long takes and minimal dialogue as well as emphasising experiences of alienation and isolation. One Zero, the first-ever joint creation by GayBird and Tsai Mingliang, attempts to give a new perspective on how the two distinctive artists, influenced by one another during the creation process, have skilfully and splendidly blended art works created by kinetic installations, sounds, music, videos and films into a total music theatre.

What attracted you to the work King of Ghosts?
In King of Ghosts, composer Soumik Datta, dubbed as the ‘British sarod maestro’ and ‘a unique artist in the vanguard of new British music’, weaves Indian sarod, orchestral and percussive sounds into a sonorous new score. The enchanting melodies and rich aural textures capture the essence of, and also breathe new life into, Satyajit Ray’s iconic film Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne.

What are the concepts behind A Concise History of Future?
Created by a Hong Kong talented playwright Yan Pat-to A Concise History of Future is the first Chinese play to have been selected by Berliner Festspiele Theatertreffen Stückemarkt. The panel of judges commented on its skill for simultaneously capturing ‘a feeling for the local and a vision of the global’.

Beyond its narrative, the work offers a fresh perspective on scenography in the style of magical realism. The play depicts an imaginative world in which the entire population is fleeing towards the South, as an outsider struggles to get to the North in order to fulfil his mission.

What is the ArtSnap strand?
ArtSnap is a mini-festival within a festival showcasing a wide array of cross-disciplinary art events over two consecutive weekends. Nonstop performances at the Black Box Theatre include inclusive theatre Miranda and Caliban: The Making of a Monster by Birds of Paradise Theatre Company (UK); dance performance MatchAtria by Yui Kawaguchi and Yoshimasa Ishibashi (Japan); and the cinematic concert, Sever, created by David Harris, Zhu Ma and Lu Su with live music by rock band Xi Ban from China.

Following the successful collaboration with Forest Fringe (UK) at NVAF 2014, a range of exhilarating events will be staged by UK artists, linking up with local artists, which will take place at indoor venues, plazas and surrounding environs of Kwai Tsing Theatre.