The 20th Taishin Arts Award: Guling Street Avant-garde Theatre brings home two awards

Pictured above: A group photo of the laureates of the three Awards. From the left: Yang Kai-Ting, Chang Pao-Hui, Yao Lee-Chun, Yang Qi-Yin, LI Huan-Hsiung, Li Yi Fan, Hung Tzu-Ni, and Wang Mo-Lin.

The Taishin Arts Award today (12 September) announces the three laureates of its 20th iteration in a joyfully festive ceremony interspersed with nervousness which peaked at the moment of announcing the winners.

The founder of the Award, Chairman Thomas Wu of Taishin Holdings, pointed out in his opening remarks that the 30th anniversary of the Taishin Bank also coincides with the 20th anniversary of the Taishin Arts Award: “The Taishin Arts Award supports Taiwanese artists with substantial prize money, assisting artists to shine on the stage, while guiding the direction of the Taiwanese arts and cultural scene.”

He expressed his gratitude to Lin Mun-Lee, a board member of the Taishin Bank Foundation for Arts and Culture, who suggested to establish the Award two decades ago, and has been the most vital force behind the Awards over the years.

Revealing the Grand Prize winner, Lin also expressed that “throughout the past 20 years, whether the situation was favourable or not, Chairman Wu has steadfastly and determinedly supported art so that the Taishin Arts Award can still exist today and continue marching into the future. Everyone, please join me and give Chairman Wu and his wife the biggest round of applause!” (Her words were met by thunderous applause).

The seven-juror final selection committee of this iteration is chaired by Amy Cheng, together with two nomination committee members Gong Jow-Jiun and Wang Chun-Yen, as well as four external jurors, including Chang Hsiao-Hung, Kao Chung-Li, Chang Chi-Feng, and Eva Lin Yi-Hua. After a marathon of intensive discussion that lasted two days, and confirmed by the board of directors, the laureates of the Visual Arts Award and the Performing Arts Award, each with a prize money of NT$ 1 million, and that of the Grand Prize, with a prize money of NT$ 1.5 million, are finally announced.

The Grand Prize (NT$ 1.5 million prize money)
Mr. Wing Theatre Company / A Journey towards Sentiment (kanshooryokoo)─My Endless Melancholy Becomes Siberia Comprised of Oblivion After You Left for the Southern Villages (below)

The Visual Arts Award (NT$ 1 million prize money)
LI Yi Fan / howdoyouturnthison ─ 2021 Asian Art Biennial

The Performing Arts Award (NT$ 1 million prize money)
Body Phase Studio & Mr. Wing Theatre Company / Prince Hamlet

The jury committee gave the following comment regarding his work: “Li Yi Fan’s howdoyouturnthison (pictured above) responds to the genes of the digital age and its mutated memories with unique black humor. Behind the seemingly absurd and eccentric images, a fascinating narrative technique and its script are constructed. Li overturns the historical toolbox of ‘machinima,’ skillfully manipulating his avatar that wriggles without physical constraints. The ghost in the shell stimulates the viewer’s bodily perception, and its murmured confessions draw everyone to unconsciously enter the inner world of image production. The mutual generation of post-human body and virtual reality modeling language (VRML) reflexively exposes the alternative reality of the Internet generation, releasing the becoming of images and liberating the narrative language.”

The Performing Arts Award was announced next, and is awarded to Body Phase Studio and Mr. Wing Theatre Company for their co-production – Prince Hamlet (pictured above), a solo performance staged at Guling Street Avant-garde Theatre. Regarding this work, the jury committee gave the following comment: “Prince Hamlet is a solo interpretation of Hamlet by actor and playwright Yang Qi-Yin by bringing in the 318 Occupation Movement in Taiwan; it reflects on the beliefs and disillusion of the rebels’ various struggles and the deployment of power. When language shifts from dreamy mumbling and indecision to desperate despair with this ineffective communication medium, the body is the only remnant of the spiritual state witnessing the exhaustion of the theater and politics. On the one hand, director Wang Mo-Lin fathoms deep into the black hole of classics and political history, and on the other hand, he takes on the loss of gravity of existence without evasion, critically exposing the politics of the body with the exploding momentum of anarchists across generations.”

The Grand Prize was awarded to Mr. Wing Theatre Company’s A Journey towards Sentiment (kanshooryokoo)My Endless Melancholy Becomes Siberia Comprised of Oblivion After You Left for the Southern Villages. With a context that was both poetic and prosaic, director Li Huan-Hsiung combined TSUEI Tai-Ho’s solo performance and the elongated, extending space of Guling Street Avant-garde Theatre to produce a dialectic work, interweaving drama, literature, and politics.

The jury committee gave the work the following comment: “A Journey towards Sentiment (kanshooryokoo) – My Endless Melancholy Becomes Siberia Comprised of Oblivion After You Left for the Southern Villages interweaves the life pursuit of Chen Ying-Zhen as a novelist, his fictional characters, and theatre practitioner M in a skillful manifestation of the aesthetic succession and transformation of Taiwan’s contemporary theatre. Tsuei Tai-Hao’s precise, energetic, and self-contained solo performance is complemented by stage designer Wu Zi-Jing’s attempt to unfold the multiplicity of the space in the Guling Street Avant-garde Theatre. Director LI Huan-Hsiung presents the interwoven relationship of his life journey with the little theatre movement and left-wing historical contexts in Taiwan, and introspectively explores the ideals and disillusions of the avant-garde and modernity. In a poetic, refined fashion, LI enacts the dialectics between the multiple images of ‘South’ and the inner ‘North’ until the ‘whale fall.’”

Coincidentally, the two award-winning performing arts works were both staged at Guling Street Avant-garde Theatre, which was only re-opened last year after three years of renovation. Comparing to government-funded, large-scale, and multifunctional theater spaces emerging in recent years, Guling Street Avant-garde Theatre, a privately run experimental theater with limited resource, has achieved a great result after its re-opening. The first-time laureate, Mr. Wing Theatre Company, brings home the Grand Prize and the Performing Arts Award respectively with an independent production and a co-production with Body Phase Studio. Indeed, this achievement has an epoch-making significance to the Taishin Arts Award and Taiwanese experimental theater.

According to Amy Cheng, chair of the final selection committee, among countless art awards worldwide, the Taishin Arts Award ‘stands out in an extraordinary way’. To her, the Taishin Arts Award is the only art award around the world that has carried on consistently with such a complicated and thoroughly circumspective process. Its uniqueness lies in its long-term focus on local cultural production and a horizon deeply informed by localness, which have accomplished the spirit of the Award and formed the foundation of its value.

This year, the award ceremony is once again coordinated by theater director LEE Ming-Chen, and invites Lan Pei-Chih and Ma Wei-Yuan for serving as the host and the master of ceremony respectively. The design of the ceremony stage uses an LED light wall to demonstrate the key visual elements and a geometric image, highlighting a sense of contemporary digital and technological design.

In the award ceremony, the films of “The 20th Anniversary of the Taishin Arts Award – A Moment of Glory” and “Best Wishes from International Jurors” are broadcasted as a way to review the precious historical moments of the Award throughout the past two decades, as well as the perspectives of and best wishes for the Awards from the international jurors. For the mid-ceremony performance, the music band of the Minkuan Taiwanese Opera Troupe was invited to perform. Established 50 years ago and exceling at integrating traditional Taiwanese opera and jazz, their impeccable music filled the ceremony with a lighthearted and distinctive air.

The award ceremony can be enjoyed on the official website of the 20th Taishin Arts Award: