Off The Map

Théâtre la Balsamine

55min

26/05 – 20:30
27/05 – 20:30
28/05 – 20:30
29/05 – 20:30

Su Wen-Chi is part of a young generation of Taiwanese artists who, by developing experimental forms cutting across dance and new media, are conveying the complex identity of a society torn between the power of tradition and technological supermodernity. In Off The Map , the stage becomes a mirror distorting reality, an unstable and disorientating virtual space. Alone on stage, the dancer moves slowly and with precision, while a hushed soundtrack seems to trace the cartography of an internal monologue. Before a society of impermanence and reduction, could drifting, floating and letting go become strategies to continue to move forward? Confronting her irreducible corporality with a dematerialised environment, Su Wen-Chi translates man’s vulnerability in the post-industrial era with great subtlety and refinement.

Concept, choreography & dance
Su Wen-Chi

Text
Chou Man-Nung

Sound design
Wang Fu-Jui

Stage design
Wu Chi-Tsung

Lighting design
Jan Maertens

Lighting assistant
Liu Po-Hsin, Chang Yi-Chin

New media technical associate
Yang Chen-Han

Sound assistant
Lu Yi

Translation
Ker Nai-Yu

Production associate
Sun Ping

Stage manager
Wu Ko-Yun

Rehearsals & production assistance
Hsieh An-An, Chen Yi-Ting

Still photographer
Hsu Ping, Lee Hsin-Che (MOT TIMES)

Presentation
Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Théâtre la Balsamine

Commissioned by
National Performing Arts Center, National Theatre & Concert Hall (Taiwan)

Special thanks to
Ministry of Culture (Taiwan), Centre Culturel de Taïwan à Paris

Performance in Brussels supported by
Taipei Representative Office in the EU and Belgium

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The silent double that listens

The minimal stage represents the everlasting shimmer of water. Alone and naked, with nowhere to hide, Su Wen-Chi appears to lie on the riverbed, bathing in the river of time. The bright lights, like the tingling sunshine during high noon, cleanse all. The alternating high- and low-pitched noise implies, in the stead of visions, a space that is transforming ever so slightly and continuously. Like being in a void with only a buzzing in the ears, the waves of emptiness caress the solitary existence.

Su Wen-Chi infuses new thinking into her dance style, which distinguishes her performance from an outright display of movement, rhythm, and posture. The stillness and slowness that she embodies suggest the quandary of the corporal body: all that the body feels and craves is rejected and silenced by the stillness of the outside world. In Off The Map, the uproar in this world is reduced to a clean emptiness. Being born as human beings, it might be more difficult for us to stand still than to walk.

Seeking a Steady Power for Self-Examination

Combining dance and technology, Off The Map examines the transforming period when artists begin their self-examinations. Su Wen-Chi believes there is a need for understanding humanism and creative power that is both consistent and mature. Adapting theatrical logic, she collaborates with Wu Chi-Tsung and Wang Fu-Jui to construct a concentrated space that represents a slice of life, so that the members of the audience can witness the state and process of self-examination.

Sound artist Wang Fu-Jui lets white noise direct his experiment. Breaking free from the constraints of melody, he tries to reassess how sound can define space. Through a cluster of sounds, Wang breathes new life into the generality of the aesthetics. The application of a directional speaker in Off The Map helps to simulate the clash between body and atmosphere, offering a sense of space. The voiceover narrates in a cascade of high/low sound frequencies. As a whisper that lingers in the heart, it cries and accuses, behaving like an ever-growing complaint.

Visual artist Wu Chi-Tsung’s work deals with portraying the workings of perception and its ambivalences. Through various materials and visual devices, Wu confronts the audience at the moment of perception. The repetition of sounds suggests a microcosm of the secular world. For Su Wen-Chi, Wu’s work “makes the viewers perceive the relativity of time through the gaze, as if time has disappeared or is slowly trickling away.” Wu’s attempt to unveil a state of confusion coincides with the main theme of Off The Map.

The Ineffable, Random Narrative

The connection between human life and art creation goes hand in hand with death and its symbolic meaning. Using the ‘moments before death’ as focal points, Su Wen-Chi and her fellow artists examine different approaches to interpretations and forms. Off The Map marks Su’s first attempt to incorporate textual material into her work. On the one hand, Chou Man-Nung’s text provides the musicality of sounds and helps construct the space; on the other hand, it allows Su to examine how the body can and cannot be interpreted. She then uses body language as a means to challenge the conventions of dance. ‘Randomness and disorientation’ therefore become the visual foci of the dance piece. Through the reflection of the two materials from which the stage is composed, Off The Map presents an imaginary space without boundaries. As the stage reflects, Su Wen-Chi finds a companion in her own reflection throughout her solo dance. When she curls up or drags herself onto the stage, it appears as if the two selves are alternating and interchanging. The stage allows her to create her own mirror image, while the body, enveloped in consciousness, closely examines the other self.

The Dialogic Double in a Vacuum

The text dwells on the concept of the ‘vacuum’ and explores the moment before death. That moment of clarity may not be easy to attain, but the dance piece fulfils the artist’s imagination of time and conditions as death approaches. That moment of clarity may not be easy to attain, but the dance piece fulfils the artist’s imagination of time and conditions as death approaches. Su Wen-Chi remembers contacting IRCAM (Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique) and visiting their anechoic chamber during her artist’s residency in Paris: “It was completely silent. But I recall hearing two sound frequencies. They told me that this was the result of a body coming into contact with space. That it came from blood and brainwaves.”

For Su Wen-Chi, death also allows one to examine biopolitics. Self-inflicted death is an extreme way of demonstrating one’s strong will. When encountering incidents like this, one is forced to come to terms with his or her own fear. “Our attempt to make sense of death might be attributable to the self-defence mechanism, disallowing the unconscious to be unfurled.” Su recollects the series of self-reflections that took place when her friend committed suicide: “Throughout the whole process, I gradually realized that since this person is gone, there will never be a true answer to my question. How one makes sense of the situation reveals what that person thinks of his or her relationship with others.”

Therefore, human inflicted death, or more precisely, suicide, might be a type of rejection of interpretation. Su Wen-Chi forgoes intense body language and adopts a more reserved solo dance that allows one to gaze and to listen. Through simplicity and slowness, she leaves space for the ineffable. Su does not believe that dance consists only of constant movement. “Simple postures can also leave a strong impression, and my intention is to capture that profoundness.”

Chow Ling-Chih

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Su Wen-Chi is a dancer, choreographer and new media artist working in Taiwan and London. In 2005 she founded YiLab. in Taiwan, an experimental group of new media and performance artists working on integrating new technology with the performing arts, and seeking to present new performing formats. YiLab.’s philosophy is: in a work, there is not just one dominant medium, only concepts that appear similar but collide with one another; every artist involved is an independent entity who can freely put forward their viewpoint, and undertake an in-depth exploration of the core significance of the theme. Served as the concept of the team, Su Wen-Chi is interested in how human beings shift their understanding of perception through the history of technological innovation and through what remains of the physical body. She is also curious about whether the ultimate goal of new technology is aiming for a better future or for the past.

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