Friday, 19 November 2010

Back to Paris

Tomorrow, I’ll take the plane to fly back to Paris, my first trip back after six months; six months which will take their full meaning once I am back in Paris. Maybe six months that will look like they never happened.
I’m still at the Cloud Gate studio in BaLi, with Ah-Kun and Deserts, to finalise the robots part in the music of Symphony Project. But we – or they, still have a long distance to go. A full month at least or more is necessary, but the premiere is next week. The robots are hardly operational. Each note the instruments play requires hours of work and programming and I wonder if we’ll ever see the end of it. I won’t, because I’m leaving tomorrow. 
The elections are over. At long last. 
The weather today is just perfect: crisp and cool, blue sky and no extreme heat and humidity. I love Taipei in winter. Outside, the wind is blowing hard and the bamboo trees branches rattle incessantly against the wall of the studio, like someone desperate to get in. But there are only the four of us sitting in the middle of this big rehearsal studio. Maybe we stress up for nothing. Huang Yi, it’s a work in progress. Behind their apparent calm and smiling composure, I know Ah-Kun and his assistant are dead nervous. But I won’t be there to know. 

The mechanical violin prototype

Four months in Taipei and I don’t seem to notice any obvious improvement regarding my life here. I still don’t have my papers; as a result, I can’t open a bank account nor can I stay longer than thirty days. It seemed that something was resisting, certainly not the smooth move I imagined months ago. I’m not being fair to myself when I say that. When I stop complaining and look at things as they are, I know a lot has changed. Inside me.
A friend told me about a simple and efficient way to solve that problem: found a company. Nicolas had been telling me that as well a few months ago. The company would have to be set in Hong Kong, after which I can open a branch in Taiwan. It would cost some money, but the idea made sense to me. Suddenly, I had an aim and could concentrate my energy and efforts into that single goal. I was reminded that staying in Taipei wasn’t an aim in itself, only a means to develop my life and my work. How worries fogged my mind and distracted me from my real purpose.
It makes sense. Finally.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Second Skin

First and only performance of Second Skin today. This was supposed to be Huang Yi’s second project, but for reasons related to the electoral campaign, the premiere had to take place before the election day.
Huang Yi hired two American dancers for the project. I had seen some sketches of the drum costume, Huang Yi had vaguely told me about his intention, but we only started to actually gather our energy and effort on the week of the performance.

For the first scene, the dancer was to wear a costume covered with small little Chinese drums remotely controlled by a computer, which would also produce a little light when the drums are played on, and slowly cross the stage, Butoh-like. I made a soundscape of breathing sound patterns, bells, percussions and a harp to accompany her voyage.

The second movement was about these inflatable outfits. Unfortunately for me, Huang Yi had to use pumps for that so the noise covered everything else. The only thing left to do was to play sounds at random.

The third movement was focused on a dress made of a thermo-sensitive material. The idea was very exciting: the scene would start with one of the wall panel on which hot hair was blown at by means of (noisy, again) hairdryers. Then a hole would be cut in the wall and the dancer would slip through it and turn it into a dress. I like to call it the moon dress for the colour and texture reminds me of the moon.

The last scene features a live sculpture: two dancers find themselves trapped in a cloth where air is blown in and out, creating the effect of a breathing sculpture. I created a soundscape made of breathings to back a solo violin playing the theme of Mahler's adagietto from his 5th symphony. Unfortunately again, the air pump was so noisy, it distracted the viewers from the dark and romantic core of the piece.

Second Skin

"It all would have been very good if we had given a prayer to the spirits of the place" one of the dancers said. The show was jinxed. Everything went very well during the dress rehearsal we did in the afternoon.
But as the audience was coming in, we realised that the connection between the drums-dress and i-Pad with which I was supposed to control  and pla with it didn't work: there was no sound! Only the lights worked! We tried to reboot the computer. Nothing. I saw Huang Yi signing himself in a gesture of prayer, trying to keep his composure. But to no avail. The drums still refused to play. He eventually had to make an annoucement to the audience.
If that wasn't enough, the main computer which controlled everything suddenly crashed and there was no sound at all!  
I was mortified.
It was indeed mentioned that Second Skin was a work in progress...

Wednesday, 3 November 2010


I’m woken up every morning by the four opening bars of the Johann Strauss’ Radetzky March. It’s the electoral campaign season and the candidates for mayor and city counsellors are promoting themselves quite aggressively, each of them using a catchy tune which are played from cars and motorbikes that wanders every single street of Taipei. Since they follow each other, this tends to cause quite a disturbance for the ears. 
This circus has been going on for a months and a half and I’m afraid it’s going to intensify as the big day approaches. But the big day is only on the 29th of November!!!