Sunday, 30 June 2013

PLAY (2 PLAY) again

I will not stay on this feeling of incompleteness after the aborted affair with the Captive Queen, Jo has written to me that he plans to re-perform our second ballet, PLAY 2 PLAY by the end of the year - probably in December. My task is to revise some sections and shorten them. I had told myself that if that piece was ever performed again, I would want to revise the music, as I had done for NINA
"But don't touch Ewig (the last movement that features Isabelle's singing). It's just beautiful the way it is!" he wrote.
December... Will I be able to go there and attend the performance? Ticket prices for Japan have collapsed after the Tsunami and the Fukushima tragedy two years ago. 
"Beside Sawako, it will be a completely new cast". 
PLAY 2 PLAY was a turning point for me and him, back in 2007. The piece encapsulates the very essence of our beings. I have told Jo that the three pieces we did together were like a 'trilogy of creation'. The first one, NINA was about the act of creation, and the relationship between him and his 'oeuvre'. PLAY 2 PLAY dealt with the role and responsibility of the creator in the world. Also his extreme solitude, as it was depicted in that particular Ewig scene. Les Contes d'Hoffmann, the third and last ballet told of the private lives of the creator. And again his solitude in creation. Quite ironically and quite logically, Jo went one step further with The Captive Queen. But given the meaning of the title, it makes sense that I could not be part of the project. Jo was his own prisoner. And the walls were so high and thick that I could not reach him. 
After that, I would tell myself that maybe our collaboration would not go on. I don't see what else I can do. But then, isn't what I have told myself after each big project? 
I shall work on the music next month. For now, I want to shoot the music videos, something I have postponed for too long a time!

Sunday, 23 June 2013

One Voice

After three years living in Taipei I feel I have reached a stage when everything I do has to be more political. Whatever I say or do stands out from the norm, even more when in Asia. Having a voice is a powerful tool for an artist, but what happens when people do not wish to hear? There's no ideal country. The issues change shape but remain the same fundamentally. When I lived in France, mine was to find a voice and the courage to use it. I had alas not reached the stage where people would stop and listen to me. I was invisible. It's different in Taipei. People are indeed interested, but they get scared like little rabbits not daring to hop out of the cage.
I had been invited to show my photographic work for a possible exhibition at a place called The Empress Lounge. Formerly a non too successful night club, it has now been turned into a coffee shop with a gallery space. That is, that's what the owner is hoping to achieve. I immediately saw the potential as soon as I walked in. But it was still at a potential stage. As it was, the space was a messy mismatch of falsely baroquely garish sofas, vintage industrial chairs and tables and a bit of n'importe quoi gathered from an antique shops at the flea market (flea market in Taipei?)
The current exhibition was showcasing colourful and cute paintings of animals (mostly cats) by a Japanese artist named Pepe who also provided the music, an album of (cute) folky songs that perfectly match the artworks on the wall. They asked me if I would have an exhibition the following month. I was about to accept (and arguably get myself into trouble) when Strawberry boy Ryan wisely told me to wait.
"This place still doesn't have any clientele" he said. "And you shouldn't rush to find yourself with no one coming to see your work. Wait for a few months"
What a good piece of advice! I instead suggested the idea of a collective exhibition. A perfect way to launch the place and make it known to people. The Empress bar also needed to undergo some serious changes. The leftover furniture from the club had to be disposed of, more place should be dedicated to the artworks, the working space area for the staff had to be re-located away from where the customers have their meal and drink...  
And I got carried away. F., the owner, a suave and attractive young man endowed with a rich deep voice (he used to sing in a choir) happily welcomed my suggestions. He even started to dream on with me as I was explaining to him that the place had to undergo drastic changes if he really wanted to make a difference. Coffee shops with art on the wall is a common trend in Taipei - to me, calling a coffee shop 'gallery' is an euphemism which thinly disguises a trick from the owners to get free decoration for their space.
I presented some more suggestions which would help boost up his place as an exciting and cool artistic venue. Unfortunately, my vision wasn't his vision. He had none.
Much as he loved the ideas, he slowly started to show his nervousness: he didn't feel he had the guts to go all the way. "I'm a business person, so I have to think about making money" he explained.
Business? His night club venture was a tragic failure which he managed to drag for a year and a half if it wasn't for his parents' help. I often hear people invoking the financial issue to excuse their unwillingness to pursue their aims.
"And I also have to take my partners into account. I may agree with you, but they might think it's too drastic a decision."
His mother had flown back from Toronto to help her son. Then a different picture unveiled un front of me:
F. was just one of those rich kids who were born with a silver spoon in their mouth. He may have studied finance, but had still not showed signs of any real ability in the department.
I was disappointed. But the whole experience made one thing clear for me: asking F. to be the artistic director of his gallery was a mistake, for I actually need someone to do support my work and bring it to the public. Not the opposite. In spite of the disappointement, the outcome was a positive one. I had been preparing all my life and it was now time to embrace my talents, get out there and find the people who would help/me.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

No doubt in the universe

I regularly go to the BaoAn temple to talk to the gods. Today, as I was stepping out of the bus which drove me home from Jienn Chiang's brother's restaurant in ShiLin, I inexplicably felt a force compelled me to pay them a visit. It was right in the middle of the afternoon, the sun was blazing so not many people were found walking on the street.
I was already hearing voices talking to me as I made my way to the temple. 
Once inside, I took an incense stick and went straight to the altar. There are many gods and divinities, but I usually go to two or three of them. I stood there for a moment. The tone was solemn but not heavy. The god told me that it was now time to take total responsibility of my life. It will be coming very quickly, but I had to be careful not to indulge in self pity and doubt.
"Because there is no doubt in the universe. Things are what they are. There is no doubt concerning their very existence. Only your perception of it will create this decrepancy inside of you. It's now up to you to fully be embrace your life."
I felt like a warrior summoned by the king to be sent to his ultimate mission. I do feel my life is like some sort of mission. I don't want to do anything for myself. My aim is to lay the foundation for the future generations. Thoughts, path of life, awareness of what surrounds us. 
I was told - once again, that I didn't have more than four years left. But that everything I want to do will be completed. My parents will survive me. My mother will forget me. My father will drown in grief. I can only see it now. His last work was entitled The lonely steps of a traveller. My mother's condition is stable, apparently, according to my father's last letter. The doctors can only take care of the physiologic aspect of her illness. Any change of behaviour is beyond their control. It is indeed, for I have always believed that my mother's Alzheimer disease was a choice, albeit an unconscious one. Whatever I or anyone may try to do will have no effect if she has decided that it was the way she saw her life. I do not wish to see my father so unhappy. 
All these thoughts were whirling in my mind as the god was talking to me.  
"But for now, there are here, and you are here. Just be, in the now" the god went on.
He also mentioned William. 
William finds himself at an important crossroad in his life and he understands that. But he's lost too, because what is at stake is enormous for him. So it is my responsibility, if I love him - and I do, to be by his side. He will need me more than he realises. But William will be my companion through these coming years.

The bond that connects us is different than it was a few months ago. 

Indeed there is no doubt in the universe.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Happy family

A small beagle dog, an old spacious Southern-style French house with a courtyard in full bloom and a small pond. I do not quite recall what was happening exactly. The dog belonged to a friend and found its way into the house and decided to stay. I was happy to have a new companion  I remember I was a chasing a big cockroach out of the house with the dog. So I was obviously in Taipei. The next morning, the dog was nowhere to be found, so I started searching for it. As I was walking outside on the street, I suddenly bumped into my two parents! They were sitting on in the shadow of a big tree, smiling radiantly. 
"But... I was just talking to you the other day!!!" I told my father. I did indeed call him to wish him a happy Father's Day last Sunday. He had given a big laugh because he didn't even remember it himself. We talked for a little while. He enquired about the state of my work. 
"Money is very tight at the moment. I thought I would receive more royalty in April, but the amount was ridiculous! I hope it will be better in April..."
And now they were there. My mother looked fine. She was so happy to be in Taipei. Finally, after all these years talking about visiting me and how she had read all the novels by Qiong Yao. I couldn't believe it! My brother soon appeared into view. He seemed to enjoy the surprise.
I led them into my house. As I opened the door, I saw the dog. I took it in my arms.
"What would I tell your owner if you had really disappeared????" I scolded it affectionately.
"I'm the landlord!" the dog replied. 
My sister-in-law Mathilde emerged from one of the rooms, beaming. At this stage nothing surprised me anymore. I was reunited with my family in Taipei! I couldn't be happier.

It was my happiest dream in ages.   

Monday, 10 June 2013

Love etc...

It had been two months. William has just come back from a trip to Japan a few days ago and expressed the wish to see me. I had been resisting the idea for as long as I could. Two months isn't long. 
"I want to be with you" he simply stated.
"Be with me... To do what?" I thought. Have a walk under the moonlight along the river as we used to when we started courting each other? Have dinner? Have a drink? Have sex? The latter was out of the question. I had learned my lesson.
I tried to keep my distance emotionally, as we exchanged online messages, though I was fully aware that it was a pitiful way to protect myself from the devastating feeling of love consuming. There wasn't much I could do against it. Only time could soothe me. Of course, I was indeed perfectly able to live without seeing him, however the past couple of months had not seen me at my most glorious. So why not yield and just accept right away, joyfully run to him instead of playing this bad TV drama game?
We agreed to meet up for dinner on the following Sunday. 
I was to spend the afternoon at the Empress Lounge (now the Edge Gallery) so I suggested him to come and meet me there. Frederic had just taken me to a fairly acceptable Vietnamese restaurant near by. I intended to bring William there. In my mind, other stories were running - wild. 
William showed up at the Empress Lounge after his day at work. He was smartly dressed, always so handsome, with this remote and shy air about him. I remained courteous and polite and served him a drink. We were preparing dinner so I suggested that we ate there and went for a drink afterward. It amused William to see me in this different environment. I was afraid he may pull back and not want to see me with other people, as often the case. But he seemed at ease and dinner flowed by in a perfectly light way.
Frederic and his assistant Wayne knew what was going and had behaved in the friendliest manner. I was grateful that they did.
I suggested to go to the Spot Café at the Huanshan Culture Park. It was already nearly 10 pm. Sunday evening meant not too many people out because of what they call 'blue Monday'.
Spot Café was nearly deserted. We took a table in the centre of the room. Unidentified alternative rock music was loudly invading the whole place.
We didn't say much. William asked a few questions about the state of my work. He gave long concerned stares at me. I couldn't look back. I had so many questions boiling inside.
"So how has your life been these past two months" I finally asked.
"The same thing." he replied.
I let the answer sink in. My understanding of "the same thing" was that he had decided to stick to the security of his life. What did I expect? We kept on with our mundane conversation. Another conversation was taking place on another silent level. No word was needed for it. It was all too clear for both of us.
I wanted to ask him whether his 'open relationship' status involved other lovers as well. I didn't ask.
We had a walk around Huashan, our body brushing against each other. I sensed that he wanted to let his hand stay longer on me, but we played the game of innocent pretense.
The air was cooler. A little wind was blowing. Some people were jogging.
"I really enjoy what they have done to this area. I had come here a couple of years ago and it was completely abandonned. Now it's coming alive again. I hope they plant more trees. Taipei needs it."
A was exasperated at myself. What was I doing? It was our first date after the separation and all I could find to say was that?
William drove me back on his scooter. The inevitable physical proximity was a good excuse to draw us closer to each other. He timidly put his hand on mine. The little gesture was telling me everything. What really mattered was that we had this love for one another. I squeezed his hand. Not a word was exchanged during the whole ride, but everything was said.