Monday 13 January 2014

Miracle | Mirage

The miracle ended in a mirage. Alvin was waiting for my answer regarding the plan ticket. There wasn't any direct flight anymore. People decided to travel more to Japan since the yen is currently very low. I was on the waiting list, so what was left for me was a longer flight with a stop-over in Hong-Kong. Seven hours instead of two hours and a half. The departure was an early one: 6:05 am!!!
However all this will not happen. My bank account stated that I had nothing left. Not a single cent. That didn't surprise me. My intuition had sent me flashes of grey and blurry images of Tokyo. I wanted to believe I would go, the the bank stated otherwise. Rent and bills to pay, and I have to admit, I spent more than I should have in Tokyo: books, books and even more books. And the thief who stole my phone on the train also did some spending from it. How? I had subscribed to an internet service through a Japanese phone company, Softbank, which would provide me daily WI-FI access. The contract would last for 24 hours, and could be renewed the following day if necessary.
That service also allowed access to other online services. I didn't pay much attention to them, but obviously the thief did. 

Moody Tuesday. But oddly, I feel relieved.

Rain is falling outside. Temperatures have dropped. It feels more like winter - for Taiwanese standards.

Sunday 12 January 2014

Little things mean a lot

We got everything ready just in time for the closing reception - Adrian had chosen to have a closing reception instead of the usual opening. He knew the customs of the Hsinchu people so I could only climb down. 
I had shot a video of Justin sleeping the past week. The idea was inspired by Andy Warhol's infamous five hour long film, Sleep as well as Robert Wilson's Voom Portraits that I saw in New York a few years ago. Mine of course was much shorter: only 30 minutes of sleep. The image of Justin looked like a live still portrait. I wanted it raw and dirty, as if filmed from a cheap super8 camera. Justin had no idea how the result would look like and he felt slightly silly to lie still in bed for such a long time. Little did he imagine the impact the film would have on the audience. Peaceful, serene, frozen in time and yes, erotic. Justin's splendid and quiet personality just glowed on the screen. 
I also prepared a music installation: reworking on other music installations I have done in the past years to create this subtle dream-like atmosphere. It worked splendidly. Adrian was enthusiastic and so was I. A magical beam hovered in the room and people let themselves be taken away by the mood. 
"I want to sleep when people come in!" he said to me a few days before. I brought a set of tatami from my home and arranged them at the center of the room with some chairs. The visitors responded positively to the offer and many lied down on the tatami, closing their, feeling the music, sometime watching the video projected on a whole wall. I half expected people to feel uncomfortable and unwilling to stay embrace stillness, so their reaction prompted me to push the concept further. 
The next exhibition in Taichung will provide more space to show more photos and project more videos. Adrian will exhibit his picture at a gallery located near the train station called Happen, an old bank turned into an art space. My work will be presented not far away from there, in an old club named Face Off
"The concrete wall will be perfect for your black & white photography!" Adrian said excitedly. "I will go next week with the project and your Justin video to see how it works there!"
I'm happy to team with Adrian. His child-like, innocent, almost naive approach to thing is communicative. There's no surprise that he teaches art at a kindergarten school...
The next step is to publish a series a four small books in a limlited edition before finding a publisher. Maybe I will find one before I complete the series... May as well hope!
Thierry, a Taipei based Frenchman who runs a queer art magazine as well as a foundation that helps gay art students to study abroad, has told about some printing shops in Dazhi which can make very good books for an extremely low price (unthinkable in France!!!) albeit in small quatity. He showed me a sample done for a theatre company: tasteful, simple and very attractive looking.
I will try to get the first book ready for the upcoming Taichung exhibition. Adrian, of course, wants me to edit his book. I have another idea for his work. I had bought a small photo magazine called Ossu at the Tsutaya book store in Ebisu, something between a fanzine and a magazine - a trend that has re-appeared in recent years for art publications. The format would be perfect for Adrian's pictures.
A new adventure inDesign begins. I have to get reacquainted with that software now... Two weeks left!

Saturday 11 January 2014

Dream and romantic reality

She came to see me one time. We met on the street, down her flat. She was very busy. A dancer with a fully booked schedule. Not surprising. She was a fine performer and had a look to steal everybody's eyes.
We walked slowly down the street. She didn't say anything. At some point, she motioned me to hold her in my arms. We stayed like that for a long moment. I felt her tiny body, her tight back muscles; my hands could almost cover both her shoulder plates. There are things that will never be said. Tracy just smiled and gave me a little kiss. I rarely would allow myself to get so close to a female friend. 

William called a little after 11PM. I was surprised to see his name appearing on my phone. I thought that after last message I left him ten days ago, we would slowly drift apart for good.
"Hello? Is this An? I am William..." I heard a deep and slow voice say.
"Can I come and see you? Tonight?" I didn't need to ask the reason. Muffled hints of hope awoke in me as I heard his voice, but I kept my composure and replied coolly with polite answers. 
Not even fifteen minutes later, the phone rang again. William was there. Ryan and Adrian watched me leave the house with some amusement.
William was standing on the street, dressed in a tuxedo, naturally elegant, as always. He appraised me with one look as I was walking toward him.
"How are you?" he asked. "Long time no see!"
"Yes... It's been months... So why did you suddenly call me?"
"I just wanted to see you." 
"Where can we go?" I asked. 
We weren't particularly hungry or thirsty - William had just left from an annual company dinner party. 
"We can go to the river" he suggested.
The riverside was the place where we exchanged our first kiss, a year and a half ago. Was he trying to find the perfect setting for a romantic scene?
We walked side by side in silence for a little while, with just enough distance between us. 
The wind was starting to blow stronger. There wasn't a single soul outside except the occasional die-hard jogger who braves all kinds of weathers for his daily routine.
"So why do you want to see me tonight?" I asked
"I wanted to see you..." Same reply. I knew he could say more. But would he?
"You know there is no point for us to meet if the situation doesn't change. There's nothing that I say now that you don't already know."
"I know." For William, speaking in English isn't the most ideal situation, and as a result, he doesn't say much. But I could feel from him all the muted words.
"I'm very happy to see you. But then what? Time will pass by and I will see you again late in the night in five months?"
"Maybe less, maybe four months" William joked.
"You know it isn't easy for me to forget you. But this isn't helping me, us..."
More time passed. There was nothing more to add, just one thing to confirm.
"So what do you see for us?" I asked eventually.
William's reply was the same: to see me. I pushed him to develop his answer. He confessed that he was struggling, whence his last minute cancellations or change of plan, whenever we were to meet.
He knew, despite his claims, that I could not have a real place in his life as long as he doesn't change his life arrangement.
"I may have a place in your life, but in your head only." I said as a half-joke. "In your head you can make all the space you want. In your physical life, I'm not there... So my question is: what is there for us?"
William didn't give any answer. But the very fact that he came to see me tonight was already so meaningful to me. The situation wasn't easy for him, he could only show how much he cared. I was starting to get used accustomed to the thought of not seeing him anymore.
I also realised these issues were twisting our relationship and my mind was no longer set to enjoy but to expect... nothing. So time could take more and more space in between each of our encounters.
We kept on walking. The night was getting cold and the wind was blowing much more strongly. Even though we were talking about us, I had remained fairly distant. William was waiting for the moment where the physical connection could be made again.
"And what do you feel about me?" he asked suddenly.
"You know that. No matter how hard I try, it's still you..."
Before I could reply, he stopped walking, took me by the waist and locked me tightly in his arm. The embrace lasted a long time. I could see the deserted playground in the dark, I could hear the murmur of the river, I could feel the reed in the wind.
"I'm really sorry..." William said softly in my ears. If music had started to play then I wouldn't have been surprised. The sight of William and I embracing in the middle of the night by the river with the wind blowing placed the moment out of an ordinary life.

In the dream, Tracy and I exchanged that embrace before she disappeared from my life. I would later find out that she had died in a shipwreck.
In my life, William came to meet me before I'd disappear from his.

Do, Ré, Miiiiiiiiiiiiiii

Anybody who has seen that 50's classic The Girl can't help it! starring Jayne Mansfield and Tom Ewell will certainly remember that scene where Ewell is testing Mansfield's singing abilities, and will understand how I felt yesterday at the studio when we were recording the vocals of the lead actor for the film When Doves Fly. Contrary to many who think that the world is divided in two, those who can sing and those who can't, I believe everyone can sing, and give a decent vocal performance. Naturally, the world isn't fair and it's easier for some people than the others. My singing teacher Julia performed (albeit with time and patience) some miracles and a few supposedly tone-deaf aspiring singers managed to connect to their voice and the sounds. "There's not such a thing as someone who can't sing in key. You only sing off key if you don't open up to what surrounds you." She would often say. 
The model-turned-actor who was hired for the film had to perform one song in the film. His character is of a busking Asian-American singer who comes to Taipei to find out more about his real mother. I have warned Shang-Sing about models who think that their good look means that they can also have a career in acting. There are some exceptions, but the Taiwanese film industry is populated with those, and as a result, they all end up looking the same. The production company wanted a half-breed Asian who could speak perfect American English as well as Mandarin, sing and possibly play the guitar. That's maybe where the magic of cinema begins...
We only had a full week of singing session prior to the shooting - more than enough for natural singers, far than sufficient for vocally challenged people. Unfortunately, that model belonged to the latter group. 
Not that his voice wasn't nice. But his concern about doing good and looking good played against him. Compared to his co-stars, his acting was wooden, though at time, not devoid of emotion. He certainly photographs very well and knows his good angles. Sadly, the scenes where he had to sing were downright embarrassing. 
Three hours and a half of ear-piercing misery at the studio. He tried very hard, sometime managed to produce a nice flow, but delivered like a trained dog, clueless about what singing was about. What irritated me was the sight of him chatting with his friends on his iPhone in between takes. A way to soothe his discomfort? I could foresee the long hours I would spend pitch-correcting the singing track. 
The sound engineer tried to be supportive as well. By the third hour, we were exchanging speechless distressed looks. I tried many tricks to help, but had to admit defeat when the results were invariably and consistently the same. I felt bad for everyone. No one was foolish enough to pretend, and there was no space for humour.

Now that ShangSing is out of the picture - no pun intended, I feel deserted. The producer will shoot additional scenes, I will try my best to salvage the film with the score. Most of it is written already. But it will depend on the new edit and how the new scenes will alter the story. Then I'll move on to the next project. The quicker the better. Anybody's got the auto-tune software???
Ahhh... the artist's life....


Tuesday 7 January 2014

Magic says

Another miracle happened. I had sent my friend Alvin from Hong Kong a new year message. He saw my photos taken in Japan and asked me how things were. I naturally told him about PLAY 2 PLAY and how I considered that piece to be my best work. 

"When will you do another performance? I really want to see it!"
I gave him the dates of the performances in Yokohama.  
"Will you be there?"
"I would like to. Trying to find the finances."
"Let me see my schedule... Grrrr. I can't go. I have to be there for my new nephew's full moon dinner and be with my family for the Chinese New Year reunion."
"Of course you cant'!" I said.
"Why do you say that?" 
"Because it's too close to Chinese New New Year, because you work a lot, because the ticket must be pricey..."
"Not really. I have miles..."
"Give them to me then!!!" 
"That's what I wanted to say. I can get you a flight ticket."
"I was joking. I can't ask you to do that"
"I'm serious, lar. And you didn't ask me."
"Why would you do that? You should keep the miles for yourself, travel and enjoy yourself!"
"Because we are friends and you go to attend the show for me."
"You have me speechless now... I'm really touched. Really, really touched..."
"Don't be silly! Also because you're a talented person. I want to support art creation."
"I'm a lucky person. Thank you. It's so meaningful to me."
"My pleasure indeed..."

Ma vie est un conte de fée.