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Taipei Arts Festival Creates a Vision for the Future of the City

Taiwan’s most important performance art event of the summer, the Taipei Arts Festival has brought artists from eight countries to present eleven programs and an installation art exhibition with the theme “The City and its Future”. The shows take place at various venues, including Wellspring Theater, Zhongshan Hall, Metropolitan Hall, and Da'an Forest Park.
The opening ceremony was held on August 10 at Metropolitan Hall, where artists from Germany, France, Laos, the UK, and Taiwan gathered together to celebrate. Taipei deputy mayor Chen Chin-jun spoke at the ceremony, saying: “This year, the Taipei Arts Festival probes into the past, present, and future of cities from a distinctive point of view. It communicates the beauty of the city through cultural exchange, while the boundless possibilities of stage performance reflect the charms of Taipei.”
Festival artistic director Keng Yi-Wei said, “This year’s theme is the city and its future. City life makes us lonely and weakens our imagination; it’s like we lose the ability to be happy. But we know that art can restore the power of imagination, and art comes from artists, so artists can bring happiness to city residents. Artists are the future of the city, and the source of our happiness.”
The latest international trends in theatre come to the Taipei Arts Festival

Since 2008, the festival has been bringing leading artists from all over the world to Taipei. When Keng Yi-Wei became artistic director in 2012, he dreamed up the concept “Axis Taipei & International Collaboration” to make the festival anchor Taipei as a creative center, introduced the latest trends in international theatre, and brought creative works from around the world to the festival audience.
This year, we have the Wooster Group, avant-garde artists from America, with their new work “The B-side”. The German troupe Rimini Protokoll bring us “Remote Taipei”, a documentary theatre program that has toured extensively. The Voleur du Feu Theatre and Japanese director Oriza Hirata jointly present “Taipei Notes”, marking Hirata’s third visit to Taiwan. Equally impressive is Loo Hui Phang, the Laotian-French veteran scriptwriter who will present her work “Outside” in collaboration with other two French artists, Jean-François Auguste and Stefan Libiot.
Other program highlights include “Ghosts” and “Warten auf Godot”. “Ghosts” is directed by the gifted French artist Pascal Rambert and performed by the Tainaner Ensemble. The show uses poetic dialogue to explore the question of how to mend broken lives. “Warten auf Godot” by Deutsches Theater Berlin has drawn attention and sparked discussion with its eye-catching, funnel-shaped stage and vivid physical performance.
Up-and-coming artists speak out in Taipei

Yang Zhen, an emerging Chinese choreographer who has received great attention in Europe, brings “Minorities”, which focuses on ethnic groups in frontier regions—a politically sensitive subject in China. The show is so popular that the tour has been extended all the way to 2019. Mixing documentary footage, animation, symbolic expression through physical movement, and songs that portray changes and historical progress in China, Yang challenges China’s status quo by asking pointed questions such as “What is the majority and what is the minority?” and “When we’re told to love ‘our China’, whose China are we talking about?”
The co-production “Chantiers d'Europe 2017 in Taipei” by Taipei Arts Festival and Théâtre de la Ville originated at Chantiers d'Europe, an art festival where young artists bring works based on contemporary European trends. With Keng Yi-Wei’s help, Chen Cheng-Ting and Hung Yi-Ting became the first two Taiwanese artists to participate in this annual event in a collaboration with Portuguese artist Ricardo Neves-Neves. Their work, entitled “Îles flottantes”, expresses the idea that Europe is made up of many floating islands that are home to a wide range of people speaking different languages, and that the idea of Europe is basically a collective fiction. The artists have designed a show comprising several sections that can initially seem rather fragmented; but in fact, each section is part of the same world, just like the “islands” composing Europe.
Exploring the future of Eastern aesthetics through Chinese and Taiwanese Opera

The 31-year-old Contemporary Legend Theater teamed up with German dramaturge Christoph Lepschy to present their latest work, “Faust”, which has 11 performers and 5 musicians playing 70 roles throughout the show. Starring Wu Hsing-Kuo, Chu Po-Cheng, and Jolin Huang, the production contains over 12,000 lines and explores dreams, wisdom, and love. With Kang Yen-Ling’s fine costumes, Ricky Liu ’s magical and versatile sets, and Wang I-Yu ‘s gentle melodies on the guzheng (Chinese zither), Contemporary Legend Theatre mounts yet another delightful theatrical performance.
Taiwanese Opera Troupe, who have been nominated for the Taishin Visual Arts Award, and Lukas Hemleb, an opera director known for “Mackay—The Black Bearded Bible Man” and “Luo Shen Fu”. They have adapted the famous work by French playwright Marivaux “The Game of Love and Chance”, blending it with Taiwanese opera and adding humorous and memorable dialogue to give it a new feel and make a must-see cross-cultural show for the last couple days of the festival.

Lighting up the city with classic plays and hi-tech interactive installations

“Positively Charged” at the Digital Art Center is an art installation tailor-made for Taipei city by British artist Kasia Molga. It features ten sets of interactive devices, each with a crankshaft and a pulse sensor. Visitors can take part free of charge, taking turns to “power” the city by turning the crank—the electricity generated lights up the city view on the wall. At the same time, the projection screen linked to the pulse sensor shows how many watts the visitor is producing for the city.
“Can Three Make It?” is a classic comedy by the late theatre master Hugh K. S. Lee that is making a return to the stage starring Chu Te-Kang, Tu Shih-Mei, and Chiu Yi-Feng, with Lee's protégé Huang Yu-Tang serving as director.
In total, the three fine performers played thirty roles, rapidly shifting from character to character to present the absurd aspects of urban life in a humorous way. The free show took place at the Da'an Forest Park Amphitheater on August 18.
Presented by Taipei City Government and co-organized by the Taipei Department of Cultural Affairs and Taipei Culture Foundation, the 19th Taipei Arts Festival is being held at a variety of venues, including Metropolitan Hall, Wellspring Theater, Zhongshan Hall, and Da'an Forest Park Amphitheater. The festival will last for six weeks, from August 7 to September 17.
For more information and to buy tickets, visit the official website at www.taipeifestival.org.