Jump to the content zone at the center

For two dear friends, the past is a foreign country

Art editor Img
Photo from Taipei Arts Festival
Jun Yang, left, and Michikazu Matsune with a photo of the Moon Landing in 1969.

By Ariston Ramos

Jun Yang (楊俊), a cross-category Taiwan artist who frequently performs at European and Asian biennales, has co-produced “The Past is a Foreign Country” with Japanese performance artist Michikazu Matsune. Performance art consists of live or recorded, spontaneous or scripted actions performed by artists.
From August 31 to September 2, the two artists will give three performances at Zhongshan Hall’s Zhongzheng Theater. The presentation will include a short film and the brand new production “Dear Friend,” in which they act out a lecture on the absurdity of unforeseen historical events such as the present pandemic.
“Dear Friend” opens with Kamishibai (紙芝居), a kind of traditional Japanese story-telling. Yang and Matsune use pictures to portray their personal experiences and some global historical events such as the 1969 moon landing, the 2018 inter-Korean summit, and present territorial disputes between East Asian countries.

Art editor Img
Photo from Taipei Arts Festival
Matsune and Yang with a photo of the 2018 inter-Korean summit.

Kamishibai started in Japan towards the end of the 19th century as a street performance art using puppets made of paper and wood. The storyteller would first write the story on a wooden board and then use the puppet as a visual aid to narrate the story. Yang learned this storytelling art when he lived in Japan for several years.
In “The Past is a Foreign Country,” Yang and Matsune share with the audience their memories of growing up and how those memories relate to global historical events. They then explain how the events have helped shape their own lives, their national identity, and their culture.
Born in Austria, Yang is a visual artist who creates images, installations, and public art in Taipei, Yokohama, and Vienna. At the age of 30, he won the Msgr. Otto Mauer-Preis Award, the highest in the Austrian art world.
Matsune was born in Kobe and lives in Vienna, where he works as a performance artist and dancer. His performances satirize the way we use language, the places we choose to live, and how we react physically to difficult situations.

Art editor Img
Photo from Taipei Arts Festival
Yang and Matsune’s performance portrays how world events have shaped their lives, national identity, and culture.

“The Past is a Foreign Country” was Matsune and Yang’s first co-production for the 2018 Gwangju Biennale in Seoul and also Yang’s first performance art creation. When he was a boy, Yang’s parents immigrated to Austria, where he met Matsune, and the two of them became friends because they were both Asian—which is unusual in European art circles.
Yang came to Taiwan for the performance, but with the resurgence of Covid-19 in Japan he had to sign a document at Narita International Airport waiving his right to return. Upon arrival in Taipei, he had online meetings with Matsune, who was in Vienna, and they planned their performance and came up with the concept of “Dear Friend.”
In “Dear Friend,” the audience sees Yang perform on stage while Matsune gives his performance on a screen. This dual-venue presentation expresses the deeply felt isolation that many are experiencing during the pandemic. According to Yang, the visual arts and performance arts have completely different theatrical principles and styles, but for “Dear Friend” they strove to achieve a more unified performance. “We both felt that this was a unique theatrical experience, but it could be our last co-production,” he said.
More information at: https://www.artsfestival.taipei/FilmContent.aspx?ID=33
News windows:
0978-322-873 chris.tseng@tapc-taipei.org
0930-795-453 chiunghua.kuo@tpac-taipei.org