2017年9月3日 星期日

【專訪】黃思農 用數位+類比的聲音劇場,揭露當下 Snow Huang- Using Digital-Analog Sound Theater to Unmask the Present

文 洪瑞薇 Hung, Jui-Wei

As a theater playwright-director and a sound artist, Snow Huang stands out from the others in Taiwan’s theater circle with his dual talent. Along with his Against Again Troupe, Huang has been audacious in addressing social issues that are often deemed “marginal” by the mainstream. He has tried hard to revolutionize the sensory experience of theater-watching and redefine the concept of theater. As his Götterdämmerung had just won the Sound Design Gold Award at the 2017 World Stage Design, we sat down for an interview with Huang to find out about the thinking and execution behind his sound projects and theatrical works.

Der Ring des Nibelungen: A Revolution Unarmed- Götterdämmerung
Photo by: 唐健哲 Chien-Che Tang

Fly Global(以下簡稱FG):你既為劇場編導,也從事音樂創作,這種雙棲狀態似乎可以很直接地解釋,聲音與劇場為何在你的創作中如此密不可分。然而真是如此嗎?可否描述一下這個關係的進程?You are a theater playwright-director and a sound artist. This duality seems to explain how inseparable sound and theater are in your creation. But is that really so? Could you describe how the relationship between the two genres has evolved in your life?

Snow Huang (Huang): I started learning music at a very young age. But after I founded Against Again Troupe in 2002, I spent the first couple of years writing and directing. I wanted to convey something through arts, and using music alone wasn’t enough. As a director, I can use many other elements to get my message across.

Silent Left Hand, created in 2007, was the troupe’s first rock musical. I was the director, instrumentalist and co-composer. Kuroshioand Fable to be, or not to be — “Wang (to forget)”, both made in 2009, represent the more interdisciplinary endeavors. I was again the writer-director and a musician playing a role on stage. That was the beginning of my “new music theater”, which cannot be defined as purely sound-based or visual-based.

Götterdämmerung was another turning point. In 2014, the troupe was invited to perform the finale of Der Ring des Nibelungen: A Revolution Unarmed. To complement Wagner’s concept of the music-oriented total theater, we decided to give a contemporary version of the play by adding sound performance, noise punk, heavy metal and revolutionary songs. Adopting a format of collective creation, we tried to break away from the unilateral directorial thinking and create an aurally-engaging theater. The process was rather painful, but the result from all those collisions was interesting. That experience has proven to be rewarding for each of the ten participating artists.

Wei-lian Wang x Snow Huang: Kuroshio
Photo by: 陳顥 Hao Chen

FG:再拒由多位跨域創作者組成,一路認真的挑起劇場感官經驗的革命,舉辦多年的「公寓聯展」即是個著重官能的微型劇場,它原是以公寓裡的狹窄空間為舞台,後來是因何衍生出「漫遊者劇場」,出走到城市空間中?Against Again comprises several interdisciplinary artists, who have dedicated themselves to revolutionizing the sensory experience of theater-watching. Apartment Showcase, which has been held for some years, is a micro-theater focusing on sensory perception. Initially based in a cramped apartment, the project has grown into Promenade Theater that extends into the urban landscape. How did that happen?

Huang: Apartment Showcase originated from Micro-Theater Statement. We believe that a narrower venue amplifies the sensory perception of the audience and that artists need to seek new modes of performance and aesthetic expression to adapt to a smaller venue. The project first took place at the troupe’s base, which was our residence. It was a typical Asian apartment – long, narrow, run-down, dark and poorly ventilated. The artists performed in the kitchen, bathroom and living room. We lived together, rehearsed in front of each other and decided how the individual performances were put together as a whole-night show.

Many of the themes were related to urban life. It was more than just the personal history of the apartment or the artists themselves, so we always wanted to bring such a mode of creation to other venues in the city.

2009 Apartment Showcase
Photo by: 謝岱汝 Tai-Ju Hsieh

Later, I curated a performance-exhibition called All that’s left to happen is some deaths (my own included) at an art gallery. I added a theme: a theater without actors. The idea came from the types of artists we had in the troupe. There were some who specialized in object-theater, sound or lighting. So I thought, perhaps I could use those different elements to construct a person who is “not there”. The entire exhibition centered on a person who, despite being absent, made his phantom-like presence felt even more strongly.

By considering the sensual effect of theater first, we added different elements into the mix, one after another, and developed a different kind of aesthetic expression. For the 2016 Apartment Showcase, we decided to step out of our base and bring the performance to other apartments in the city. My Everyday Practice: Vanishing Act featured strolling tours in Ximending, Taipei City. Using cassette sound as the main element, I invited the audience to perceive their surroundings with their body. That was the beginning of Promenade Theater.

All that’s left to happen is some deaths (my own included)
再拒劇團提供 Photo provided by Against Again Troupe

FG:「漫遊者劇場」迄今已在台灣、澳門發展了四件作品,它們之間有什麼相承的脈絡?你為何更鍾情於西門町、萬華這類「老台北」,以及磁帶、錄音機等「過往之物」?Promenade Theater has yielded four pieces in Taiwan and Macau. What is the shared background of those works? Why are you fascinated by Ximending, Wanhua, or what we call the “Old Taipei” and “things of the past”, such as cassette and tape recorder?

Huang: In Promenade Theater, the audience listens to recordings in various corners of the city. When doing so, they help construct a performance without actors. The outcome is largely decided by the audience’s own narratives which are created during the strolling and listening process. At the same time, the fictional sounds and the actual landscape engage in a dialogue or a dialectical relationship. We hope this sensory experience helps the audience to rediscover the city, or, should I say, unmask the daily routines of the city, especially those that are taking place at the present.

Promenade Theater: Here/Elsewhere
Photo by: 唐健哲 Chien-Che Tang

Whatever type of theater you look at, every theatrical work deals with an ongoing “present” which connects the past, the present and the future. For artists like us, the most important thing to do is to expose it. “It” includes the people and objects that have been excluded from modernization. Go find out what the city has left behind. Then you would get a better picture of the city’s true nature.

This is why I’m intrigued by old places and old objects. They haven’t completely disappeared, but are just forgotten. Recordings are like a key to the city’s basement. They help excavate what’s been going on under the surface. We unmask the present by summoning the past and making it collide with the present. Such an attitude toward the past is different from, say, running a museum, where you simply showcase things of the past. For that reason, I didn’t just grab a senior resident to talk about the past. What I did was creating a fictional detective text and using verfremdungseffekt, or “distancing effect”, as the aesthetic technique. I deliberately emphasize the “outdatedness” of certain things.

Promenade Theater: Here/Elsewhere
Photo by: 唐健哲 Chien-Che Tang

FG:類似的過往物事、聲響,也同樣出現在你目前於北美館參展的《年度考核協奏》中,請談談這件作品的創作想法。Things and sounds “of the past” also appear in your Concert of Performance Review, which is currently on display at Taipei Fine Arts Museum. Tell us about the concept behind that project.

Huang: Concert of Performance Review uses cassettes, nails and hammers to mimic office labor. Day after day, office workers repeatedly adjust corporate budgets, correct numbers and aim for higher KPIs. The scene speaks about the atomization of modern-day societies, which has resulted from the progression of capitalism since the Industrial Revolution. I deliberately chose to describe it in another theatrical language for the audience to draw the connection.

One person hammers a nail at one end and takes care of his part, but another person may need to hammer his nail at the other end to make the whole thing work. Everyone is solitarily dealing with the state of working like an atom in the atomized social life. However delicate a plan is, whenever a crisis occurs, it calls for immediate correction to restore things so they meet their original estimates. Such daily crises repeat endlessly, creating a feeling of helplessness. It is like the circling train featured in the play – forever trapped in repeated anxiety and crises, or, in the words of Friedrich Nietzsche, caught in “eternal recurrence”.

This project also reflects my thoughts about “musical notation”: What are the possibilities in the relationship between the notation and the performance? Can notation include the traces of performance after the performance is finished? And can these “traces” become the objectives for a performer? These are some of the philosophical questions about “time” that I would ask myself.

Concert of Performance Review, displayed at Arena, Taipei Fine Arts Museum
Photo credit: Dodo

FG:你的聲音創作有個特質是,援用數位工具、卻極力想做出類比的質地,為何如此?One thing unique about your sound pieces is that you use digital tools to create analog textures. Why is that?

Huang: I use both digital and analog mediums. They are fundamentally different, not only in the sound qualities they produce, but also in cultural, semiotic and political significance. Therefore, the choice between digital and analog depends on what theme you’re dealing with. Let’s get back to the background of my creation. To me, “sound” is something that can vanish. For example, a cassette is a memory carrier. It’s tangible. You can hold it in your hand, play it, forward it or rewind it. And one day, you erase it. If I want to highlight the unreliability in modern life, then cassette would be a more suitable medium. I have my preference, too. I do find analog sounds more appealing. Besides, there aren’t many Taiwanese artists who specialize in analog noise. I wanted to find out what possibilities I could get out of it. Of course, digital tools are more convenient. It makes a difference to what you create. For example, if you compare the works from the mechanical era and the digital era, you would find a lot of differences in sound editing techniques. So digital technology did open up many possibilities.

Concert of Performance Review, displayed at Arena, Taipei Fine Arts Museum
Photo by: 唐健哲 Chien-Che Tang

FG:在聲音劇場的創作中,你最在意的事情有哪些?或者說,你最想要讓觀眾體驗到的是什麼?In creating sound theater, what are the things you care most about? Or, should I ask, what are the things that you want your audience to experience most?

黃:在這樣不再視覺獨大的劇場裡,有一個很大的關於感官接收的可開發處女地,既然改變了感知模式,它也就會影響到觀者與作品的距離,使人產生新的意識。姑且把文本內容都拋開,期待觀眾至少可以意識到,我們對聽覺的敏銳性,在生活過程當中慢慢的退化了。在經歷了這樣的作品以後,當走進一個地方,他或許會開始想,現在聽到了什麼聲音?我覺得聲音劇場或新音樂劇場其實就是在提醒我們,要用不同的角度去感知習以為常的日常。Huang: In a theater that is no longer monopolized by visual sensations, there is a huge virgin land to cultivate new sensory experience. Since the mode of perception is altered, it changes the distance between the audience and the artwork and thereby helps them make new realizations. Let’s ignore the textual content of the play for the sake of argument, then we could at least expect the audience to realize that our (human being’s) sensitivity to sound gradually deteriorates as we move on with our daily life. After experiencing a theatrical work like this, a person, whenever he steps into a new environment, may begin to ask himself:What’s the sound I’m hearing? I think sound theater or new music theater is about reminding us to perceive, from a different perspective, the daily routines that we have taken for granted.