The Mobile Reality Theatre “Here Whilst We Walk”
Presenter: Pleasure Ensemble Theatre Company
Time: 15:30, December 15, 2012
Place: Digital Art Center, Taipei (as a point of departure)
Written by Hung-Hung (Hung-ya Yen)
In the past few years, the boundary between performances, happenings, environmental theatre, and reality theater has been more and more blurred. Artists’ action and the theatre practitioners’ audience involvement have come into the same realm. It’s already difficult to use the term “cross-discipline” to cover it all let alone the term itself bears an egoism connotation. We can say that it’s already a common acknowledgement for many artists that they want to create art for artists and audience to share together an unduplicable experience of a specific time and space.
Here Whilst We Walk is led by Brazilian artist Gustavo Ciríaco and Austrian dancer Andrea Sonnberger. There were 12 participants in the walk I joined. We were surrounded by a wide white elastic and we walked as a whole in different parts of Shihlin District for one hour. The rule is no talking and no photographing during the walk. The group was like an amoeba that changed its shape from time to time when it walked through big roads, parks, small alleys, bridges, and empty spaces.
Sometimes the two artists stopped the participants and let them watch the passing cars and pedestrian from a narrow gap between two walls of an alley. It was like watching a long-taken shot in a film: each different character got on stage and passed by, including a woman in a couple always re-arranging her hair while walking, a man who seemed mentally disordered waving his arm to himself, etc. Sometimes, the two artists would step out of the elastic circle and went standing hand-in-hand in front of a small house where there were well-growing flowers and plants and hanging laundry in the balcony; all together they formed a picture of happy well-being. Sometimes they let the participants stay at a L-shaped street corner to watch them separate and walk away from each other without turning back. Sometimes, the group simply stopped on a bridge to look at the dirty trench, or squatted in a park looking up at the trees and the sky. There were two moments that the artists used the elastic to entangle everybody tightly to make us, strangers among ourselves, get close to each other. At last, the artists set free all the participants on a empty spacious ground, gave away kites written with words of WE, WERE, and HERE, and let everybody run to fly kites.
What is different from the general performance art is that the participants in these mobile scenes were at the same time audience and performers. This strange group attracted people’s attention and questioning; the group was like a temporary mobile sculpture and became a hetero existence in life. (Some comments from a passer-by on streets: “they’re making a boat. See? That’s the head of the boat and that’s the tail.”) The group even caused the governor of the neighborhood uneasy and therefore called the police to intervene and to question; perhaps the governor thought the group was an evil religious gathering. For the participants, the tour was like a sightseeing trip but because of the rules of keeping silent, we were not able to talk and gossip with our friends like we would usually do when traveling. Instead, we were given the chance to breathe with eyes and ears open. With calm new perspective, we experienced the crooked and solitary spaces on the border of a city and also the little reality theatre either devised or happening spontaneously.
The promotional flyer mentions that the program Here Whilst We Walk has been invited to many different cities to perform. It’s hard to say it’s an artwork; in fact it’s more like a frame of the landscape. With the changing of the characteristics of each different city and each different participant, the theatre inside the frame changes. Just like flying kites. It means so much different with regard to the effect and the meaning whether the kites are played on an empty ground between old buildings, or by the seaside, or in a big green park. It’s also like a classical play changing its appearance when presented by different performers; only now, the creative new performer is this city and every citizen who lives and walks in it.