2019 Seminar in Taipei: Finding common ground in cultural difference
The Seminar in Taipei is a Pro Helvetia initiative in collaboration with the Taipei Arts Festival that brings together multi-disciplinary arts practitioners from the region, Switzerland and the Pro Helvetia Liaison Office network for a 10-day programme of engagement in parallel to the annual Taipei Arts Festival in Taiwan. This intensive watch-and-talk programme developed out of the Pro Helvetia Séminaire en Avignon that has taken place since 2013 during the Festival d’Avignon in France.
The Seminar in Taipei aims to offer a creative and critical space for artists to learn from peers within the selected group as well as their global colleagues participating in the Taipei Arts Festival. This second edition of the seminar, which took place from 9 – 18 August 2019, included post-performance artist talks, keynote lectures, site visits, workshops and extended discussions aimed at diversifying learning trajectories and enriching exchange possibilities.
The seminar this year was curated by Esther Lu, who carefully designed the process and methodology of the programme to create space for multi-narration, co-learning and reflection to take place. The emphasis was not on any preconceived output or structured collaboration, but rather for the artists to take advantages of being together in a diverse group—in a network of uneven experience and knowledge, and to learn from each other. Esther explains that “There were a few embedded triggers to encourage generosity by building trust and understanding, sharing sympathy toward each other’s backgrounds and differences, first as individual human beings, later as artists.”
This year’s seminar programme was curated to weave through two focus subjects: identity and body. In response to the theme of the Taipei Arts Festival, I (do not) belong to you, the seminar focused on ideas of cultural diversity and identity, while offering an introduction to the local Taiwanese social-historical context and art history for comparative cultural readings. The programme also created links with arts communities in Taipei for the participants to explore the interplay between traditional and contemporary understandings of aesthetics, philosophy and cosmology in relation to ways of rethinking and reflecting culture in their practices.
Olatunde Obejeun from Nigeria was selected from our office’s network to participate in the seminar. Olatunde is a multidisciplinary artist whose work incorporates music, performance, sound design and filmmaking. He is interested in the meditative potential of music. During a site visit to C-LAB Taiwan Contemporary Culture Lab, he met two artists in residence whose work referenced the ancient art of reading tea leaves. “Their practices got my attention”, Olatunde explains, “they use the common and regular plants to produced tea which in process of serving to the audience becomes a performance. It was really amazing and meditative.”
The C-LAB programme promotes collaboration and audio-visual experimentation, interdisciplinary projects and online-to-offline new media art. This struck a chord with Olatunde, along with watching a series of live sound artist performances in Taipei. “This particular experience triggered my ambition to build a community of sound artist in my country and start a project titled (E.S.A.F) Experimental Sound Art Festival, with the first edition taking place in 2021.”
The 2019 Seminar in Taipei was curated and facilitated by Esther Lu and coordinated by Stéphane Noël. Participants included artists selected from the Pro Helvetia Liaison Office network. This year’s delegation comprised Norhaizad Adam (Singapore), Ko-Yang Chang (Taiwan ROC), Guillaumarc Froidevaux (Switzerland), Chen-yu Huang (Taiwan ROC), Soohye Jang (Korea), Zihan Loo (Singapore), Selena Lu (PR China), Olatunde Obajeun (Nigeria), Shingo Ota (Japan), Camilla Parini (Switzerland), Venuri Perera (Sri Lanka), Zino Wey (Switzerland).
Images courtesy of Seminar in Taipei 2019 participants
The Seminar in Taipei is an initiative of Pro Helvetia in partnership with the National Culture and Arts Foundation of Taiwan, Korea Arts Management Service, the National Arts Council of Singapore, and The Saison Foundation of Japan, realised in collaboration with the Taipei Arts Festival and Taipei Performing Arts Center.