“Rehearsal for the present Part I” , 2019

Site Specific, Performance

collaborated with Yasen Vaseli during ADAM lab 3 organized by Taipei Performing Arts Centre

       In “Rehearsal for the Present” by artists Yasen Vaseli and Ip Wai Lung, participants were asked to wear black and to be part of a ‘silent protest’, marching together as a group from the library of the Taiwan National University to the Gongguan station underpass, where Taipei residents had set up a ‘Lennon Wall’ in solidarity with Hong Kong pro-democracy protestors.

        We were all also asked to download the Telegram app, and along the way, we received a stream of information regarding the research conducted by the artists. Telegram, as many would know, was the app of choice used by Hong Kong activists to communicate with one another. The messaging app allows for group chats with up to 200,000 members, which makes it a very useful tool for community organising.

        Coming from a country where public assembly is a crime, it was a very interesting experience for me. What does it mean to march together? What is the choreography of protest—the keeping pace with one another, the touching of shoulders, the linking of arms, the adjusting of individual rhythms to a collective one? The intimacies of solidarity: another person’s sweat, smell, weight, vulnerability, personal spaces reduced between bodies, presences not merely tolerated but welcomed and embraced...

        But the event was not in itself a protest. It was a simulation of a protest, in a space of contradiction. We were connected through the information on our phones: photographs of the artists visiting various locations, videos of events such as a pro-Hong Kong flash mob in Taipei, a little nugget like how the Taipei Lennon Wall was guarded 'as a free space of expression' by policemen 24/7 on 2 hour shifts.

        But anyone who saw us would think of us as a zombie procession of smartphone addicts, disconnected from each other, with a funereal gait that was tied to our reading rate. Even as we scrolled through data in an encrypted ‘secret chat’, many of us were also somewhat indifferent to the cameras that were circling us and documenting our every move.
At one point, I looked around me and noticed anew our black uniform. In solidarity with the Hong Kong protestors, yes. But also: our physical selves as shadows, lagging behind our virtual selves. We were silent protestors whose true assembly was taking place online.

        The proliferation of media images has given us unprecedented access into the innards of the protests in Hong Kong. And yet what are we looking at? What is it about these images that trigger a sense of unreality? What feels real, ultimately, is our absence from the scene—the scene of violence, the scene of history.

A reflective Sunday morning, the words of Gil Scott-Heron echoing from somewhere close, yet far away:

“The revolution will not be televised, will not be televised
Will not be televised, will not be televised
The revolution will be no re-run brothers
The revolution will be live”

review by Alfian Sa’at