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  • Jun 30, 2020

Works Targeting Social Issues Win 2020 Taishin Arts Award

The winners of the 18th edition of the annual Taishin Arts Award were honored on June 23 at a ceremony in Taiwan, with all of the awarded works examining contemporary social issues. The Annual Grand Prize was conferred to the theater ensemble Against Again Troupe, which received a cash prize of NTD 1.5 million (USD 50,700). Artist Chen I-Hsuen received the  Visual Arts Award and director Wang Shih-Wei won the Performing Arts Award, both obtaining NTD 1 million (USD 33,900) each. Established by the Taishin Bank Foundation for Arts and Culture in 2002, Taishin Arts Award honors the creative achievements of Taiwanese artists.

Against Again Troupe won the grand prize for its theater project White Clear Song (2019). The work retraces the untold memories of Taiwan’s White Terror period—which lasted from 1947–87 during which time martial law was imposed—through a polyphonic form of storytelling that fuses reportage theater with Hakka folk music and oral history records. Written and directed by Snow Huang, the four-person textual-sonic narrative has, in the words of the jury, “transform[ed] the heaviness of White Terror archives into a fluent, profound sound theatre.” The show premiered on August 3 at Kaohsiung Ciaotou Sugar Refinery. The troupe was formed in 2002 by artists born after 1980, to foster experimental theater performances. 

Chen I-Hsuen’s winning solo exhibition “Commissioned,” showcasing an eight-channel video installation, was staged at Taipei’s Hong-gah Museum in 2019. The work features 18 improvised dance choreographies performed by more than 20 artists, whose synchronized movements, under Chen’s direction, reflect a witty role reversal between the commissioner and the commissioned workers, commenting on the interconnectedness of those in the art industry and society at large. Meanwhile, Wang Shih-Wei’s winning theatrical piece Masses (2019), featuring dance performances utilizing simulated smoke, lighting, and sound, highlights the solitariness of social movements, prompting the audience to confront emotions of frustration and isolation as socio-political protests increase worldwide. The show debuted on December 14 at Taipei’s Songshan Cultural and Creative Park.

The three laureates were unanimously selected from a shortlist of 17 finalists. Unlike previous editions which invited international experts, the 2020 award had an all-Taiwanese jury due to Covid-19-induced travel restrictions, which included documentary director and recipient of the inaugural Taishin Arts Award, Huang Ming-Chuan; curator Manray Hsu; and cultural critic Wu Chieh-Hsiang, among others.

Charmaine Kong is an editorial intern of ArtAsiaPacific.

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