ArtsCross Observations (2)
Thoughts on Seminar 2
In my view, cross-linguistic research is essentially a form of cross-cultural research. Just like Ya-Ping‘s keyword for today, “travel”, the cultural journey is unrestrained from the outset. While people constitute the subjective participants in “travel”, while on the road, people are often unable to control their own destiny. As they say in the Chinese Kung Fu novels, “Out there in the real world, you don’t control your own destiny.”
1. The openness of culture — the objectivity of cross-culturalism
Modern developments in science and technology, along with greater global interconnectedness, have sped up the development of cross-culturalism and linguistic crossover. No longer can the cultures of individual groups and regions remain as closed-off systems (in reality, cultures have always been open systems. The high point of dance within China’s Tang Dynasty was intimately linked to crossovers with the Nanbei civilization during the Northern Wei and Jin dynasties. Duncan’s modern dance was strongly influenced by ancient Greek civilization). Against such an open, complex backdrop, identification of cultural boundaries becomes very difficult. The dynamic development of culture means that cultural identification and recognition is a constantly evolving process. Therefore, in defining and recognising identity, cultural symbols which contain both inherent meaning and external appearance become the primary means of differentiation thanks to the ease with which they can be recognised. Therefore, the fine arts, architecture, dance and other such form-based art forms are often adopted as symbols representing the cultures of races/ countries/regions.
As with Guo Lei’s piece, the symbolic nature of the masks and gestures allowed the piece to become a focal point for the curiosity and interest of the Taipei and London academics in Chinese traditional culture. Just like Xu Rui said, this work was created by Guo Lei within a cross-disciplinary and cross-linguistic context — it had some specifically representative aspects and some more generally representative aspects. Just like I wrote in my blog: “One of the experimental aspects of the ArtsCross project is that it creates a highly concentrated creative environment – between West and East; between cities: Beijing, Taipei, London; between people of different backgrounds: choreographers, dancers, academics, etc.” Cross-cultural and cross-linguistic elements are to be found everywhere. At times we do not realise it, yet sometimes we sense it clearly.
2. The diversity of culture — the complexity of ArtsCross
The existence and development of culture forms the backdrop for ArtsCross. It is the co-existence of different regional/ethnic/national cultures. The approach adopted by ArtsCross is to seek crossovers in approaches to thought and expression. The process of ArtsCross creation is from one side influenced by the conditions imposed by the creative environment (such as the imposition of themes, time constraints, choice of dancers, etc.). From another side, the creation is influenced by the ideas within the “idea base” of the choreographer and the dancer (for example the interpretation of the theme, the understanding of a specific cultural form, including the language of communication. Here we again encounter the issue of English and Chinese translation capabilities). So, the special nature of research within the ArtsCross project is a function of its variety and complexity. It is not simply research into artistic creation, or performance. Rather, it takes place within an extremely rich, yet highly complex research context and perspective. This is where the value of ArtsCross lies: through creating a special creative environment, and engaging in analysis and research of cultural crossovers, dance creation within a cross-disciplinary context, and the complexity of performance, we obtain ideas and approaches based on understanding, analysis and judgement. At the practical level, we gain an awareness of the meaning and value of communication within a diversified world, allowing us to better represent the inherent value of culture, thereby obtaining a sense of recognition of cultural identity.
In the rehearsal studio, the dancers and choreographers use dance to record and to express. Within the same space, we observe and reflect. Essentially, each participant, under the guidance of their culturally-informed thought patterns, is seeking to create an expression of emotion, starting from a foundation of rational thought, while we are seeking to engage in rational thinking based on emotional observation. Everyone breathed in the oxygen of cross-culturalism in the space provided by ArtsCross.