Stories that Around Us: A Flash Residency
Voyant (2020) and Stage of Ancestors (2020) are two site-specific performances that I choreographed and co-directed at Zheng Village Ancestral Hall. I was inspired by local's stories, histories, memories, and sporots.
Ancestor Hall is a monument for Chinese people to worship their ancestors. The space carries a few generations of shared memories and histories. It also connects people’s spirits and identities with their land.
I reflected on my own experience living in a western country and the feeling of strangeness, alienation, and nostalgia. It encourages me to make a piece that expresses the feelings of the homeland and also creates a dialogue between the past and present.
Entering gates guarded by gods old and new, we follow a priestess as she leads us around the hall unfolding story after story. From documentary theater to performance art to calligraphy to opera to a final encounter with the ancestors, we present a sense of place that finds the mystical under the quotidian, the mythical under the real.
Under the guidance of a high priestess, the performers awaken the audience's sense of smell, hearing, and vision, to create an immersive sacred experience. We reproduce the function of the sacrifice in ancient public culture and guide minority groups to connect with the ancestors of the hall under a modern context of self-expression and public discussion. In a modern society where cultural inheritance is broken, this work explores how we can gain a sense of belonging by relinking with tradition in both the spiritual and material, the conceptual and spatial.
Stage of Ancestors
In modern society, the relationship between people and the ancestral hall has been separated. Through this work, the creator formally visits and bids farewell to his ancestors. The work borrows the creator’s identity as a descendant of the Zheng family and this specific site, expressing dialogue with the ancestors not limited to personal statements and expressions, but extending to the viewer and the place, to the ancestors and today's people, past and present.
The work uses the role of traditional opera in the sacrificial environment to symbolically complete the confession to the ancestors by constructing a "shadow drama." As a singer who worships the image of the descendants, the creator emphasizes a sense of dislocation, of "unable to communicate," with a paragraph of English lyrics from "The Drunken Concubine." The huge silhouettes of the ancestors incarnate as "larger than life," yet gradually change from nothingness to concreteness, as the spirit is embodied to paint the face of the Zheng descendant.