Review: GayBird and Tsai Ming-liang make audience part of their show

OneZero, collaboration between Hong Kong musician and veteran filmmaker, is more an art installation than a concert

PUBLISHED : Monday, 31 October, 2016, 11:15am
UPDATED : Monday, 31 October, 2016, 11:22am

One Zero, a collaboration between Hong Kong independent musician Keith Leung Kei-cheuk (aka Gaybird) and veteran filmmaker Tsai Ming-liang, is not so much a concert as a huge installation that redefines the theatre space and experience.

Though the concept of moving the audience around inside the auditorium during a performance is not new – the Hong Kong Dance Company did something similar in Reveries of the Red Chamber in August, also at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre Studio Theatre – the purpose of this participatory format is more effectively realised in this production, which is part of this year’s Hong Kong New Vision Arts Festival.

Hong Kong new-media artist GayBird teams up with filmmaker Tsai Ming-liang

The 90-minute show was divided into three parts. In the first, audience members could roam freely on the upper gallery of the theatre. There were score sheets on music stands, and the dimly lit light bulbs overhead pulsated to the electronic music drifting in the background, evoking imageries of nature and magic.

Then Leung, dressed entirely in white and wearing a top hat, appeared under a spotlight as if he was a shaman about to perform a sacred ritual. He walked slowly around the auditorium, pausing at four points where he created music using small instruments pre-installed on a pedestal. This part ended when a video was projected onto two large screens below and the audience was ushered down to the stage area.

A big pendulum swung slowly next to large screens showing a series of videos by Tsai. The main piece, in black and white, focused on a wild spot on the roadside, with the occasional vehicle roaring past making a terrifyingly loud “vroom” sound. A couple of musicians played the fiddle from the gallery above. The themes of passage of time and urbanisation came to mind.

Filmmaker Tsai Ming-liang on sexuality and being touched by a goddess

For the final and longest part of the performance, the audience took up their seats while the four instrumentalists – Leung, cellist Winca Chan, accordion player Natalie Zhang and Nate Wong on drum and percussion – took to the stage, performing in front of a short film featuring Tsai’s long time collaborator Lee Kang-sheng.

There was a total disconnect between the music and the visuals. Leung may have been asking (through his synthesised voice) “where are we?” and urging us to “wake and see”, but Lee behind him was doing something else: having his face smeared with charcoal, eating, or resting in what looks like a spa pool.

The music (contemporary and accessible) and the means used to create it (including an instrument that looked like a ticker tape machine) made this part of the show engaging.

One Zero, Gaybird x Tsai Ming-liang, Hong Kong Cultural Centre Studio Theatre. Reviewed: October 29