27 Nov 2009

Microsoft is the worst online service ever

I can understand Microsoft's strategy to compete with Google, but forcing hotmail users to use Bing is just rediculous and unreasonable.

Maybe I am making a wrong comment here. Hotmail might be down for maintenance problems. But I just cannot accept that whenever I try to access hotmail page I am automatically redirected to Bing. The worst is that I cannot even log in to my hotmail account. What happens after clicking the sign in tab is just the reloading of the Bing. What kind of online service is this? What if people do have urgent and important emails? They should publish news about the problems of their service instead of redirecting users to that useless Bing page without telling them what happened to hotmail.

Honestly speaking, I have never used Bing, and I am sure I won't use it. The reason is I am so used to and also pleased with Google. Bing cannot give anything that is more useful or fun than Google. If redirecting their clients to the Bing is really the strategy of Microsoft, I must say it is a lousy one. People won't use that service just because you force them to see it everyday. It is possible that such action might even provoke users' resentment towards Microsoft. I cannot understand why such a big and experienced company would adopt such lousy strategy. Maybe I should seriously consider giving up hotmail even though I have been using it for more than ten years. After all, gmail actually performs better than hotmail.

21 Sep 2009

傻子在這裡,瘋子在那裡?:我們需要更豐富的表演藝術

看戲本來就是種休閒娛樂,為的就是要調劑身心、紓解現實生活的重擔。現實生活中充滿著太多的不如意,所以欲求不滿的我們只好躲進那五光十色的戲院裡,期望著短暫的精神滿足。

就在那戲台上,各式各樣的人生經歷不斷被搬演著,歷史的、現實的、神話的、虛幻的人物活生生地在我們眼前活動著。隨著幕下而又幕起,觀眾席中的我們,心情也隨著那一幕募的場景變換時而歡喜、時而哀傷,或時而憤慨、時而興奮。此時的我不是理智且獨特的單一個體了,而是像被神靈附身般只能任「靈」擺佈,只不過這個「靈」並不是無形不可見的菩薩神佛,而是實際的人。

撥動我們情緒起伏的是活生生在我們眼前活動著的演員,而操控這些演員的則是個有著極為專業名稱的人──導演。事實上導演從不是直接地控制我們,他總是間接地經由演員、佈景、聲音效果、燈光變化將我們的情感引發出來,進入我們的深層意識中挑動我們的情感反應。坐在觀眾席裡,我們就像傻子般任他操弄,因為在那劇場黑盒子裡,我們沒有說話的權力,也沒有介入演出的勇氣。我們相信看戲就是要乖乖地坐在觀眾席中,噤聲不語以免吵到旁邊的觀眾,或者說這樣才能專心一致的感受舞台上的風景。舊時代熱鬧的看戲習慣,在那一波波東來的西潮裡早被侵蝕殆盡,現存的只是西化後的審美態度。短短一百年時間,傳統的觀戲態度變成了落後、不文明的代表。這種轉變不是是非對錯的問題,它純粹是價值觀隨著時代的改變而不斷出現自我修正的文化現象。

黑盒子另一端光亮的演出空間就是個實際存在的生活空間,裡面發生的點點滴滴滿足了我們窺視的慾望。我們都是喜歡偷窺別人生活的,偷窺引發的刺激感是那麼的強烈。當舞台上出現可笑的動作時我們大笑,而當主角遭受到莫大的痛苦時我們也悲傷了起來,因為那些都不是發生在我們身上的。因此看戲時我們只隨著劇情的起伏而笑或哭,從不會認真地思考要怎麼去解決劇中人所遭遇的困境或窘境。相信自己是理性個體的我們,在這黝黑的觀眾席裡變成了一群感性的傻子,不假思索地相信與認同導演刻意安排的一切。

當傻子並沒有什麼不好,因為在劇場黑盒子裡,傻子是不斷的在接受訊息,不斷的重新認知世界,也不斷的在回傳訊息。換句話說,傻子絕不會兩手空空地走出劇院。就算看了一場糟糕透頂的戲,傻子也會意識到戲是如何糟,也學到了經驗。最後,傻子變成有經驗的傻子,他了解到什麼叫做戲,也更深刻的體會到生命的意義,人生的目的。

俗語說演戲的是瘋子,因為演員在舞台上總是要變成別人,拋棄掉他的自我不再做自己。我們總認為瘋子整天胡言亂語,不知道他自己到底是什麼,但是瘋子才不認為他是瘋子,因為他的所作所為對他來說都是有意義的,只不過他認為的意義對我們這些所謂的正常人來說是不合邏輯、缺乏意義的。演員在舞台上不做他自己。舞台上的言行舉止通常是不合常規、甚至是有違禮教,但是舞台上的這些語言、行為、態度卻是戲發展下去的動力,所以說演戲的都是瘋子。可是現代劇場中的演員並不像舊時期的演員一般,雖仍如瘋子般的在舞台上胡言亂語,但他們早已喪失了自己選擇作為瘋子的權力。他瘋狂的狀態並不如真實的瘋子般具有自主、自由的特性;相反的,他的瘋狂全是被操控的,是一種刻意的安排。在背後指使這一切的就是導演,一個劇場中至高無上的領導者、現代劇場的獨家產物。

這個操控著演員行動、玩弄著我們情感反應的導演才是個真正的瘋子,他才不在乎現實世界該是怎樣,也不在乎那些綁手綁腳的規則。他要說的是如果沒有規則、如果事情不是這樣的、如果我們不再是我們所想的那樣,那事實到底是什麼?或者,他根本不在乎事實到底是什麼,他純粹只要利用他所能掌握的身體、聲音、影像勇敢地、大聲地說出他的想法、心事、厭惡、喜好等。一個導演應該在幕起後迅速地控制著我們的思考,並引導著我們進入他的世界裡。剎那間,理性的我們遇見了瘋狂的導演,因他既感性又藝術性的視覺、聽覺震撼,我們一次又一次地進入了如被附身般的痴傻狀態。就算是布萊希特這樣要求觀眾理性參與以及批判性態度的導演,不也是藉著對所有舞台元素的控制,尤其是演員表現的強列要求,將他的觀眾轉化成理性的社會批評家嗎?但觀眾席中的社會批評家真的就像導演所要的那樣,是一群具有高度理智的人嗎?或者,這群社會批評家不過就是因導演意圖安排而產生的理性的傻子。

布萊希特是厲害的,因為他有辦法將一群平凡的人,一群從來就不會意識到社會規範問題與發掘社會不公的人,轉化成富有批判能力的社會觀察家。也因為他勇於揭發社會上諸多的不公平,將不可說的、不能做的禁忌呈現在舞台上,突顯出他瘋狂的一面。若是為了名利,為了政府補助,他就不會用那麼瘋狂的行徑來做戲,戲劇史上也就不會有史詩劇場與疏離效果這些催生現代戲劇發展的重要理論。

我們每個人都可以是所謂的戲劇鑑賞家,也都可以是戲劇批評家,因為鑑賞家、批評家就是對戲有經驗的傻子,因為他的經驗豐富,他甚至可以進入戲的生產領域中敦促戲劇的發展。可是何以當代社會這麼缺乏這些人呢?原因很簡單,戲太少了。更重要的是沒有做戲的瘋子。現在做戲的人缺少瘋狂,並太過理性地在做戲。缺乏瘋狂的心態,所以不感性,做出來的戲只不過是形式的呈現,不過是一種模仿式的前衛。也因過度的理性,導致做戲的人棄觀眾於不顧,不斷地重複著他們理性思考中認為非常重要的藝術實驗。我們不能否認藝術需要不斷地被實驗,但是實驗的目的不是為了更深入了解人生嗎?不是為了將作品呈現於觀眾眼前嗎?更何況實驗本質上就是瘋狂的舉動,沒有異於常人的瘋狂想法,實驗不過就是重複別人的動作,就是抄襲。在這種抄襲的、形式化的、公式化的戲裡,觀眾的存在變得可有可無,因為戲根本與觀眾的生活、人的問題的探索一點關係也沒有。可以說是戲本身不斷地排斥著觀眾,而觀眾也在經歷過無數次的失望、不解與受辱後,不願意再次進入劇場裡。因為經驗事實告訴他,原來戲這樣無聊、這麼難以理解、這般遠離他的經驗世界。

但弔詭的是做戲的人全然不知就是他們自己將觀眾推出劇場大門,還不斷推出更難懂、更遠離人們的作品。之前的小劇場工作者打著藝術名號指責觀眾缺乏藝術性,怪罪社會對他們的藝術不重視。他們搬出了亞陶、葛羅托斯基、和謝喜那的理論來捍衛他們的前衛性,卻誠然不知他們對西方表演理論充滿著誤讀與不解。事實上對觀眾最不客氣的葛羅托斯基從未完全將觀眾排除在外,更重要的是他高度藝術性的實驗是一種對生命全面式的探討,一種意圖詮釋藝術與生命間錯綜複雜關係的嘗試。一個偉大的瘋子;他最瘋狂的就是把人的身體直接作為實驗的對象,並且對觀眾做出了最嚴厲的要求。他的瘋狂成就了他的藝術,也讓所有對戲懷抱希望的人一直遺憾無法親身經歷葛式表演的震撼與感動。

身為看戲的傻子,我不需要去忍受一齣讓我傻不下去的戲。當戲的主人無法附身於我身上時,我只好走出戲院,投向其他能撼動我身、心、靈的娛樂的懷抱。做戲的瘋子更不需要去迎合觀眾口味,因為那只會俗化戲的品質。做戲就是意圖將觀眾全變成傻子,如果只是一味地追求形式上的變化而不顧意義呈現,那只會僵化戲的內容。當代劇場的貧乏並不是因缺少願意當傻子的觀眾,而是欠缺有勇氣的瘋子,沒有願意用戲來探討生命意義的瘋子。我們急需如亞陶般瘋狂的劇場人,一個能夠用舞台語彙驚嚇我們,但卻能讓我們意識到自身存在的矛盾的做戲的瘋子。

28 Jul 2009

另一位大師的離開 Merce Cunningham

Merce Cunningham (right) and John Cage (left)
photo from A Sky filled with Shooting Stars

2003年11月,在倫敦 Tate Modern 的 Turbine Hall,那是我第一次親眼見到 Merce Cunningham,也是我第一次感受到什麼叫做純粹的舞蹈(dance for dance's sake)。為了紀念 Dance Umbrella 舞蹈節 25 歲,同時也是MCDC (Merce Cunningham Dance Company) 50 歲生日,舞蹈節特別邀請 Cunningham 編排新舞作 Anniversary Events 作為當年舞蹈節的閉幕演出。音樂由音樂家 Takehisa Kosugi 現場指揮並演奏,服裝設計是 James Hall,而整體環境與裝置藝術由冰島/丹麥裔藝術家 Olafur Eliasson 設計。與不同藝術家配合是 Cunningham 一貫的風格,而與不同類型藝術家合作的過程反映出 Cunningham 所謂的「機會」(chance)的概念,也是這種由易經六十四卦而推演出的「機會」(chance)的舞蹈理念讓 Cunningham 能夠不斷的革新舞蹈,甚至於 90 歲高齡還能推出令人驚嘆的作品。

Cunningham 作品的魅力到底在那裡?若要詳述他的舞蹈理念與作品特色,那恐怕不是一本專書就能說的完的。單就 Anniversary Events 這齣作品來看,我們最能直接感受到的就是所謂的純粹舞蹈運動。 Cunningham 認為舞蹈就是舞蹈,它不是用來說故事的工具,因此它不用配合音樂傳遞任何因果關係或者表現任何高潮。換句話說,他將舞蹈從傳統的規範中-尤其是指傳統芭蕾說故事的特性,或是指一般(民俗)舞蹈傳達情緒的傾向-釋放出來,讓舞蹈只是舞蹈運動、律動,不再附屬於敘述性或情感表現性的需求。這種讓觀眾眼睛所見的、身體所感受的純粹的舞蹈動作就是他作品魅力之所在。因為當其他的元素,如音樂、表現性、敘述性、裝置、服裝等等,都只是個別單一的演出成分,並且不與舞蹈動作本身產生關連性時,身體的運動或律動,即是身體本身具備的力量在三度空間的呈現,就成為了演出的中心點,不斷的吸引著觀者的目光。此外,因為舞者與舞者間也不具備著相互的關係,而且舞者們的動作是常常同時於不同的位置發生,這種如同萬花筒般的呈現,給予了觀者目不暇給的觀賞經驗。可以說,對音樂有特殊喜好的觀眾,會在他的作品中直接感受到音樂欣賞的審美樂趣,因為舞蹈不過就是強化了音樂的呈現。相對的,對舞蹈有偏好的,音樂或其他元素則是強化舞蹈的具體呈現,讓觀眾體驗到舞蹈動作的力度與精準。在觀賞的過程中,觀眾不會感覺到任何的壓力,因為沒有故事內容去追尋,沒有高潮可期待,也沒有所謂的「了解」作品的目的,更沒有任何意識或觀念的強迫接受。有的純粹是不同藝術元素單純的、不斷的在呈現,而觀眾可以自行選擇他/她所要看的、聽的、甚至是感覺的,反正在這一個空間中,Cunningham 給的就是這麼多,而且是樣樣周到,任君選擇。

Anniversary Events 演出時的場地是一個空曠的四方形空間,在空間上方裝置藝術家放置了一個如同太陽(或是滿月)的圓形發光體。地板上貼滿了如同走位安排又像是迷宮般的白色膠帶,共分成兩處,一個是大長方形,另一個是較小的四方形。入場時觀眾皆不知所然,大部分的人只是欣賞著空間中的裝置。當突然間的,舞者走入空間,進入到四方形的區域時,所有觀眾才發現舞蹈開始了。這時 Cunningham 早已經將他的魔法散步在空間中的每一個角落。這個演出是沒有空間的分割的,沒有表演區也沒有觀眾席,更沒有樂池的存在。整體演出就好像 60 年代的 Happening 再次出現,它雖是在一種固定的、特殊的場地中出現,但它沒有故事,也沒有意圖去陳述任何觀念或是理想。唯一可以稱之為意圖的是「只是要舞動」。演出過程中觀眾與舞者融成一體,唯一可以區分出誰是舞者的是他們身上穿的線條韻律衣。舞者沒有表情,有的只是極度專注的眼神,而這成為了區分舞者與觀眾的線索之一。進入白線區域之前,舞者就如同觀眾般行動,但當他/她的腳踏上白線的那一剎那間,手抬起了,腳尖也墊高了。Cunningham 的舞蹈動作是需要深入了解的,因為他並未丟棄掉原本芭蕾的身體提升,同時的因為受過 Martha Graham 的訓練並在 Graham 舞團跳了六年,骨盆區域作為重心的舞蹈動作是不斷的與提升的身體產生衝突,但是卻又在身體動作的轉換間獲得了衝突的紓解,因此身體的力量在一上一下的動作間暴發出來。這種因身體本身衝突而爆發的力量是不容小覷的,因為就是這種力量讓觀眾不得不將眼光停滯在舞者身上。

事實上,連舞蹈動作本身也是以「機會」(chance)概念推演出來的。這不是說舞蹈動作並未經過篩選,而是藉由「機會」的運用將舞蹈動作編排成可以於觀眾眼前呈現的作品。這種舞蹈演出理念充滿在整體演出空間中,就像空間中的裝置是一種機會的呈現,它自己獨立存在可供欣賞,但這種存在是機會性的與舞蹈並存,各自不相干擾,各自邀請各自的觀眾去欣賞它自己。音樂也是,服裝也是,甚至於舞者本身也是一種機會性的存在,最後連觀眾自己也是因機會而出現在空間中,他/她不再是觀眾,而是整體空間中的構成部分。作為一個觀眾,我發現我不再是被動的接受體,而是一個主動的積極參與者,雖然我不是參與實質的律動,或是裝置的陳設,或是音樂的呈現,但是我卻是此空間得以存在的構成元素之一。當然的,白線內的區域仍是不容一般人跨越,因為干擾舞者仍是不當的並且有危害舞者安全的顧慮,而且這仍是表演,但我或其他觀眾於空間中其他部分的任意行動,不斷的改變著空間內部的形態,也不斷的創造出新的機會形式。固定的、傳統的表演空間變成了流動的有機空間,而這種流動空間使觀眾對舞蹈、音樂、裝置等等產生了不同的感知,就像是機會式的,必須在那一個點、那一個時間才會獲得那一種獨特的感受。

不僅是舞蹈動作上 Cunningham 革新了舞蹈的目的與內容,他在新科技的運用上更是將舞蹈與科技化時代連接起來。他的 DanceForm 電腦化編舞記錄與分析系統,接續著 Rudolf Laban 的 Labanotation (Laban Movement Analysis),開創了舞蹈分析與記錄的新時代。在這麼多的偉大舞者間,就只有 Cunningham 將舞蹈學習、分析、記錄與新科技完美連結起來,為舞蹈未來的發展打下新基礎。Merce Cunningham 的離開著實令人傷感,尤其是他與 Pina Bausch 的離去竟只差不到一個月的時間。不過以中國傳統觀念來想,九十高齡是喜喪,是應該為他感到高興,只不過 Merce Cunningham 與 Pina Bausch 這麼令人感覺驚喜的舞蹈藝術家的逝去,還是令人覺得不捨與傷痛。

21 Jul 2009

政府使用公權力是否可以不顧人民的死活?

圖片引自yahoo新聞,自由時報 2009/7/21

我們不能否認違章建築應該被拆除,因為違建不僅可能是侵佔國有土地,更有可能導致公共安全的問題。然而新店陽光運動公園的拆除事件並不只是單純的違建拆除問題,它涉及到是基本人權的問題以及政府執行公權力是否適當的問題。

「限時三天,強制驅離」,就是這句話把我們拉回到五十年前的威權體制,一切都是政府說了算。它要執行的公務是不容許任何差錯的,就算今天要犧牲掉人民的權益,它也在所不惜。回顧歷史,兩千年前的秦始皇不也是罔顧人民需求、生命,就為了要建造出可以保家衛國的萬里長城嗎?以建物的功能來看,萬里長城是偉大的,而陽光運動公園同樣具有一種促進人民生活幸福的功能。但以執行者的目的來看,秦始皇的萬里長城不過就是他為了永保帝業的方式之一。同樣的,陽光運動公園的建造實質上不過就是試圖為即將來到的縣市長選舉作準備。政治一直是現實的,而人是無法不為權與錢而服務的,因此政客試圖維持其既有利益也是理所當然的。柏拉圖的理想國不過就是個永遠無法實現的烏托邦,而烏托邦也只能活在知識分子的想像中。

由於已知烏托邦永不能實現,而政客對於權力的獲取又是不可避免的,知識分子只好退而求其次的以古雅典的政治制度作為出發點,推想出了一種折衷的民主的政治--人民具有權力,政府是為人民服務的機制。但是在這種制度下真實的權力的獲取與運用仍是隱藏的,不過它卻是以另一種虛假的開放的形式顯現在人民眼前。藉由民主制度,一般人民被賦與了部分的權力,而這些權力是用來監督由他們自己選擇出來的政客,並且是用來確保他們能在政府機制的保護下幸福的、快樂的生活。不論真實的權力的獲取與運用是否適當或者能被顯現出來,至少民主的機制是要保護其下廣大的民眾,並盡其所能的服務民眾和滿足民眾的需求。這種機制允許了政客對權力的貪婪與慾望,不過它同時也禁止了政客過當的行為與舉動。所以他仍是反威權的、仍是以民為主的政治體制。

如果民主的體制是反威權、是以民生為重的機制,那麼新店陽光運動公園的事件不就顯示出台灣的不民主與威權的復甦?就民主制度來看,國家的機制是有權對不合理、違法、危害人民生活安全的事物以公權力介入處理的。但前提是在執行公權力的過程中,人民的福祉是必須被照顧的並且維護的。回頭看陽光運動公園事件,我們發現到台北縣政府,作為國家機制的代理人,並未顧及到當地居民的生活狀態,而只是一味的為達成目的而執行其公權力。

首先,不斷更改拆除線就是一個問題。若是公園設置早就安排妥當,為什麼拆除線會不斷更動?水利署的說法是要不斷探勘河道並作出修正。但為什麼這聽起來像是推拖之詞?這不禁使我們懷疑國家機制代理人的能力是否出現問題?人民需要深入了解的是代理人出現了什麼樣的問題。如果最後發現代理人不能勝任他現有的位置,那麼當地的人民,作為機制監督者,應該以他們被賦與的權力對此代理人作出懲罰,那就是不再以選票擔保他的能力。

第二點,現時強制驅離本身就是一種反應威權的行為。並不是說民主機制下不能採取強制性行為,而是在採用強制性行為時,機制代理人是否已對當地居民的需要與生活作出安全性與穩定性的承諾。相信一般人都會對已居住了五十年的老房子產生感情,要搬家畢竟是不捨的,不過大多數人民並不會只因感情因素而拒絕搬家(當然的我們不能否認因感情而出現非理性行為的人的存在)。今天事件會演變成頭條新聞的主要原因即在機制代理人並無任何保障當地居民生活的計畫,並且還以公權力擁有者的身分對人民作出傷害其生命安全與生活安全的行為。中華民國憲法明定國家保障人民生活安全的條文,然而在這個例子中可笑的是國家機制代理人直接挑戰了憲法,換句話說,他挑戰了台灣的民主制度。

最後,公權力執行的方式是值得我們討論的一點,而這一點與上述的配套措施有緊密的關連性。限時三天是可以接受的,如果拆除法令早已發佈,而相關配套措施已決定並可執行,並且是對當地居民屢勸無效的狀況之下。依照相關報導,似乎拆除令是已經發佈並已宣導,但是問題的癥結在於拆除線的變更以及對居民後續生活安排的缺乏。再一次的,執行的魄力似乎並不等同於人民福祉的計畫與照顧。如過一位國家機制代理人只是個政策執行者,那麼任何人,只要是會執行政策的人,都可以是國家機制的代理人,那麼為什麼還要用選票擔保他的能力呢?

就在昨天,台灣的風度偏偏的總統再次地擔保了這位台北縣縣長的能力,也再次地強調了他執行公權力的合法性與「魄力」。我雖不是台北縣民,雖仍是馬總統的支持者,在聽了他對台北縣長的支持後,我不禁懷疑起馬總統是否真的具備了操控國家機制的能力。這讓我不斷想起了「權力腐化人心」這一句話。傳統中國的士是以仁為己任,為求仁他入世,也是為求仁他出世。仁,不就是人嗎?而士的任務不就是將仁的觀念普及於世間嗎?(關於中國傳統價值觀與士的論述可參考余英時的著作)儒家思想是重人的,何以現代台灣社會對人是如此的看輕?為什麼人不具任何價值了?身為領導者,他是否應將他的人民擺在比選黨主席這件事更重要的位置上?是否一縣之父母官應將其縣民作為親身之子女般看待,而不是拆了他們的房子任其風吹雨淋日曬,之後再說是為了他們的生活休閒著想所以拆房子蓋公園?是否人沒房子住了,可以去住公園?這是什麼邏輯,這是什麼政府!

1 Jul 2009

Goodbye Pina Bausch



One of the greatest dancers in dance history; a sincere dancer who devoted every minute of her life to her beloved dance. Pina Bausch is not only a dancer. She is a real artist, a philosopher, and a saint.

It is her passion for life that brings a strong humanist concern to her dance. This humanist concern, whether it is a concern about human emotions or a concern about the contemporary social disorders, is embedded in every gesture and movement of her dance, and therefore the viceral expressions of her body (and the bodies of her dancers) transforms classical balletic body - mechanical bodies with all sorts of techniques - into a real human body that is full of emotions and consciousness.

It is the rediscovery of what human body should be that makes her dance so beautiful and powerful. These bodies are no longer objects that are used to show techniques but lived human beings who tell stories to their audiences. Through the dancer's use of body, different emotions and consciousness are expressed. And through the reorginzation of these emotions and consciousness, a story is presented in front of the eyes of every spectator. We all agree that using only bodies, instead of using any known languages, to tell stories is difficult. Bausch was such a great choreographer who was able to tell a story beautifully with only the bodies of her dancers.

Using body to tell a story about us, about our world, differentiates her dance from our normal perception of dance. Dance ceases to be a form with a simple storyline that is always about something unreal, about princes and princesses. Showing bodies with difficult techniques, like a circus, stops being the primary concern of dance; however, this does not mean that her dance lacks any techniques. Thus, her dance cannot be called dance anymore because such an old-fashioned concept of dance is not what she presented us. It is Tanztheater, a new form of dance. The style of Tanztheater has influenced many choreographers all over the world, including another world-famous dance group, Cloud Gate Dance Theatre.

A story is told and the conscious bodies are full of emotional power. It is the combination of these two distinct characteristics that draw the audience to attend the performances. The performance is about us, and what we see and feel is what we truly experience in real life. Nothing is better than something we experience that is so vivid that touches our deepest emotions. We know it is only dance but we cannot help outselves crying and laughing because the power of these dancers' bodies overwhelms us.

How sad that Pina Bausch left us so early. Thank you for giving us so many great dances, and thank you for giving us Tanztheater.

23 Jun 2009

Brüno: a mockery of gay stereotyping or a promotion of homophobia


photo from wikipedia

Again, Sacha Baron Cohen will try his best to blow us away with his forthcoming film Brüno. His previous works,Da Ali G Show or Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, are hilarious, if we only look at them from the perspective of 'farce' disregarding the hidden cultural conflicts and prejudice. Yes, as a 'normal' consumer (of entertainment, media and culture), I agree that his works provide me a great chance for a good laugh. However, being an 'abnormal' consumer of the modern society, I found his works quite disturbing and highly problematic.

Transforming himself (a straight male in real life) into a gay fashion reporter from Austria, what exactly does Cohen want to say to his audiences? The Bruno character has been seen in Da Ali G Show, and the behaviour of this specific character is the stereotyping of 'what a gay man should be'. The New York Times reports that such a character reinforces the stereotype of homosexuals and thus might validate homophobia. The report says that the film in fact is to show what the life of the minority group - the homosexuals - is and to mock those who are afraid of these flamboyant boys (or queens). However, his approach and jokes, as the report says, seems too deep for the normal consumers to understand. Indeed, we always tend to pick up the face value of whatever we see, especially in comedy or farce - what makes us laugh is never something that needs to be thought of. If what we laugh at in this film is Bruno's very gay behaviour, tones, and expression (and I believe this is where the most of the audience find hilarious), then the character only makes the public confirm their imagined image of homosexuals. Of course, Bruno's gayness (highly visceral, all about the body) could be a mockery of how we choose to detest and then ignore the existence of these people. But this requires the audience to really look into the details of the film and think. In the meantime, such critical context, as in Borat, is only a vague concept that is placed deep inside the film. Hence, normal audiences will never be able to pick it up. They will never know it is them who are mocked by the characters on screen. Since whatever is critical in his work is always a vauge concept (such should be a modern trend in our contemporary society - everything is vauge and face value rules), the reuslt of this film might be a reinforcement of the gay stereotypes covertly promoting homophobia.

Though I have decided that this film would have helped those confirm their imagined image of homosexuals, I still would like to see it. It is not a crime to have a good laugh at the cinema. Maybe there is really something meaningful and critical in the film, and we have to see it ourselves to tease it out.

12 May 2009

Men En Pointe: great techniques and funny parodies / Les Ballents Trockadero de Monte Carlo





Ballet ceases to be a high art when the princess and her maids are actually cross-dressers directing the audience's attention to the lower stratum of the body, an area that is invisible in the traditional view of classical ballet. This is what Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo did to classical ballet, but we must admit that such an approach is healthy and it liberates classical ballet from the confines of heavy traditions, which only draw classical ballet further away from the contemporary audience.

What concerns us most here is the parody of classical ballet. By using all male dancers, the group has destroyed the traditional view on the image of ballerinas. The graceful up-lifted movements and the elegant gestures of female ballerinas are replaced by the clumsy and rough actions of male dancers. Indeed, it is the all male dancers that attracts the audience in the first place. But that is not enough to keep the audience in the theatre because surprises can never last long. Thus it is the parody and mockery of the form of ballet and the content of classical repertoire that maintains the popularity of the group for more than three decades. However, parody and mockery cannot be achieved by any amateur lacking knowledge and techniques of the object imitated and exaggerated. If a performer intends to parody the dying swan, he must know what originally has been done, or he would lose his focus and only give us a dying swan that may be highly hilarious but lacking any artistic touch, meaning we laugh out loud and then forget it all.

The dying swan presented by Trockadero is different; it is a parody done successfully and at the same time a means to maintain the tradition of classical ballet while broadening the possible audience for classical ballet. The dying swan gives us the sense of death by exaggerating every single ballet movement and gesture. Though the hyperbolism creates a ridiculous aura on stage which is in contrast to the sense of death, this hyperbolism in fact transforms death into something light and funny, something we can positively look at and deal with. In Bakhtin's words, this hyperbolism makes us laugh and laughing helps us conquer the threat of death. Thus what is old is swept away and all we need do now is to welcome the newly borne (see Mikhail Bakhtin, Rabelais and His World, trans. Hélène Iswolsky, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984). This transformation of death into ridicule is achieved through the use of body, again, as observed by Bakhtin that the use of body, especially the lower stratum of body, is the characteristic of carnival nourished by the folklore (ibid.). In his view, such body has become a grotesque body that on one hand represents the suspension of the hierarchy and instiutions, and on the other hand brings in the celebration of a humanized and positive world (ibid.). The Trockadero dying swan is such a grotesque body: it derides the classical image of the dying swan. This classical image aims to bring the audience into a dark and destructive tragedy in which a beautiful and sublime feeling is generated. Such sublime feeling is created by dancer's endeavour to fight against the gravity (the higher the better, a traditional view on the beauty of ballet) but finally fail and lie motionlessly on stage. In order to show her gestures and movements beautifully, she has to follow all rules for representing the dying swan on stage. But here, our dying swan does not care about the rules and she does not bother to jump higher or to use her graceful hand to reach the invisible thing high in the air. All she wants to tell us is she is dying and she is afraid of losing her feather. Losing feather symbolizes death and thus she is also afraid of death. In original Swan Lake the dying swan does not lose any feather. Of course, losing feather could be done beautifully but for Les Ballets Trockadero it is used to ridicule the classical image of the dying swan. This new dying swan ignores all the rules and traditions of classical ballet, derides the classical image of the dying swan normally perceived as graceful and beautiful, and introduces the audience a new form of dying swan that is not only humanized and funny but helps us overcome the sense of death and the negative emotions.

Ballet is an artistic form that is all about supreme techniques. The dancers of Les Ballets Trockadero are not some amateurs doing funny clownish works. They actually are classical ballet dancers being trained properly. This is the reason why their parody of classical ballet is successful. They have known all the rules and traditions required for classical ballet, so when they are on stage parodying those big pieces, they are able to show us how ridiculous certain movements and gestures can be. Moreover, the power of male dancers in fact enhances the female balletic movements and gestures. When they jump, they jump higher. Though the weight of male dancers seems to cause problems when they are doing en pointe and spinning, when they actually do it, it is more powerful than female ballerinas. The energy released from the body of these male dancers are vivid, and such energy enhances the effect of the grotesque body. Indeed, seeing men in tutu is already grotesque enough, and when they start mocking the graceful gestures of ballerinas, it increases the power of parody. Besides, when they suddenly shows manly actions on stage, it just makes the whole scene ridiculous and absurd.

When things are done in a funny way, it is easier to attract audiences. We cannot deny that people do intend to see beautiful things, but in the meantime people also intend to see funny things. As described on their official website, their aim is to keep repertoires of classical ballet from dying out since many of them are not performed anymore. However, reviving pieces is problematic. If plainly giving these pieces again on stage would work, those big theatres and ballet companies would have done it now. We could argue here that the approach Les Ballets Trockadero adopts is correct concerning drawing the interest of the audience. Classical ballet has almost become a museum art because it can only attract the eyes of the connoisseurs. In the old days, due to the lack of entertainment forms, classical ballet could still maintain its popularity and the connection with the public. But now in a world of consumerism filled with varied kinds of entertainment forms, classical ballet finds its connoisseurs decreasing. Older generation dies while the new one only recognizes films and TV shows. In order to promote classical ballet, it is necessary to do something to attract new audiences. Some ballet connoisseurs may argue that their way of presenting classical ballet is actually harming the precious artistic heritage. Such would be the perfect representative of those crying out for "art for art's sake" and the "autonomous right of the arts". I agree that something must be retained, but I don't agree that we should just preserve arts as if they can be put in a museum. Art is about human life, especially those only happen on stage and require the participation of audience. Concerning Les Ballets Trockadero, something is retained, such as the choreography and the balletic techniques, but more is added to the tradition that makes classical ballet more interesting and close to the people. While the use of all male dancers is one that attracts the audience, the more important characteristic of this group is the use of parody in classical ballet. Thanks to these parodies, classical ballet ceases to be a high art reserved only for ballet connoisseurs. Now, a boy can also be a princess, and a prince doesn't need to be always brave and strong. Thanks to the hyperbolism and the grotesque use of body, classical ballet liberates itself from its own limits and dedicates itself to those who want to enjoy the beauty of the body.

Seeing the performance of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo is like partaking in a carnival; the carnivalesque aura is generated by both the dancers' grotesque bodies and the participation of the audience.

3 Apr 2009

Green Tara: the powerful and the most beautiful female form of Buddhist deities

According to the legend, Tara came from a tear drop of Avalokiteshvara (or named Guan Yin in Chinese Buddhism). Though the legend says she vowed to be a companion of Avalokiteshvara, she is in fact another representation of Avalokiteshvara and thus is also a Bodhisattva. Due to her close relation with Avalokiteshvara, she symbolizes great strength and compassion.

In Hinduism, Tara is one of the Mahavidyas (mother goddesses representing the supreme wisdom). According to the Hindu myth, when Shiva was poisoned by the churning of the ocean, motherly Tara appeared and saved him. She wears only a tiger skirt and holds weapons which symbolizes her power and strength.

It is clear that the original symbolism of Tara, motherly love, strength, and power, is borrowed by Buddhism. After relating Tara to Avalokiteshvara, Buddhist Tara is endowed with greater symbolic meaning, such as compassion, individual salvation, and altruistic spirit. In order to develop such spiritual qualities, meditation is required and therefore Tara becomes one of the major tantric deities.

Tara in Buddhism has another significant meaning which helps lift the status of female practitioners. As H.H. the Dalai Lama said:
There is a true feminist movement in Buddhism that relates to the goddess Tārā. Following her cultivation of bodhicitta, the bodhisattva's motivation, she looked upon the situation of those striving towards full awakening and she felt that there were too few people who attained Buddhahood as women. So she vowed, "I have developed bodhicitta as a woman. For all my lifetimes along the path I vow to be born as a woman, and in my final lifetime when I attain Buddhahood, then, too, I will be a woman. (see wikipedia under the category of Tara)

Her mantra is
OM TĀRE TUTTĀRE TURE SVĀHĀ

OM is a sound of respect, of all time, of all space. It does not have any literal meaning but only represents the reality and now.
TĀRE means to seek salvation from mundane dangers.
TUTTĀRE means to seek personal salvation from spiritual sufferings.
TURE means to seek Bodhisattva path in which we not only seek personal enlightenment but also practice great compassion for all who suffers.
SVĀHĀ is to hail and to praise.

As is stated on Wildmind, this mantra is more like a play on the name of Tara (concerning the sound of her name and the sound of the mantra). The website also says that it is better to leave it untranslated since the meaning of original sanskrit is hard to capture and is difficult to express by our normal language now.

Since she is such a powerful goddess who keeps providing great strength to whoever worships her, along with her great mercy to help all to realize their wishes immediately, praying to her should bring us great enlightenment.

26 Mar 2009

Long Shan Temple: the treasure of Taiwan
















Long Shan Temple in Lu Gang, Zhang Hua(彰化鹿港龍山寺), was built in 1786. The temple is dedicated to Guan Yin(觀音), Avalokiteśvara, also known as the Goddess of Mercy. It is listed the national heritage in Taiwan. The temple is a work of art, and every detail of the painting, sculpture, and architecture, and even the arrangement of buildings, all shows highly exquisite artistic presentation. The temple collapsed when the earthquake hit in 1999, and the restoration work was finally completed in 2008. During the restoration, there were disputes concerning whether the restoration should conduct new construction so as to ensure the strength of the structure or they should only try to restore the temple's original look. I am no expert on such issue, and after visiting the temple, I can only say the restoration work was done well.

The main entrance gate















The second entrance gate with the platform for Chinese opera attached behind.















Those dragon columns are made of stone and the carvings are amazing.





























The platform for Chinese opera performances. It is usual for temples, especially really old and important ones, to have such platform in front of the main hall so that the gods/goddesses could enjoy performances (often presented to thank gods/goddesses).

The main hall, dedicated to Guan Yin and her disciples.















Inside the main hall. The lamp is a beautiful artwork.





























The rear hall, dedicated to other deities (other buddhas and Bodhisattvas, which are widely worshiped by Chinese).
















The back wall of the main hall with 大觀在上 (the literal meaning is a great view from the above) written (or carved) on the wall. The phrase 大觀在上 is borrowed from I Ching meaning that we should position ourselves on a higher level and broaden our views. Besides we must have a mild and humble attitude. By doing so, we would be able to observe everything in the world properly and to adjust ourselves in the right way.




















Decorations on the door of the main hall. The flower basket is from someone who must have realized hie/her dreams after praying to Guan Yin in this temple.
















This window is amazingly beautiful. There are two windows like this next to the door at each side of the second entrance gate. The central pattern is made from one piece of wood. Both windows have the same pattern and are preserved well.

Decorations on the roof. Both seem to depict fairies riding on phoenix.















More decorations on the roof.











































A small lion stone sculpture. Seems to indicate the strength of the lion, which can support the weight of the roof. In the meantime, such mean animal can protect the temple from any possible attack, whether it is a man-made one or a supernatural one.
















Small elephant stone sculpture with a monkey (same material) on top of the elephant. I believe this also indicate the power of animals, which at the same time act as the supporter and protector of dharma, the universal truth common to all individuals in all times, and the teaching of Buddha.
















The use of animals may firstly, as mentioned above, indicate that the teaching of Buddha and the religious power can tame these wild animals and turn them into good protectors of dharma. Moreover, this use of animals show the artistic talent of the designer of the temple, which adds certain entertaining effect to the overall design of the temple. It amuses the visitors and ease the possible all too serious and rigid atmosphere a temple, especially an important one, may usually have.

25 Mar 2009

郭冠英的邏輯???語言暴力是言論自由嗎?

如果說污蔑台灣以及台灣人民是愛台灣的表現,那麼,按照這種邏輯來看,對陳水扁以及那些貪污者的不齒與厭惡不就變成了愛護他們的行為了嗎?這位郭才子的腦袋到底在想什麼?再者,不斷用謊言、惡言表達極端且偏激的主觀意識,這樣的行為有什麼好了不起的?是不是因為成為了為社會負面教材所以了不起?

口口聲聲說是要捍衛言論自由,但到底這是一種什麼樣的言論自由?他所定義的言論自由似乎是一種無限上剛的語言暴力,不管這種語言內容是多麼不得體、傷害人、或是污辱人。試想,罵人不好聽的話都會吃上官司,甚至是被判罰緩,更何況是具有國家公職身分的人用極度污蔑性的字眼來嘲諷國家與全體人民。如果一般民眾在運用語言暴力後會受到法律的制裁,那麼國家官員是否亦比照辦理?解職作為處分只不過是行政處置的結果,但是遭受到他污辱的台灣民眾是否就應該白白被打一巴掌,莫不吭聲?

「我是捍衛憲法,捍衛民族的英雄,我應該做個更大的位置,或許是總統,可能台北縣長,可能立法委員,可能新聞局長。」(NOWnews on Yahoo news, 98/03/25)真是大言不慚!我真的不懂他捍衛了什麼憲法規章。謾罵自己同胞什麼時候變成了是捍衛民族的方式了?

媒體應該開始拒絕採訪他,不間斷的密集採訪似乎更滿足了他偏執的英雄主義,因為他把他自己當成了捨己為人的聖徒。採取一種似乎是左派抗爭的虛假形式,試圖將其承受的責難轉化為政治性壓迫,他只不過是為了滿足自身的虛榮心,並不具備任何實際的、神聖的革命意圖,而小丑般的行為再再證明了他的怪異與膚淺。

如果身為中國人是他的驕傲,那麼請他就乾脆地放棄台灣護照吧,請他投向那熱情的祖國的懷抱吧!

台灣並不差,差的是那些假借愛台灣名義不斷傷害台灣的偽君子!郭才子在邏輯不通的狀態下,早已將自己歸類於偽君子一類,所以才會繼續大言不慚地發聲。中國人固有的文人精神就在他滔滔不絕的講話中被損害殆盡。