Khamis, 14 November 2013

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Arts & Fashion

Into The Flood: Creation from destruction


Taiwanese troupe draws on a flood that damaged its studio to create multi-disciplinary performance, Into The Flood.

FLOOD water from Taiwan's Tamsui river rushing into his studio in the wake of a typhoon left Sun Son Theatre member Chang Wei Loy feeling oddly calm.

"Our place was flooded. Everyone stayed overnight to pack all the instruments as we tried to minimise our losses," recalls Chang about a 2007 flood that swept through the troupe's riverside studio.

"When the place we used to live was covered with water, I had a strange feeling of calm instead of being nervous. I had a moment of silence and peacefulness. I think that the disaster was not a punishment but to wash away our inner chaos and uncertainty," he reasons.

Finding purpose in the chaos, Chang used the incident as inspiration for the Sun Son Theatre's folk musical Into The Flood, which will be hitting our shores at the Damansara Performing Arts Centre (DPAC) next week (Nov 22-24). This is the troupe's fifth time in Malaysia, having been here earlier this year as part of the Kakiseni Festival in April.

Initially unsure of how to tell his story, Chang researched various deluge myths, noticing that Great Floods were a recurring theme throughout history. However, nothing quite fit, as most cultures considered floods to be divine punishment.

The Sun Son theatre's troupe (L-R) Lui Wan Chun, Panay Pan Jing Ya, Chang Wei Loy, Chuang Hui Yun, Low Pei Fen, will perform Into The Flood, a combination of dance and puppet play, based on Bunun (Taiwan Aboriginal) myth.

Mystical tale: The Sun Son Theatre troupe (from left) Lui Wan Chun, Panay Pan Jing Ya, Chang Wei Loy, Chuang Hui Yun and Low Pei Fen, will perform Into The Flood, a combination of dance and puppet play, based on Bunun (a Taiwan aboriginal tribe) myth.

"Then I came across the Bunun tribe (a Taiwanese aboriginal tribe) story, which treated floods as an inevitability, not a form of punishment," shares Chang, over an e-mail interview.

The legend tells of a young man who, on advice of a wise toad, embarks on a journey to seek help from a mythical crab to stop the floods caused by a snake eel who is blocking the river water from draining.

"There are so many similar parts between real life and the legend. The sacred animals in the legend such as the Crustacean and the Toad, are the animals commonly seen along Tamsui riverside, and the reason for the flood is the clogged drain caused by the Snake Eel that ate the garbage disposal," he says.

Chang assures that Into The Flood is not a preachy eco-story. In writing it, the 33-year-old drew on his memories of pre-television community storytelling to transform the disaster into a light-hearted adventure.

Chang, who is both director and lead, calls the end product a collaborative effort though, as the Sun Son Theatre practices "collective creation" where actors are expected to improvise, from embellishing his voice onto a scene to deciding the style of music.

"To me, the 'attitude of playfulness' is vital in theatre creation. This theatre work begins with 'games'. I cannot be an observer without participating in the 'game'," explains Chang.

Artistic director Ng Chong Leong will combine live music, song, dance and puppet play to bring the young man's adventure to life. He says that no subtitles are used as there is no specific language in the songs.

"Sun Son Theatre performers are percussionists, singers, and dancers as well," says Ng, adding that they are expected to be able to all those things at the same time too!

Despite this, he firmly disagrees that there could be too many elements at one time, to the point it crowds the stage.

"To me, saying 'too much' happens when we 'think too much'. Do not think too much, but react spontaneously, follow one's emotion, feel the heartbeat, the space, the air, the partner and the moment during the performance," says Ng.

For those curious about Sun Son Theatre's approach to performing, the troupe is offering music, vocal and movement workshops.

"We have workshops because sometimes the audience are curious about our versatile actors; they want to know more about our training behind the stage," explains Ng, who studied at the Malaysian Institute of Art in 1993.

* Into The Flood will be performed at the Damansara Performing Arts Centre, Empire Damansara, Jalan PJU 8/8, Damansara Perdana, Petaling Jaya, Selangor from Nov 22 to 24 at 8.30pm, with a 3pm show on Nov 24. Tickets are priced at RM 58 (adult) and RM 38 (student/senior citizen/disabled), with free tickets for children.

For tickets, call 03-4065 0001 or 4065 0002 or visit The Sun Son Theatre will also be hosting workshops on Nov 23 and 24.

Costliest ever piece of art auctioned


Francis Bacon triptych sold for record US$142.4mil at Christie's sale to New York gallery.

A TRIPTYCH by British painter Francis Bacon, Three Studies Of Lucian Freud (pic), sold for US$142.4mil (RM457mil) on Tuesday, smashing the world record for the most expensive piece of art auctioned.

The work by the 20th century figurative artist, who lived from 1909 to 1992, had never before been put under the hammer until Christie's flagship evening sale. It was bought by a New York gallery.

"What's amazing for us to see is obviously the highest price ever paid at auction for a work of art, the Francis Bacon," said Brett Gorvy, head of post-war and contemporary art at Christie's.

The most expensive artwork ever was a Cezanne that sold for US$259mil (RM777mil) in 2011. But that was a private sale, not an auction.

Gorvy named Acquavella Galleries, which is based in New York, as the buyer at a spectacular auction that broke a string of records and totalled sales of US$691.6mil (RM2.2bil), the highest in auction history.

Hammered to an outburst of applause, the Bacon surpassed the previous record of US$119.9mil (RM360mil) fetched by Edvard Munch's iconic The Scream by rival house Sotheby's in New York in May 2012.

Bidding lasted six minutes and was split by would-be buyers on three continents, opening at US$80mil (RM256mil) and escalating in seconds.

"An historic moment," said auctioneer Jussi Pylkkanen at US$126mil (RM403.2mil) as he drove the price yet higher.

The triptych, the only one not in a museum to date and executed almost 25 years after Bacon and Freud met, is the most expensive single lot offered in the New York November auction season.

Officials said it was particularly special because Freud, a close friend of Bacon, went on to become a hugely important artist himself in later years.

The previous record for a Bacon painting was US$86mil (RM258mil) in 2008.

Christie's sold a total of 63 lots of post-war and contemporary art for US$691.6mil, a record in auction history.

In total, Christie's broke a further 10 world records.

It sold the giant orange Balloon Dog sculpture by Jeff Koons for US$58.4mil (RM187mil), making history for the sale of a work by a living artist and history for a piece of contemporary sculpture.

The giant orange Balloon Dog sculpture by Jeff Koons was sold for US$58.4mil (RM187mil). - AFP

The giant orange Balloon Dog sculpture by Jeff Koons was sold for US$58.4mil (RM187mil). – AFP

It is one of five different coloured such pieces by the American, who has most recently collaborated with Lady Gaga providing artwork for the pop diva's third album Artpop, which was released on Monday.

"We're also incredibly proud to see the highest price achieved for a living artist, Jeff Koons, well deserved for the Balloon Dog," Gorvy told a news conference.

The statue, on display outside the auction house in Rockefeller Plaza in New York City, was eagerly snapped by tourists and art lovers outside. Several police officers mounted on horses sat guard late Tuesday.

The previous record for a Koons piece was US$33.7mil.

Other artists who achieved world records were Christopher Wool whose Apocalypse Now sold for US$26.5mil (RM84.8mil), Wade Guyton, Vija Celmins, Lucio Fontana, Ad Reinhardt, Donald Judd, Willem De Kooning and Wayne Thiebaud.

With Impressionist and Modern art harder to come by and many of the great works in museums, art officials say contemporary work has driven an explosion in prices in a flourishing market.

"Tonight we showed ultimately the strength of this market and the diversity of this market," said Gorvy, insisting that the value of post-war and contemporary art would only increase "incredibly".

"I really believe we are at the beginning of something. This is not a bubble. This is not something which ultimately doesn't have great foundation stones," he added.

He said collectors had bought "very sensibly" and "very aggressively with a lot of competition".

Buyers from 42 countries registered to bid on Tuesday and despite tremendous interest from emerging markets in Asia, the Gulf, Russia and Latin America, Americans dominated.

"A terrific, exciting night," Doug Woodham, president of Christie's Americas, told a news conference.

"The new world record for auctions anywhere in the world which is a phenomenal evening of amazing masterpieces," he added. – AFP

The legacy of musical genius Yao Min


Tribute To Yao Min: Chronicle Of Splendour II aims to attract a new generation of fans to the Chinese music legend's work.

WHEN discussing shidaiqu or classical Chinese folk jazz fusion music of a bygone era, names of famed singers like Zhou Xuan, Bai Guang, Li Xiang Lan, Yao Lee, Bai Hong, and Gong Qiu Xia come to mind. But few would know of Yao Lee's brother Yao Min (1917-1967), the gentleman who composed the melodies that made these songstresses so well-loved.

A songwriter of the shidaiqu era in 1930s-40s Shanghai through the 1950s-60s mainstream years in Hong Kong, Yao Min was the forerunner of Chinese musical giants, being the first winner of the Best Movie Musical Award at the Asia Pacific Film Festival, as well as the Best Movie Score at the First Golden Horse Film Festival.

Inspired by Yao Min's story, local music and theatre professional Yang Wei Han hopes to "re-introduce" the works of this musical genius to local music lovers.

Getting the big picture: Inspired by Yao Min's story, local music and theatre professional Yang Wei Han hopes to 're-introduce' the works of this musical genius to local music lovers. Yang is pictured with Yao Min's 91-year-old sister Yao Lee in Hong Kong as he researched work for the Tribute To Yao Min: Chronicle Of Splendour II concert.

With that, Han Production is back with a brand new stage show in honour of Yao Lee's brother titled Tribute To Yao Min: Chronicle Of Splendour II, which opens today at Bentley Music Auditorium in Petaling Jaya, Selangor.

"Yao Min was a paradox to many; he was a major mover in the Chinese music industry. Yet, he remained a mystery to many. He was arguably the most prolific composer of popular Chinese music, having penned more than 3,000 compositions, many of which remain popular till today.

"But the unassuming gentleman was such a low-key personality that most people did not know much about him. In fact, there were some who thought he was a girl, because of his feminine-sounding name," said Yang during a recent interview in Kuala Lumpur.

The show will be led by director/producer Yang Wei Han with guest artistes Liau Siau Suan, the Summer Grace duo, Angel Lee, Angeline Wong, and Yang Mee Eng. Live music accompaniment will be provided by musical ensemble WVC TRIO + 1 comprising Tay Cher Siang, Aj Pop Shu Vit , KJ Wong, and Julian Chan.

Yang worked tirelessly with music director Tay and choreographer Leng Poh Gee to create a unique stage divided into three sections to equally showcase the singer, musicians and dancers.

Liau Siau Suan, who is based in Australia, will be a special guest to sing the English songs in the concert.

Led by Leng, the dance segments include performances by Adeline Chew, Chan Kean Yew and Queency Manjalip.

While planning for a better representation of Yao Min's large body of work, Yang frequently flew to Hong Kong to seek his Yao Min's 91-year-old sister Yao Lee's guidance.

With Yao Lee's help, Yang selected some 40 songs for the two-hour show, which is divided into seven segments; these include soundtracks and even English songs.

For the English segment, Yang invited veteran singer Liau, who is currently based in Australia.

"I will be performing five English songs, plus one with Yang and another in a group," shared Liau who has been featured in musicals such as Kiss Of The Spider Woman and Butterfly Lovers.

"It won't be just all songs and singing, we will also delve into the history behind each song and relate them to the milestones in his short-but-spectacular musical career," shared Yang, who also did the stage design and created video-mapping for a unique concert experience.

To illustrate that, both Yang and Liau spoke of Gong Xi Gong Xi (literally Congratulations! Congratulations!), one of the most familiar festive Mandarin songs we hear blasting from every Chinese home and shopping mall during the Lunar New Year.

Also known by its English title Wishing You Happiness and Prosperity, Gong Xi Gong Xi was sung by Yao Min and his sister Yao Lee.

"Although Gong Xi Gong Xi is currently used as a common Lunar New Year greeting and to celebrate the arrival of spring, the song was originally written by Chen Gexin (also known as Qing Yu) in 1945 in Shanghai to celebrate the defeat of Japanese troops and the liberation of the Chinese people at the end of the Sino-Japanese War," said the duo as they broke into song.

Last year, Han Production successfully presented 10 performances of the musical Yao Lee – The Legendary Rose to critical acclaim and an enthusiastic response from the public. It was nominated for eight Cameronian Awards, and ended up winning three: Best Stage Design, Best Lighting Design, and Best Audio And Sound.

Having observed how the show enabled family togetherness and respect for elders motivated Yang to go ahead with Han Production's vision to make Chronicle Of Splendour a long-term project.

*Tribute to Yao Min: Chronicle of Splendour II will be playing at Bentley Music Auditorium, Wisma Bentley Music, 3, Jalan PJU 7/2, Mutiara Damansara, Petaling Jaya, Selangor from today to Saturday at 8.30pm and on Sunday at 3pm. Tickets are priced at RM100, RM150 and RM200, with a 20% discount for students, senior citizens and the disabled. For details and ticket reservation, contact Han Production (019-2012 707/ or visit Takings from the concert will be donated to Spina Bifida Association of Malaysia and the fund for A Journey Of Self-Discovery documentary project.


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