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Wantan Wuma (Taiwan), Blood, Sacrifice, and Memory, Future Of Imagination 9, Singapore. Photo by Jason Lim
Wantan Wuma (Taiwan)
Blood, Sacrifice, and Memory
Future of Imagination 9, Singapore
September 6, 2014
by Jennie Klein

Blood, Sacrifice and Memory, performed on the opening night of foi9, suggested the way in which social conflicts as reported in the news media are written and even forced upon the bodies of those who are affected by these conflicts, to the degree that these bodies become unrecognizable and even monstrous.

The performance took place in a long, narrow room with wooden floors, rough brick walls, and a raised platform at one end. Green curtains, which had possibly covered the windows behind the stage, were caught up in a decorative display of drapery, suggesting an official event or portrait. The platform/stage area was flooded with stark lighting, which resembled lighting used to interrogate and disorient suspects and criminals. The stage included two sectional couches, missing their cushions, which were pushed end to end. A carefully laid path of newspapers, unfolded longitudinally, led up to the stage. The space had two entrances, the second of which was draped with a hanging curtain of newspapers.

As the audience entered the space, Wuma was throwing down stacks of folded newspapers off of the stage. Dressed simple clothing, he began covering the stage with sheets of newspaper, which he attached with surgical tape. He then switched to crumpling up the sheets of paper strewn on the stage and in the gallery and attaching them to the furniture on the stage as well. Finally, he began to cover himself in the same manner by first taking a large sheet of paper and wrapping it around his body—legs, arms, torso, head—and then adding the crumpled paper sculptures. In order to cover himself completely, he enlisted the help of the audience, who taped the sculptures on as Wuma held them in place.

The performance culminated with Wuma, by this time a hybrid creature carrying the reports of catastrophe, war, economic disaster and commercial advertisement on his slight frame, took the piece to the street. Bursting through the further, newspaper-draped entrance, Wuma, looking a bit like the Japanese monster Rodin, ran down the steep metal stairway and out the door into the street. With the startled audience trailing in his wake, Wuma careened down an ally, turned around, and ran back up the stairs and into the space. To conclude the piece, Wuma pulled his newspaper costume off, and thanked the few people who had followed him back to the space.

As a westerner, it is tempting for me to read this piece through Wuma’s selfproclaimed indigenous identity as a member of the Atayal Tribe in Taiwan. Much of his work, including a piece that he did recently for My Land in Koprivnica, Croatia, addressed the disparity between the encroachment of western neoliberal capitalist ideologies on Asia and the indigenous traditions with are still extant with the Atayal, whose main city is not a tourist destination. Certainly there is some irony in Blood, Sacrifice, and Memory. These concepts, rather than manifesting on the actual body of the artist, are written in the newspapers, which were taped—forced—upon the aboriginal body. Wuma’s monstrous running figure was both pathetic and comic, a latter day trickster released into the teaming streets of Singapore’s little India, a figure that is not out of place amongst the Hindu temple figures of “monstrous” gods and goddesses that are half human, and half other. It was the perfect beginning to a festival that is about imagining differently.