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In Session: 'Infrastructures' of Memory in Literature, Performance and Museums: Narrating Violence in Modern Japan and Taiwan
2: Monstrous Creatures, Estranged Homeland: Narrating Taiwan's Identity in Lin Hwai-min's Dance Pieces
Wednesday, March 24, 2021
12:00pm – 1:30pm EDT
Melody Yunzi Li
University of Houston, United States
This paper traces how figurations of monstrous bodies and the imagination of the “other” appear in Lin Hwai-min’s dance pieces, articulating the conflicted identity of Taiwan, and its complicated relationship with Chineseness. Particularly, in his works “Songs of the Wanderers” and “Nine Songs,” Lin seeks a visual representation of Taiwan’s experience of estrangement and crisis in its collective identity through the employment of ghostly, superhuman figures. At times representing the goddess who possesses the power to save the world, at times embodying the traumatized human beings, these monstrous figures in Lin’s works challenge the traditional interpretations of Chinese classics as well as the standards of modern dance. In fusing and contradicting the traditional and contemporary forms of Chinese performing arts, and by traversing through the imaginative “other” as it appears in Chinese, Taiwanese, and American theatrical performances, Lin’s works provide a site to reexamine Taiwan’s past of estrangement from both a cross-historical and cross-cultural perspective. By looking at the theatrical space as a site of memory in which a spontaneous assemblage of bodily movements create narratives of the past, my paper illuminates the unique entanglement of modernism and nativism in Taiwanese context, and provides a new angle to address the traditional vestiges in Taiwan in the age of globalization and postcoloniality.