(photo above : Hong Chang-Chuan 洪長傳, 94 years old, traditional boat builder from Shanshui, who nowadays still makes models. The one in front of him has been ordered for us last year, and we got it last week. Mr Hong passed away in November 2014.)
Since my first coming in Taiwan, in 2004, I am visiting (and doing field recordings of) the archipelago of Penghu, situated in the detroit between China and Taiwan. It is constituted of more than 60 small volcanic islands, some of them being connected by bridges (the main islands around Makung city), most of them being devoid of human presence. Its geology is very specific, presenting basalt structure and its history is complex and meaningful. And of course, being located in the tropical zone, its coral reefs, or at least the ones who survived to fishing industry, pollution and destruction, are marvelous habitats for the marine fauna.
In 2009, as a conclusion of our artist residency at Le CoLLombier, in Cunlhat (France), Wan-Shuen Tsai, visual artist and poet, native from the archipelago and I, published a book, Villages, Vestiges built like a travel back and forth between the old buildings of a village in Auvergne, France and the abandoned houses made of coral from Penghu.
In 2013, during four months we lived in the village of Shili. Our house was standing in front of the sea, allowing us to sleep with every night with the sounds of the waves. Daily activities included the study and discover of the intertidal environment, filming and recording the small and fascinating marine lifeforms. We prepared some audio-visual materials for what could become a film, in between experimental and documentary about the relationship between humans and ocean.
We also did a bit of teaching by proposing some listening sessions in Elementary Schools. This stay was possible with the help of the Penghu Citizens Foundation.
During that stay, I also settled the temporary Penghu Experimental Music Studio, probably the first one in this area, and composed a series of works related to environmental sounds, interweaving electronic improvisations and field recordings.
Our projects for 2015 are quite ambitious, and we will stay again 2-3 months in Penghu, during the Autumn.
1. A notebook of naturalist observations
With a naive point of view, I wandered on the shores during several months, during the day and the night. Thanks to the introduction and explanations of a local friend who is a marine life biologist, I could document a lot of molluscs and other unusual animals, taking photography of live animals, bringing some microscopic shells back home for microphotography. This fauna is common, but still I had the chance to meet some sea slugs that haven’t been listed in Penghu yet, and collect a good number of treasures. Since very few things have been published in English about the marine fauna of Penghu, I am planning to constitute a little notebook of my observations, a subjective and illustrated ebook (with maybe a very limited physical edition).
(photo : coral reef and drawings of Ctenophora met while snorkeling)
2. tsi̍t lâu tsuí 一流水
This title means, in Taiwanese, a cycle of tide. The format and label still have to keep secret for a while… but early 2015, there will be a very exciting publication of my compositions realized in the Penghu Experimental Music Studio. I can promise a beautiful design… Say no more, say no more…
(photo : shells of juvenile Argonauts found on the shore of Shili)
3. A series of pedagogic activities
We got a grant from National Culture and Arts Foundation 國藝會 for developing our teaching work in Penghu.
Our aim is to visit the little schools that remain on the remotest and tiniest islands of the archipelago. Some of them have less that 10 children studying, and of course access is not simple. We will bring our equipment and sound/visual practices, sharing with kids some elements of our works, and involving them in short artistic activities. The number of school/islands that we’ll visit being between 8 and 10, we’ll spend there a limited number of days, trying to keep some time for continuing our documentation of the landscape and soundscape. We’ll collaborate with one school during a longer workshop. And probably integrate all the works realized with children into a public presentation.
(photo : Mao Yu 貓嶼 , probably, the wildest island of Peng-Hu archipelago, during an impressive trip in the Southern islands with the local birdwatching association in June 2013)