Liudui. SHIJINGREN -Yannick Dauby, Wan-Shuen Tsai-
(Liudui Hakka Cultural Park 2012)
Review by Caity Kerr
Here’s something which you might find wholesome. Amidst the current hype around field recording it’s refreshing to remember that for many practitioners the simple act of sharing work with other people is of fundamental importance. As opposed to ego-driven machinations and so-called’ professionalism’ in and around phonographic practices. To share your work with the people is still quite radical and to be fair many of us do that already, under the radar, privately, and we should applaud ourselves as appropriate.
One such person is Yannick Dauby, based in Taiwan, and no doubt known to many readers as a field recordist who works across themes and topics relating to natural history and social documentary.
Liudui is a recent dvd release, a project by Shijingren which presents collaboration between Yannick and Tsai-Wan-Shuen and which you probably wouldn’t be able to get any other way than by direct contact and exchange. In fact I got to know Yannick’s impressive body of work by means of exchange in the first instance.
There are six audio-visual pieces as follows:
• Zhutien Train Station
• Tobacco Leaves
• Bayin & Betel
• Water Land
• Afternoon in Liudui (with text by Chung Yung-Fung and music by Lin Sheng-Xiang)
Liudui means “six piles”. It corresponds a group of 6 zones in Taiwan’s Southern regions of Kaohsiung and Ping-Tung consisting mainly of Hakka villages. The work is a public art commission for Hakka Cultural Park – described by the artist as verging on the kind of dubious cultural tourism often encountered in Taiwan. But this time the idea was to create an audiovisual postcard of the region. People pay for the postage, write an address on the envelope, their own or that of a friend, and the dvd is sent from the park.
As Yannick explains: ‘we spent some time in the various areas of Liudui gathering material sometimes randomly, sometimes with specific aims. Often introductions were made by local friends, at other times we just wandered around. The last film was made as a visual accompaniment for a friend, Lin Sheng-Xiang who is a Hakka folk singer living there’.
The films are all based on important elements of Hakka lifestyle such as labour exchange for the crop of tobacco leaves or exploring a specific location such as a tiny Japanese bookshop near the train station.
I won’t say too much about the moving image component as I don’t work with the medium though from my limited perspective it seems to be competently filmed and put together. I did however find the sound to be unusual and therefore of more than passing interest because the unusual, unorthodox and unconventional uses of sound in the company of moving image point to so many possibilities of invigorating a medium dominated by the foley/dialogue/music triumvirate. On the other hand, Afternoon in Liudui is simply a fine solid piece of ethnographic research with a well recorded sound track.
Finally, although we’re still in the stone age when it comes to consistent and reliable critical frameworks for understanding certain forms of sonic art, if indeed we are talking about art at all, the exploration of human and social behaviour, or at least of human contexts, would seem to make for a sensible starting point. Between rarified aesthetic positions of dubious provenance and field recording as a simple material practice with some tools requiring little more skill, say, than the use of a small digital camera, we should be able to find ourselves between heaven and earth, which is where we belong.
[Yannick Dauby courtesy of Sound of Europe]