This article is provided by an interview for the 2022 Taoyuan Iron Rose Art Festival.
“Until the end of life, they still want to know how much potential this world holds.”Po-Chieh CHEN
Exploring daily Life with Ayla, Ayla-the First Visit
The two creators of “Ars Association”, Po-Chieh CHEN and Yu-Fen CHEN, originally worked for many years at the National Taichung Theater. They became acquainted with each other through their work and discovered they shared the same beliefs. They became partners and embarked on the path of creation together, establishing “Ars Association” as not only a performance space and exchange platform, but also a production team with limitless possibilities and without labels. They have gathered a variety of talents, and the name “Ars Association” itself has a dialogic quality that reflects their desire to engage in discussion and dialogue with society through their work.
Po-Chieh CHEN has a background as a dancer and choreographer, having danced in a dance company in the United States. In 2004, she decided to return to Taiwan and became an arts administrator. She has worked at various organizations such as the Lan Yang Dance Company, Cloud Gate 2, and the Performing Arts Alliance. She even worked at the Eslite Bookstore to experience different lifestyles. Later, she settled at the National Taichung Theater, where she has explored various aspects of performing arts work from production, environment to official matters.
Yu-Fen CHEN studied and worked in landscape design and related large-scale projects. However, her passion for performing arts and her desire to engage in theater prompted her to enter the National Taichung Theater to gain experience. During her tenure at the National Taichung Theater, she held various positions, including general administration, backstage furniture decoration, indicator installation project., landscape projects, and product design and development. She pieced together a theater map in her mind by approaching and scrutinizing the field from different angles. Driven by curiosity, she unleashed her creative soul without limitations.
Ayla from the Future: You and Me in the Present
During an event, curator Yi-Wei KENG proposed an art promotion project to the Ars Association team. He hoped that they could create a large puppet in an approachable style to promote art to the audience. Additionally, the puppet had to incorporate circus elements such as stilts, which increased the difficulty level of the project.
After accepting the invitation, they began to explore and discuss various aspects of the project: who would create it, why they were creating it, and why they were making a puppet? Ultimately, they wanted the work to have a long lifespan, so that it could continue to evolve and develop over time. After several proposals and rejections, they came up with the idea of a little girl from the future named “Ayla.” Ayla’s mission in the present was to conduct field research for her elementary school graduation project and share her findings with her classmates.
Accompanied by Ayla’s wandering and investigation, perhaps during the process, she can lead everyone to think about some of the issues that people are concerned about in a relaxed way. Although elementary school students come from the future, they are all participating in current events. Maybe those issues no longer exist in her world, but for us, they are still present. Rather than describing her background story, the performance team believes that the most important thing is the “present”. The team also brings up a thought: Why does Ayla care about the past world? Perhaps it is no longer the case in the future world, and maybe the human body no longer exists, leaving only memories. But why do they still want to explore? Because “until the end of life, they still want to know how much potential this world holds.” they say.
Because “until the end of life, they still want to know how much potential this world holds.” they say.
They named the performance “Ayla-the First Visit”, which also means that this is just the first form and there will be more possibilities in the future. At the same time, the team also created a Facebook fan page for Ayla, creating a form of participation. Through simple graphics and text, and the childlike tone and touch, we can see the world that we take for granted in the present.
How would people in the future imagine our current lives when they see the relics of our present? Is our art now a documentary or a creation? The comparison between the present and the future may bring people more associations.
The Secret of Ayla’s Birth
Ayla’s design was created by Yu-Fen CHEN. In a situation where there were no power resources and people had to move by using stilts, what kind of puppet should be made and how big should it be?
The first thing she thought of was the procession of the deity she saw when she was standing on the second-floor balcony as a child. Although the deity’s feet were on the ground, it was still driven solely by the human body. If it could be even taller than the tallest deity in Taiwan, it would be more visually fresh for the audience and have a better chance of achieving ergonomic design.
Therefore, they drew a character image that was about 420 cm tall and brought two sketches to consult with the puppet maker. However, since the puppet maker had limited abilities in terms of volume, they changed their direction to focus on stage production and consulted with friends who had many years of experience. Eventually, they were lucky enough to find a collaboration with ” Curve Art Space Co., Ltd. ” (referred to as “Curve”), and based on this foundation, she proceeded to do the detailed design.
The creation of the sculpture involves the integration of various techniques such as sculpture, mechanical components, and artistic painting. Different professionals work together to bring the design to life, resulting in many conversations during the production process. For example, the original design was based on the skeleton of a divine warrior, and the craftsmen suggested making modifications to refine the body shape. Additionally, they decided to switch from using bamboo weaving to rattan weaving, with weight reduction as a consideration.
Ayla’s eyes are made from a large capsule toy casing that has been modified and installed inside her head. They are controlled by a joystick, allowing her to move her gaze and giving her a more lively appearance through her “window to the soul.” Her mouth was inspired by traditional glove puppetry, while her brown hair, in order to achieve a natural flowing effect, was not fixed in a lightweight shape. Instead, it was added strand by strand, so that when she walks outdoors, she sways with the wind like a real little girl.
The most important aspect of walking for Ayla is the use of stilt-walking, which is painted and suitable for both work and dance performances. Adorable boots are also added to the stilts. At every stage of the production process, the team tries on and makes adjustments to ensure that everything is in place. “The rehearsal locations are also in outdoor parks, adapting to different terrains for practice. It’s like an obstacle course. If we don’t do it this way, we don’t know what might happen. While walking for humans may seem simple, it can be very challenging for Ayla.”
“The rehearsal locations are also in outdoor parks, adapting to different terrains for practice. It’s like an obstacle course. If we don’t do it this way, we don’t know what might happen. While walking for humans may seem simple, it can be very challenging for Ayla.”
Ayla’s head shell is made of carbon fiber, and from the inside, it appears to be a complex intertwining of metal components, resembling a mobile mini theater.
Explore with Ayla and escape the mundane.
Both the puppet and the humans are performances equally.
From the very beginning, Po-Chieh CHEN intended for dancers to perform in her work. Throughout the rehearsal process, she also contemplated another aspect of the performance, namely, the relationship between the “puppet” and people. She believes that both the puppet and humans are performers on the stage of life, and “revealing people is becoming increasingly important to me.”
In the performance “Ayla – the First Visit,” which followed, the performers would always be visible and there was choreography involved, with even Ayla trying her hand at dancing. “Our goal is to create a theatrical world within the everyday environment,” said Po-Chieh CHEN. Things that people wouldn’t normally pay attention to in their daily lives are noticed by Ayla, allowing everyone to follow her lead and see the commonplace in a new light.
Ayla’s performance will be accompanied by the dancer’s exposure, display, and wearing, as if it were the formation of a futuristic person’s alter ego. The various lifeless components are given life by the presence of humans, bringing a magical moment in time.
“Our goal is to create a theatrical world within the everyday environment” Things that people wouldn’t normally pay attention to in their daily lives are noticed by Ayla, allowing everyone to follow her lead and see the commonplace in a new light.
At the Taoyuan Iron Rose Art Festival this time, Ayla’s performance will invite the locally well-established ” Ya-Zhi Dance Company ” to participate in the collaboration, combining the background of nearby environmental construction to present a relaxed and playful feeling of exploration.
Before the performance, the front desk already displays the small items collected by Ayla, welcoming the audience to interact and participate in her fieldwork. “Ayla’s traits can accomplish many good things,” said Po-chieh CHEN. In the future, Ayla will continue to adventure and explore, whether it is outdoor and indoor performances, educational promotion, publishing, etc. The audience will join Ayla’s journey in many different places.