“East Meets Mae West,” by Trista di Genova
Saturday, Jan. 19, 7 p.m.-midnight
PLACE: Beat Studio, Taipei
“I think of it as a Beat Studio Avantro-spective, a taste of the year to come. Something to make the Biennial people jealous!” laughs Trista di Genova, a first-time curator in this experience, who has shown her work in the U.S. and England. For the Wild East Show, she says she wants to “turn on Taipei art-lovers to some hot new local artists, both Taiwanese and “laowai” — Joanne Chu, Wu Bai (500), Stuart Hamby, David Archdall, David “Stig” Hansen, and the Beat Studio’s own founders Tim Nathan Joel, Daniel DesJardins.
“There’s power in an artist’s collective, and dammit, it’s about time,” Trista stresses. “And we want to re-screen Kenbo Liao’s films on Taiwan’s history, too. We think his work is too incredibly important to overlook.”
Music also plays a key part of The Wild East Show, and from 8 to 10 p.m. there will be Angel & The Macedonian Music Band performing acoustic, Balkan folk music, “some of the most compelling World Music around,” Trista remarks.
“Nicola Tesla would love their music. We’ve played with them at intimate but magical gigs around town. They were also Peacefest organizer Scott Cook’s favorite band at the festival last year.”
“We’re also lining up Freestylin’ Groove Guru Zach Touzin, Elliott “The Shaman” Tsai, and Omnipotent Rock Guitar Sensation Pastor Phillip Charlier,” Trista added.
Ross Kenneger, the show’s sponsor and a local entrepreneur (rosskenneger.com), proclaimed, “This show at The Beat Studio will be a dazzling display, and the rise of young artists in Taipei. It will be a bridge between cultures and a celebration of the clash between East and West. Art is hip again!”
INTERVIEW WITH TRISTA DI GENOVA
Trista di Genova often used a three-pronged approach in her work: poetry, accompanied by painting — and music.
Her most recent works, published through Lone Wolf Press (lonewolfpress.com), are “The Wild East: Experiential Poetry & Tales of Adventure,” “The Great Scroll of Banciao,” and “Experienced in Taiwan.” She “pulls a Bukowski,” as she calls it, and reads them at hangouts around town, usually with fellow Tourist bandmembers.
“Jim Morrison would be proud,” she says.
Her first foray into comedy, “Pearls of Wisdom From The Pig’s Ass,” ran out after only a week, and after performing excerpts at The Taipei Comedy Club on Oct. 31st. A Connecticut Yankee who grew up in Tucson and California, she has also lived in France, Sweden and England. She began painting in Paris in 1994, and has shown her work in several collective shows — in Berkeley, Washington DC, as a student at Oxford University.
More recently, her work can be seen around town at Taipei lounge hangouts, such as Citizen Cain, Orlando and The Watershed, and is inviting other establishments to preview works from the show.
+886: So tell me about your work in “The Wild East,” and why you’re curating a show that explores cross-cultural dynamics.
DiG: Well, for my part, there are three central works in this show: “East Meets Mae West,” “Buddhafish,” and “Miss Behavin.'”
Then there is an affectionate series of portraits of my run-down, smoky Banciao apartment, an artistic community known as Radio Banciao, where I’ve been living for the past five years.
At first, I wanted to have a joint show with Joanne Chu, one of my alter egos, with whom I painted the exquisite “Matsu Dao Le,” “Buddhafish,” and the original “Miss Behavin,” among others.
She and Wu Bai and I invented a modus operandum for painting en groupe, a Surrealist-inspired game I call “Doing Lines.” Each of us draws one line with the maobi (brushpen) and ink, then passes it around. The narratives in these paintings that develop, I feel, are incredibly interesting.
But there’s all this great LaoWai Art “old foreigner”) out there, and realized we must have WALL-TO-WALL ART for The Wild East Show. In the past two weeks, we’ve signed up several key artists in town, and we’re still accepting applications, by the way — contact The Beat Studio.
+ 886: Why this 5-year, insanely romanticized fascination with Banciao City (Taipei County) in your work?
DiG: You mean “Banciao Country.” Because you see, Banciao is such a special place I am convinced it’s the Real Taiwan, the ‘feichang Taiwan de difang’ — extreme Taiwan place. Taiwanese people confirm this impression.
Most people like to bag Banciao, but my first impression — which still exists today — is that if Van Gogh were alive at this very moment, he would absolutely love this place, and incorporate it into his paintings. There are packs of dogs roaming the streets, dogshit everywhere, betelnut beauties and beteljuice stains like a homicide in the streets; loads of taxis, neon signs and Chinese lanterns. A French diplomat once visited Banciao and said, “You have to document this place.” And he has reason. We have gods walking down the street toward our temple gates; Happy House Breakfast Shop downstairs; beer & cigarettes any time of day or night at the Happy Mart down the street (actually it changed into an OK Mart, a detail reflected in the “Huai De Jie series). These are but a few of the things I love about Banciao. The Impressionists would no doubt have moved here at once, if they had only known of this place, magical, fantastic, trip-tastic Banciao.
+886: So you’ve travelled. What’s your favorite part of Taiwan?”
diG: This block and the next. So I am showing a series of paintings about Huai De Street — pronounced “Why didja” and it means “In Remembrance of Virtue” in Chinese. I am pimping my street for the Proustian, Impressionists Wet Dream that it is.
+886: Why the theme of “The Wild East”?
DiG: It’s from the title of my book of experiential poetry and tales of adventure, published through Lone Wolf Press a few years ago. It also incorporates my image of “East Meets Mae West” — to me a celebration of the cultural clash between East and West.
+886: Why a show at the Beat Studio?
DiG: You’re just full of questions, aren’t you! We chose to have a show at The Beat Studio, because I’ve been a fan of Tim’s work (Nathan Joel), and The Beat Studio is the only place in town that’s devoted to the Beat tradition, like we are. We want art, poetry, music; we want it all.
The guys at The Beat invited me to do a show of my work, but my work is often done in collaboration with others, preferably my two best Taiwanese mates; so it became a Joint Show with Joanne at first.
The “Doing Lines Series” is a really exciting way to generate explosive, fresh new imagery, where each person takes turn “doing lines”; that is, drawing one line, then passing on the maobi (brushpen) to the next person. Joanne’s and my first painting together was “Matsu Dao le” (Matsu has arrived). We did it while in DaJia (Taichung County) for the festival there.
Then, with Wu Bai (the Famous one), we created another powerful icon: a Buddha in the form of a fish. As far as I’m aware, there are no such representations of the Buddha.
We also did Miss Behavin’ together, a Picasso-like woman perches voluptuously on a pedestal at the bar, with what’s known as “Hong Kong feet,” someone whose heart is locked away her heart under her knees, while ….well, the story goes on. I love these pieces, and I feel they have great cross-cultural value. My dream is to get sponsorship or a grant to do cross-cultural art studio sessions based on these techniques.
+886: You tend to use religious found objects a lot in your other work, as well.
DiG: Yes, I find ghost money beautiful and mysterious. See? The first one on the stack is gold-printed, it’s way too beautiful to burn. I use ghost money as wings of a goddess in “Center of The Universe,” and also used paper in making ghost lanterns in the background of “East Meets Mae West.” I saw these yellow paper lanterns in the incense shop and bought one to find out what it was for. It turned out to be something they burn when someone dies.
Joanne used it in her piece, “I don’t want to paint.” I suppose she’d rather burn money! Heh!
It seems to give many traditional Taiwanese the heebie-jeebies to see it being used in art. So I must be on the right track. I love to see the cultural inner conflict this piece inspires in both foreigners and Taiwan people. It seems to jar them, but just in the right way (laughs), and besides — like Hitchcock said, “Terrorize your audience.” It’s good for the Taiwanese to see their religious traditions in a different light, rather than as empty superstitions practiced without thinking, like an automaton. And in contrast, with this piece Westerners seem to experience a type of awakening about deeper, more ancient meanings of symbols, origins; an increased respect and understanding for the venerable religion of The East; Buddhism.
This is what is interesting for me: What is shocking, to whom? Foreigners find shocking the reversed “savastika,” “wan” in Chinese, an ancient symbol seen on pots made in China 4,000 years ago. It’s a symbol that fills foreigners with dread, and it is confused with a swastika of Nazi Germany, a taboo subject. Taiwanese, on the other hand, are “shocked” by the paper and what that signifies: A ritual of death, a taboo subject or them.
By Tsui Shi-hua