Artistic Director An-Ting Chang安婷 talks to Xindi Wei about HOME X, the opening show of the Kakilang Festival in London.
“It’s a mixing of realities,” said An-Ting as she talked about HOME X, an experimental live performance premiered at the Barbican Centre in London last week.
Combined with theatre, music, gaming and VR technology, the performance explored themes of roots and belonging, destruction and renewal that ultimately offered hope and a message of transformation.
Set in an imagined metaverse full of magical creatures, the story followed two friends who became transported into this virtual world from the physical world, trying to rebuild their lost homes.
However, in the process, they came across a magnificent tree that was full of ‘spirits’, who shared thoughts of what the concept of home meant to them. This somehow led to unforeseen consequences…
To me, when the futuristic yet magical performance started, it felt like realities were starting to merge with one another through the panoramic 270-degree projection on stage.
The audience began to feel as if they were part of the virtual world, invited to experience the emotions of the characters as they struggle to find a sense of belonging, to build new lives, and to find new connections in an unfamiliar place.
What was perhaps most innovative of the performance was the fact the dancer on stage was connected to one dancer in Hong Kong in real-time using depth-sensing cameras that captured 3D video. The two dancers were characters in the metaverse, and their moves on the screens echoed their physical body movements in real life.
An-Ting continued: “I’m personally fascinated by the philosophical question of ‘what is the real reality’. I am a bit spiritual, and I wonder if the physical reality is the only reality.
“Why can’t the gaming world be another reality?”
As a concert pianist and composer, An-Ting also created the electronic music in HOME X, accompanied by soprano Colette Lam in Hong Kong and live break dance by choreographers Si Rawlinson in the UK and Suen Nam in Hong Kong.
Rawlinson believed HOME X pushed the “boundaries of how we can connect through art, where audiences, gamers, and artists from across the world create a story together in the moment, has the potential to redefine how we interact with each other and the world around us.”
HOME X was co-produced by Kakilang and their Hong Kong partner, Don’t Believe in Style.
Other performances to be showcased during the festival include visual arts exhibition STATE-LESS; Taste which is a night celebrating queer East and Southeast Asian talent; Light Vessel that features dance and contemporary circus artists, and many more original shows.
An-Ting said: “I started Kakilang Festival with the intention of offering unique perspectives from a variety of artists to help bridge the gap in the understanding of Southeast and East Asian cultures here. But through listening to all their different and fascinating attitudes and philosophies, I myself have learnt a lot about the place I originally called home.”
Formerly known as the Chinese Arts Now, Kakilang pioneers multi-disciplinary artforms from a wide spectrum of Southeast and East Asian voices. The name means ‘one of us’ in Hokkien.
She added: “For this Kakilang Festival, we gather ‘our kakilang’ from many different places and with different disciplines and artforms and invite audiences to question the reality of state boundaries, racial stereotypes and other failures of the imagination that still exist in peoples’ minds. ‘We are all migrants of the Earth’, as a HOME X interviewee rightly said.”
The Kakilang Festival runs from 21 February to 22 April 2023.