Au Sow Yee  區秀詒

Born and grew up in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), Sow Yee now lives and work in Taipei (Taiwan). She is a finalist in the 2018 Asia Pacific Breweries Signature Art Prize. Her works focuses mainly in questioning, exploring as well as expanding the relation between images, image making, history, politics and power, through video installation and other mediums. Sow Yee’s works were exhibited in MMCA (Seoul), Mori Art Museum (Tokyo), HKW (Berlin), Shanghai Rockbund Art Museum, Singapore Film Festival, BACC (Bangkok) and various other exhibitions and screenings. Sow Yee is a guest writer for online magazine No Man’s Land and co-founded Kuala Lumpur’s Rumah Attap Library and Collective in 2017.

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1.1 Tiger Cave (2020)

Japanese intelligence agent Tani Yutaka, a member of the F agency, one of Japan’s intelligence agencies in the 1940s, spoke fluent Malay. In 1911, he was born in Fukuoka, Japan, and later moved with his parents in northeastern Malaysia, where he became a bandit to avenge his younger sister’s death. Tani Yutaka’s story has been filmed in 1943 and 1989 and adapted into the television series “Bandit Harimau” (快傑ハリマオ)in 1960 and 1961. “Harimau” (ハリオ) is known as Malay word for “Tiger.” The series re-imagine Tani Yutaka’s journey on the sea and in his life. As a reference to the South, the tiger is also Japan’s mental appearance attached to its human figures on the map of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. During the Japanese occupation, Taiwan was considered the northernmost spot of the South, and how did Taiwan view the further South? A sleeping tiger is like the sleeping South, the hot, lazy, and unprogressive periphery. “Malayan Tigers” in the tropical rainforest are still named after the colonists, and they drowsily continue their journey to the uncharted fields in their human forms.

Animator and 3D Animator: WU Ting-Yi
Music and Sound: CHEN YowRuu
Sound Design for Sleeping Tiger: Vicky OU

part of The Extreme Journey of Perwira and the Calm Sea: In 3 Acts
03:36 mins, Two-Channel Video
supported by the Taishin Bank Foundation For Arts and Culture

Kris Project +: Polaris, Southern Stars and the Darken Bats  (2020)

The Kris Project+: Polaris, Southern Stars and the Darken Bats is the final chapter of the “Kris Project” series launched in 2016. Centering around the Malayan cinema magnate Loke Wan Tho (who died in a plane crash in Shengang, Taiwan in 1964) as the protago- nist, the “Kris Project” also brings up issues such as regional politics, borders, etc. Loke who mysteriously disappeared in the plane crash met his lover whom transformed into a black bat and, amidst the flux of scenery shots, tackles the dialectics of border imagining both in its fluxes and biases.

Video . 09:57 mins . Note Book . Found Objects
* commissioned by Taipei Museum of Fine Arts

Prelude: Song of Departure (2019)

The Extreme Journey of Perwira and the Calm Sea: In 3 Acts is Au’s continuation in the exploration of visible and invisible borders in various context, for instance historiography and the question of border in different sense. The Japanese intelligence agent, Tani Yutaka, was a member of F. Kikan, one of the intelligence departments of Japan in the 1940s. Yutaka spoke Malay fluently in the images created by the mass media. After born in 1911, Fukuoka, Japan, he moved to the North East of Malay Peninsula with his parents. He became a bandit out of revenge after his sister was killed. The story of Yutaka was made into movies in 1943 and 1989. And the TV show Amazing Harimao from 1960 to 1961 as well as the comic of the same name published afterwards, were also based on the same story. The Extreme Journey of Perwira and the Calm Sea: In 3 Acts reimagines the oceanic and life journeys of Tani Yutaka. Mixing Southern Cross, navigation system, the thinking, deploying and regrouping of the relationship between popular music and images, the project reflects the multiple facets of Japan, Taiwan, ASEAN countries, as well as the changing borders between South China Sea, Indian Ocean, the Pacific region and its shifting power dynamic. Prelude: Song of Departure, the Prologue of the project, applies the format of Karaoke to start the journey of Yutaka. The song of departure is a collage of the lyrics and melodies of The Song of Taiwanese Army, used to recruit Taiwanese to the army during Japanese Colonization, the theme song of Amazing Harimao and The Song of Southern Cross. Southern Cross was a significant astrological symbol used by the Japanese as a metaphor towards the South.

part of The Extreme Journey of Perwira and the Calm Sea: In 3 Acts
04:45 mins, Single-Channel Video with mic and mic stand

The Broadcast Project: A Many Splendored Thing of the Coconut, a Belle from Penang and the Secret Agent (2018)

In the early twentieth century, the imperial Japanese government attempted to transform northern South Taiwan into a ‘paradise’, simply in order to provide a test case for further expansion into Southeast Asia in the future. Enormous quantities of tropical plants were transported to Taiwan, including coconut trees, which were seen as a strategic object in the expansion of borders—enacting a systemization of nature as such.

In 1935, the Japanese government commemorated the fortieth anniversary of the colonization of Taiwan with an extravagant display of cultural and political power, ‘The Taiwan Exposition: In Commemoration of the First Forty Years of Colonial Rule’. This fifty-day event celebrated Japanese and Taiwanese products and craftsmanship, construction and modernization, and occupied over thirty new buildings in Taipei and across the island. The Exposition’s South Pavilion featured a reproduction of rubber plantation—though the rubber tree itself is not native to Southeast Asia, it now grows here in abundance having been imported from South America by the British. This Pavilion was also flanked by sculptures of horses, an animal usually accustomed to temperate climates and unable to withstand extreme heat, but which was trained in humid southern Taiwan in order to prepare for upcoming battles. In this sense, the Taiwanese Exposition revealed the way in which the geographies of flora and fauna have been manipulated by humans to sustain colonization.

This work extends from The Nanyang Intelligence Bureau, a collaborative performance presented by Au Sow-Yee and the Oz Theatre Company in October of 2018. Designed as a film set which humorously mimics the Southern Pavilion from the Taiwan Exposition in 1935, and integrates radio broadcasts, video works, and archival objects, A Love Story of Life and Death charts Taiwan’s colonial history through an unlikely romance between a vanished intelligence agent and the ‘Belle of Penang’ (Bin Cheng Yan). A theatrical murder mystery of sorts, this performative installation invites viewers to reimagine the relationships between Japan, Taiwan, and Malaysia, exposed through their political and botanical connections.

Dimensions Variable (commissioned by 2018 Taipei Biennial)
Installation Documentation:   

The Nanyang Intelligence Bureau (2018)

Since early 20th century, a huge laboratory became the paradise of the northernmost of the south, and a preparation site for future power expansion into Southeast Asia. The Nanyang Intelligence Bureau was initiated by visual artist Sow-Yee AU’s exploration into the relationship between physical body and movement of Chih-Chung CHENG (Ah Chung). Taking the obsession of locomotion in film history as the starting interface, AU tries to re-construct the imaginations of films or images in the audiences’ consciousness with the physical body as well as the intangible “sounds” it drives and the intangible “borders” it initiates. This is an alternative story of a secret agent, integrating texts excerpted from mythologies, epics, journals, historical / colonial texts, novels, spells of a shaman, Malay poetry and others. The Nanyang Intelligence Bureau attempts to question and imagine the circulation and transformation of Asian history.

Theatre Performance: Premiere: 5 - 7 October 2018 @ Experimental Theatre, Taipei, Taiwan (part of the 2018 International Theater Festival)
Performance Except:

photos by Hsu Ping and Chen YowRuu