Wang Fujui interviewed by Andre Morrison
Chinese text prepared by Yi Lu
English translation by Soundwatch Studio
The Interviewer/Andre Morrison
A:Let’s start with the roots of noise music in Taiwan. The only band i know from that time is, obviously, ZSLO, and when i tried to find some information about them, i found out that the band was formed in some kind of nihilist underground. It was written that there were student movements against government and the radical music underground was one of them, except they were against other student movements as well, so i get a picture in my mind of some nihilist kind of subculture. But maybe i missed something in translation. So please, tell me what was happening then and how you get involved into this.
F:In Taiwan, there were groups like LTK Commune and Zslo. With their Punk anarchistic spirit, they tried to collide with restraints in making music and in thinking. In 1987, with the martial law coming to an end, social movements proliferated. A kind of new-born and uncanny surge began to emerge. In 1990, the slow pace of political reform catalyzed the Wild lily student movement. As college students at the time, we felt the immediate impact of an independent spirit of anti-establishment. The trend also directly influenced young people who made art, music and theatre performance. The emergence of “Noise” magazine can be regarded as a fight against the rigid and meager music system at the time.
A: What was your “Noise" magazine about? Only about noise music or there were something else? How many people were reading “Noise"? And how and when it came to an end? Sorry about a lot of questions, but it’s really interesting 🙂
F:"Noise" is a fanzine. I created it because at the time in Taiwan, it was difficult to get information about experimental music. Added my passion for music, I invited people with similar interests to contribute articles and began to publish the magazine in 1993. I also interviewed foreign musicians that I liked by emails and came to know many friends abroad. Coincidentally, we had the chance to release “Nothing To Hear-Nothing To…1985″, an album by The Gerogerigegege from Japan. It contains 56 minutes of “Harsh Noise”. People of the factory in charge of CD mastering thought there must be something wrong with the master and asked me to check. This is the first CD release of noise music released in Taiwan. We produced 500 copies, many of which were actually sold to or in exchange with the U.S. and Europe. And “Noise” also became a DIY record label. The 10th issue of “Noise" was published in 1997. In 1999, I released my first album, “Ching-Shen-Ching – 0.1.2.3″. Since then, I came to concentrate on my own music making. Since it was easy to access information from the internet, the existence of print magazine became relatively minor.
A: Please tell me about the present of experimental art (not music, that’s another question) in Taiwan. In Russia we have a lot of conservative minded people who think that new art is an evil and it’s “against god"; and government is also very conservative, so we have a laws that affected the freedom of expression in arts, cause else it “could hurt someone’s feelings or beliefs". Yan Jun wrote an article about the similar conservatism in PRC. From info on your website i know that you did a lot of audio\video installations or expositions since 2000, so i think that the “culture environment" in Taiwan is positive and new art is welcomed. Am i right?
F:Indeed, the cultural milieu in Taiwan is freer. Especially the young people here embrace new cultures and arts. Among the audience of sound art exhibitions and performances, there are lots of young people. Also, many young people devote themselves to making, exhibiting and performing sound art. This is a main drive for my creation in this domain. Yet due to the limited resource in Taiwan, many elder people devoted their entire lives just to make a living and tended to ignore art and culture. For them, art-making was not a normal job. This is also due to the fact that artists confront more and more pressure of social legitimacy as they grow old. So the number of artists that are able to continue such practice in the long term naturally declines. Yet when I perform abroad in the U.S. and Europe, I often saw people of different ages among the audience whereas the majority of the audience is young people.
A: Maybe it’s a stupid question, but contemporary art is very contextual, so sometimes it’s hard to understand the meaning of an art object if you don’t have a “cultural key". How do you deal with this problem? Are there any explanational boards on your exhibitions? Or you just let people to construct their own opinion? 🙂
F:When sound art-making becomes more and more diversified, it is no longer pure sound making. Through combining different media and interdisciplinary collaborations, we can expand creative possibilities. But since exhibition venues are mainly for visual arts, discussing through angles of contemporary visual art might bring a different perspective. Yet eventually this leads back to the context of sound art-making. We’re still in urgent need of talented people specialized in discourse and curating in the domain. Also, in recent years, I’ve noticed that the visual impact brought by sound art-making to the audience and the attention it arouses are greater than brand new feelings and points of view that are provoked acoustically. My work this year will include minimum visual elements. Yet the sound depicts space and pictures, spaces that are very abstract yet full of imagination, providing a site for feeling the sounds, letting the public experience by themselves.
A: Tell me about your influences, please. I predict there will be a lot of american\european artists in list. Your art to me seems somehow… german or austrian. Also, what about musicians, who have influenced you? Your different works shows different influences, to me again, it’s not like i am always right 🙂 But i hear a touch of Ryoji Ikeda style on “soundwave communication" and some of your visual arts.
F:In my high school days, I spent much of my leisure time in finding all kinds of music that I liked to listen to and movies I liked to see. This was also the very first drive that pushed me to found “Noise"; such a process of seeking things, such experience also cast a great influence on me. One of my favorite films is “Stalker” by Andrei Tarkovsky. The unknown process of seeking is an important drive for me. During the early period of my career, it was between 1995 and 1997 that noise influenced my work the most. After listening to lots of clamorous noise performances, I came to listen to “Un Peu de Neige Salie”, an album by Bernhard Günter, where you almost hear nothing. The radical contrast brings great impact to the listening experience. On the one hand, noise always involves something radical, chaotic and a trace of anti-establishment. On the other hand, Glitch and Digital Error in digital music open up a another window for me to seek something unknown. In 2002, Zbigniew Karkowski performed and lectured in Taipei, demonstrating how to open non-acoustic files (such as word files, executables, etc.) with Soundhack and take the results as the source of sound. The source is totally unknown and out of control; the creative openness cast a great influence on me. Until now, I still learn and experience as if I were a kid that knows nothing. I always think, “Noise is the very beginning where I had nothing at all.”
A: Of your visual and audio components of art, which comes first? I mean, i know about your albums without any visualization (“soundwave communication" and your split with torturing nurse), and i am wondering if there is any of your visual works without sounds: paintings, sculptures…
F:Sound is the main medium of my art-making. In 2000, I joined Etat Lab in Taipei and made some interactive visual installations. But I still felt the most for sound art-making. So I concentrated on this kind of art. But what I do is more than pure sound art. I’d like to seek all kinds of possibilities of sound through different essays. For example, one of my works titled “Beyond 0~20Hz” takes sine wave frequencies between 0~20Hz that human can’t hear as its sound source. By using computer software to rapidly switching frequencies and volumes, I make analog loudspeakers produce wrong noise. This is an important step in my early period of making sound installations. More possibilities of sound-making were opened up through sound installations. As for another piece titled “Sound Bulb”, the point is simply the volume. Through a microchip, I control the volume of the feedback produced by small microphones and speakers. The sound of feedback sounds like the chirping of cicadas, bringing something natural. In my art, I try to put sound at the center. Using sounds or works related to sound is relatively more common in art-making now. In comparison, there are few works that really go back to sound art as a creative source. In my work titled “Sound Dots”, I use elements of sound and light. The work consists of a space containing 1000 objects spreading all over; the objects randomly produce sound and light. It is about an unreal feeling in a real space. I spent 6 years to realize the work I had dreamed and imagined. A recent piece titled “Seeing Sound” consists of images but without sound. The images are generated through connecting all kinds of experimental sound frequencies to the video input of a CRT TV. I visually re-think the pictures made through the experimental process and conceive imagination. Sound is not the point here; the piece involves visual representation only and no sound.
About “Sound Dots”, see
About “Seeing Sound”, see
A: Now about experimental music in Taiwan. I don’t know anything about this. Well, i know about you and a bit about Lin Chi-Wei and ZSLO. So i just don’t know what happens now in Taiwanese experimental music scene. Are there any music festivals, shows, big names, interesting people or bands? And do you feel the responsibilr its creation (maybe a big word, but anyway) ?
F:Since 1995, I’ve started to make music in the name of “精神經/Ching-Shen-Ching”. I was studying in San Francisco and met several American experimental sound artists I had communicated during the period I published “Noise". I was particularly close to Joe Colley and learned lots of ideas from his studio and performing venues. “Harsh Noise” was a trend at the time and I experienced the limits of excessive sensory stimulus in many venues of live sound performances. Thus I wanted to stimulate human brain “nerves" through experimental sounds and images, and to explore an unknown spiritual depth. That’s why I began my sound art-making with the name “精神經/Ching-Shen-Ching” which combines two Chinese terms, “spirit”(精神) and “nerve”(神經). Among my partners at the time, Dino continues to make sound art. With simple equipment, he turns “No-Input” technique into magic. Lin Chi-We, Dino and I keep a long-term friendship on the road of sound art-making. In 2015, we were invited to perform together in the U.K.
Founded in early 2015 in Taipei, Soundwatch Studio consists of two artists, Wang Fujui and Lu Yi. Lu Yi was previously Wang’s assistant. After four years of training and learning, they decided to co-found Soundwatch Studio in the name of Wang Fujui with the expectation of taking part in more related exhibitions and performances together. In April 2015, they were invited to do 3 performances of exchange in the U.K. The first was the inaugural performance for “Shoot the Pianist-The Noise Scene in Taipei 1990-95 Exhibition” at the Birkbeck School of Arts University in London. The second and the third performances were carried out at the Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow for Counterflows Festival and in Café OTO respectively; both performances also involved another two artists, Lin Chi-Wei and Dino。
A: The last question. Is there a [modern] cultural connection between Taiwan and PRC? I know that Yao Dajuin is from Taiwan and he influenced a lot of musicians in PRC and now he even lives there. And you did this split album with torturing nurse, and it was released on Huashan recs, which is a Shanghai label, so my point is – is there any possibility of existence of united Taiwan/PRC experimental scene? Or a hint of its possible creation? It’d be great, after all…
F:In recent years, there have been exchanges of sound art between Taiwan and China. Artists of the two places have been connecting one another. Yet since Taiwan is an island, it requires flights to travel between the two sides. In addition to the geographic limits, travel budget is also a question. So there’re not so many exchanges, neither are they so frequent. The future plan of my studio, Soundwatch Studio, involves releasing my own sound art albums under my own brand and publishing related books.