Artist dances Elliptical
Fiction on Taipei residency

Dancer and choreographer Zahra Killeen-Chance recently spent three months on an Asia New Zealand Foundation residency at Taipei Artist Village where she collaborated with local artists and developed her project Elliptical Fiction. She perfomed the work at an event hosted by Taiwan-based arts magazine White Fungus. In this article, White Fungus editors (and brothers) Ron and Mark Hanson talk about their involvement with Killeen-Chance and describe the works she created in Taiwan.
Woman dancing with arm out in front of spotlight

Zahra Killeen-Chance performing Elliptical Fiction at Depopulate 07 in Taipei, Taiwan

We first presented the work of Auckland dancer, choreographer and performance artist Zahra Killeen-Chance in Taiwan in early 2014, as part of an event at Treasure Hill artist village in Taipei.

Killeen-Chance was returning from Europe to New Zealand and decided to drop in as a stop-over with her partner and collaborator, the photographer Solomon Mortimer. Having presented Killeen-Chance previously in New Zealand, alongside Taipei sound and installation artist Wang Fujui, we felt confident that the work would translate in Taiwan. 

Set in the rustic environment of the veteran's-settlement-turned-artist-village Treasure Hill, the night included poetry by Hsia Yu, performance art by Zoe Sun, guitar improvisation by Anla Courtis (Buenos Aires), and live noise and electronic music by Wang Fujui and Noise Steve.

Killeen-Chance performed her solo work Is That Her?, a piece inspired by the Peggy Lee song Is That All There Is?, involving video and monologues interspersed with live dance sequences.

The work was warmly embraced by an audience drawn largely from the sound and contemporary art scenes. Through the event and performance, Killeen-Chance laid the beginnings of her relationship with Taiwan and became motivated to return in 2017 to undertake the Asia New Zealand Foundation residency at Taipei Artist Village.

Woman spinning in front of spotlight at dance show

Killeen-Chance: "My artistic research asks how performance can challenge the notion of a stable presence by highlighting dynamic relationships between binary values." (Photo: Solomon Mortimer)

The recent stay saw Killeen-Chance and Mortimer spend almost three months in Taipei creating new work and publishing a photobook, Many things were not in the fantasy.

On arriving in Taiwan, Killeen-Chance contacted Betty Apple, a Taipei sound and performance artist best known for her provocative series Vibrator Love of Sound, involving clusters of amplified vibrators.

The two began working on a collaboration, Elliptical Fiction  a dance work built around electronic music composed and produced by Apple.

To realize her idea for a new costume to use in the piece, Killeen-Chance visited the historic Yongle Market where fabrics can be purchased and garments made to description by local tailors.  

She created a fabric print depicting lines and curves that she says "could be seen as a score for my performance".

"The phrase, the curve searching towards the line and the line searching towards the curve became another integral part of my performance and exhibition," she says.

Elliptical Fiction was performed to a sold-out crowd during an event we held at The Venue in Taipei on June 24, sponsored by the New Zealand Commerce and Industry Office. Again we presented Killeen-Chance alongside artists working in a range of different fields. Among the other performers was Tokyo intermedia artist Yousuke Fuyama, who combines static noise and electronic music soundscapes with a visual practice of monochromatic psychedelia.

Local Taiwanese artists performed work crossing over terrain including techno, noise, light, video and performance art. The artists each staked out different areas of the venue to perform in and over the course of the night the audience moved around the the cavernous underground space to accommodate the shifting dynamics.

Killeen-Chance was the second act. Her performance was announced by the sudden appearance of a harsh white spotlight, both cold and intense, on the back-end wall of the space.

The starkly physical performance showed an awareness of the local audience and engaged with the practices and context she was immersed in.

Among the local influences Killeen-Chance had absorbed and integrated into her work were the Tai Chi Chen sessions she regularly attended.

During her residency the daybreak ritual of Tai Chi provided a structure and morning discipline that is easy to lose when one is unmoored from normal places of work and habitual routines. The movements of the ancient Chinese martial art helped Killeen-Chance to break further from the conventions of contemporary dance.

Killeen-Chance says, "My artistic research asks how performance can challenge the notion of a stable presence by highlighting dynamic relationships between binary values. 

"Tai Chi Chen is a movement technique and philosophy that incorporates the idea of yin and yang, and integrates seemingly opposing ideas. I was interested to find how I could express these ideas through my movement language, exhibition and performance." 

Watch a video of Killeen-Chance perform her work Eliptical Fiction at the White Fungus event Depopulate 07 (Video: Damien Owen Trainor)

In an age of fly-by-night residencies and itinerant cultural appearances, Killeen-Chance's performance and recent visit to Taiwan demonstrate the value of repeated stays and prolonged engagement. To penetrate a foreign cultural milieu takes time and a commitment to reciprocity. Killeen-Chance's engagement with Taiwan is not a closed chapter. The artist's relationship with the island can be seen as a story in motion.   

White Fungus is an arts magazine run by New Zealand brothers Mark and Ron Hanson out of Taichung, Taiwan.