IN TOUCH - Unlined

We chat with the creators of Unlined - a short film funded through the Foundation's IN TOUCH arts commissions that explores concepts of diasporic identities through wushu (Chinese martial art), contemporary dance and imagery. The work brings together a Taiwanese-born New Zealand dancer and wushu practitioner, a dancer from Singapore, and digital artists in New Zealand.

Watch Unlined

Can you describe the work – what’s it about?

Yin-Chi Lee (Art director, choreographer, performer)

With a sense of nostalgia, Unlined is about negotiating and rediscovering one’s diasporic identity. It’s about reimagining oneself in relation to space, to culture and to memories. It is a self-discovering journey in dialogue with ‘others’.

Darryl Chin (Digital supervisor and dancer)

The work to me is about hybrid/fluid identity negotiated through movement and genre blending. The piece takes on a narrative of the dancers looking into themselves through others, which continues to grow through the personification of one another

Why did you want to express your ideas through the medium of wushu?

Yin-Chi Lee

Wushu refers to contemporary Chinese martial arts. It is almost a traditional language reinvented to cope with our contemporary world of globalisation; a stylised movement documentation of the past and present.

As a Taiwanese born dancer, my dialogue with my Han-Chinese ethnicity and its traditions remain close. I am always drawn to express the complicated nature of diasporic identity through wushu’s beauty and sometimes its political struggles.

A screenshot from Unlined

Yin-Chi Lee: "With a sense of nostalgia, Unlined is about negotiating and rediscovering one’s diasporic identity."

What was the inspiration behind the work? How did it evolve? 

Kyung Ho Min (Digital architect : Instagram)

My inspiration came from the malleability of the digital space, allowing us to explore new ways of storytelling in the context of cultural identity. 

Darryl Chin

To create a technically diverse piece that communicates our feelings around identity.

Drawing from memory and working through nostalgia, Yin-Chi and I both took a dive into our respective archives and memory banks for moments from our birth-land, that we found interesting through our diasporic lens.

Can you talk about the collaborative process of creating the work?

Yin-Chi Lee

This is a complex work that catered three different ways of knowing and ways of doing.

The initial concept was developed by me, with Kyung coming in with his architectural experiences, the virtual space in which movements inhabited became equally dominant.

As Darryl became involved as a performer, the initial Taiwanese subjectivity opens up to another culture which is Singapore-diaspora, it was a big push from one experience to a dynamic discourse that involved many.

For myself, the collaborative process is an act of opening up. Lots, of opening up to curiosities, diversity and sometimes heated and passionate conversations that we now look back and feel proud of.

Darryl Chin

Each of us were very critical about our field; for example, Yin-Chi looking at choreographic flow, while I focused on lighting and camera movement. This collaborative process informed and pushed the production quality through attention to detail. 

Kyung Ho Min

The digital and the physical had a hand in both professions, where the dancing influenced the atmosphere of the virtual space and vice versa. The process was like a cycling feedback, creating a loop.

A screenshot from Unlined showing two performers poking their heads out from behind a wall

Kyung Ho Min: "Collaboration allows individuals to gather and share their knowledge crafted by their culture."

Why do you think it’s important for New Zealand artists to collaborate with artists from overseas, specifically Asia?

Yin-Chi Lee

New Zealand is home to many ethnicities and cultures, with a growing population of Asian residents. Art collaboration between New Zealand and Asia just might become a bridge to cultural awareness, opportunities and new discoveries. 

Kyung Ho Min

Collaboration allows individuals to gather and share their knowledge crafted by their culture. With emerging technology and fresh minds, we can pool our unique views to create valuable experiences that will enrich the world around us. 

What role has the Foundation played in developing your relationships with Asia?

Yin-Chi Lee

The Foundation’s work toward establishing a deeper ties with Asian culture and Asian art has been a reassuring and empowering support for myself as an Asian art-practitioner living in New Zealand.

The In Touch project has provided me a supportive and safe space to deepen my relationship with Asia, even throughout a difficult and isolated time.

A screenshot showing two of the actors/dancers pointing at the camera

Darryl Chin: "...Yin-Chi and I both took a dive into our respective archives and memory banks for moments from our birth-land..."

What have you got coming up? What are you working on next?

Yin-Chi Lee

All three of us are collaborating again in an upcoming project facilitated by the New Zealand National Wushu Development Squad.

The project is yet another cross-disciplinary work focusing on performance art in relation to digital space. It is in its very early stage of development now, and will be performed during the Moon Festival in September, 2021.

About the Foundation's IN TOUCH arts commissions

Unlined is one of ten digital art works to be produced through the Foundation's IN TOUCH arts commissions. The commissions were offered to New Zealand arts practitioners who had previously participated in Foundation programmes to develop new works suitable for digital channels and which draw on the artist’s ongoing connections to Asia. The ten works are to be promoted through the Foundation's channels in coming months.