13 Tongues creates a powerful aura, summoning tens of thousands of spirits wandering in the old Taipei district of Bangka to drift amid the glaringly colorful fantasy.
CHENG Tsung-lung has always been fascinated by his mother’s stories about “Thirteen Tongues,” a street artist in the 1960s. This legendary story-teller was said being able to portray multiple roles of all walks of life in Bangka, the oldest district in Taipei city, rich with temples, religious rites, and festive parades.
In 13 Tongues, CHENG transforms his childhood memory of the Taoist rites and bustling street life of Bangka into a fantasy world.
The metallic sound of a hand bell unfolds the soundscape that fuses Taiwanese folk songs, Japanese nakashi tunes and electronic music. Against a bizarre projection reminiscent of colors of temples, dancers move in grounded positions, traveling in serpentine patterns. They chant mysterious mantras, stomp, stagger and tremble like enchanted shamans, until the light dims down and glaring fluorescent patterns on their costumes flow through the space, as if thousands of wandering spirits from the old Bangka were evoked. A Goddess floats up and flies over the head of black-clad celebrants. A koi fish appears in the projection, wiggling its tail, and disappears into nowhere....
Part real, part dream, this full-length work takes audience on a journey as mesmerizing as the stories told by Thirteen Tongues, where lines between spheres of deities, spirits and human beings are subtly dissolved.