‘Bathing in the Currents’ is a project documenting a stretched collaboration that unfolded uniquely during the residency at Ma Umi. Four year ago, Russ Ligtas and Szu-ni Wen initiated a conversation, engaging in discussions and performances that tackled the prevailing territorial issues in the South China Sea. This dialogue initially spanned from the Philippines to Taiwan and has now expanded to the east, encompassing the Yaeyama archipelago.
Russ, unable to join us in Ishigaki, turned this constraint into a wonderful opportunity to explore collaboration despite being 1000 km apart, from Pangasinan Bay in the north of the Philippines. Both Russ and Szu-ni embarked on a comprehensive research in a territory that was previously unfamiliar to them, delving into history and uncharted aspects to broaden their understanding. In between them, the sea transformed into a solid ground to vehicle their thoughts.
Looking at the horizon, listening to the tangible experiences and memories of war, or reflecting of an impending conflict, they have broaden their understanding of the regional map. Everyday, their collaboration adhered to a rigorous protocol.. they reached an agreement to select a location that resonates with both islands and established a designated time and specific performance for that place. Immersing themselves in the viewpoints of other homelands and stories, they spun, sang, pooped bubblewrap, reclined on the shoreline… The infrastructure of the port, the statue of heroes, the mangrove provided the backdrop for a duo video, capturing moments from sunrise to sunset.
Russ and Szu-ni aimed to gain insight into the point of view of others, to witness the world as they do and to experience the anxieties that dwell within their hearts. In Pangasinan, Russ interviewed fishermen facing the challenges of Chinese patrols and losing access to their treasured fishing grounds. In the meantime, Szu-ni engaged with a multitude of peace activists, exploring and connecting with individuals committed to the pursuit of peace in the Yaeyama archipelago.
In their initial sunset performance, Russ and Szu-ni sliced through the water with the intent to open its molecules and dissolved salts. Using a large knife, they cleaved through the waves as slicing though an invisible monster, an insurmountable boundary, a distance that could be bridged.
Both the Philippines and Taiwan share a historical connection with Japan, and in the face of rumours of war, history may repeat itself. Our open house closure presentation This heightens our motivation to expand our research and consider the potential implications from a more global standpoint.
Russ Ligtas, an artist and performer, spans over a decade of diverse creative work in Cebu and Manila, Philippines. His art, including live performances and films, draws inspiration from various alter egos, serving as conduits for his explorations of reality. These avatars navigate personal and collective narratives, contributing to a body of work that delves into self-exploration. Russ has showcased his art and collaborations across the Philippines, the United States, Europe, and Asia.
Szu-Ni Wen completed her puppetry diploma at HfS Ernst Busch in Berlin. Returning to Kaohsiung in 2015, she established C-turtle tactic. Currently, her primary focus lies in exploring the connections between urban development and the intertwined aspects of people, memories, imaginations, and the identity of places.
Russ and Szu-ni have been engaged in a series of collaboration since 2019.