Ghost Nation (2018)
“Ghost Nations” is interactive performance produced and presented during Taipei’s Asia Discovers Asia Meeting of 2018, by Batu Bozoglu (TR), Natsuki Ishigami (JAP), Russ Ligtas (PHL) and Su Pin-Wen (TW). “Ghost Nations” aims to explore the dynamics of community building and national politics that are present in the world. Inspired by the Ghost Holiday season from the Asian culture, the work aims to create a platform where by participants can temporarily inhabit a political ephemerality in order to reorganize themselves as new national entities. The work consists of three stages which follows a consequential order of transition from the entry to a ghostly state, followed by a community building activity and finally leaving the experience with the reassertion of a new identity.
“Ghost Nations” is designed to be presented in large multistory buildings with a series of lined-up elevators. The performance experience starts on the first floor of the building outside the elevator doors where the audience would wait to be processed. A performer (Pin-Wen) will be stationed here, clothed in a dominatrix outfit standing on a podium guiding people. This first stage has a hellish atmosphere with very loud music playing and the performer being rough to the audience members. Here, assistants to the Dominatrix will paste at random “fu paper” prayers on the participants' foreheads. These papers will group people according to the numbers written on them thus creating random groups of 4. At this point the Dominatrix will order these groups to form lines in front of the elevator doors.
For the second stage, the work uses elevators as spaces that would ensure the group’s isolation from the outside world for the activities and conversations that would take place inside. They contain a small table with a pair of scissors, several colored tape, pens, various stickers of pictograms and an inkpad. Each elevator is operated by a performer (Batu&Natsuki) fully clad in black garments, who are mute and tasked to drive the elevator to the top floor and back. All elevators also have a microphone and a speaker build in them, so that groups can hear sounds from the other elevators. Once the all 4 participants are in the elevator, the operator extends an open hand toward the participants asking for a hand-out. The operators will not work the elevator without getting paid, thus they will wait for a second to get money from the participants. If not paid, they will immediately and very rudely reach for the envelope, take some money from the amount that is in there and give it back. After getting paid, the operator will give the participants a form and start the elevator ride towards the top floor of the building.
Here, the participants are given the from “Ghost Nation Application Form," the purpose of which is to ask the newly formed group to create a nation during the ride. Being "ghosts,” as in stripped from their identities by their initiation in the first stage, their task is to create a new nation to reinvent themselves in. This form does not to include any language, opting instead for pictograms to indicate the questions. These are a flag design to be made with the colored tapes and stickers, and the nation’s motto, the name, nationality, language, regime, currency and religion in written form. To facilitate the process, the elevator has a filled-out sample form pasted on the wall.
When the elevator reaches its destination, the participants hear the call from the officer outside (Russ) and are asked to leave the elevators immediately. The floor outside houses a large desk filled with ghost food, paper lotus flowers, a lamp, several documents, drinks and an ashtray. Sitting on this desk is the officer in an extravagant outfit. Beside him stands a white board with an assistant operating it, filled with processed forms pasted on it. At this stage of the performance, the officer gestures to the participants to come closer and communicating only with grunts, checks the form. If it’s not done properly, he will mark the errors and send the group back to the elevator. This sequence will repeat itself until the officer is satisfied, at which point he will process the group by shredding their fu papers and stamping the form with a red “Ghost” mandarin letter. The assistant will put the approved form up on the board and lead the participants towards the exit. The elevator will ride down to get another group of 4 from the waiting line and the performance will resume.
“Ghost Nations” is inspired from peoples, individuals and countries that seem real for some yet does not exist for others. It investigates the possibilities of creating new communities and questions the validity of the ones that we come to see as real. “Ghost Nations” is an ongoing project and we would like to encourage interested curators and producers to contact us for possible collaborations and exhibition possibilities.