Lighter than Tai

Armstrong, Keith (2008) Lighter than Tai. [Performance]

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YEAR: 2008 ROLE: Performer FORMAT: Live Art Event at Tiananmen Square Beijing, China (3 hours) and Later on Summit of Mt. Tai Shan, Shandong Province, China (6 hrs + 3 hrs). WITH: Solo WHAT: In the Hall of Reverence on Tiananmen Square, Beijing Mao Zedong's body lies in state surrounded by flowers and draped with a Red Flag of Communist China. His casket with a glass top lies on a black stone from Mt. Tai, reflecting the quotation from Sima Qian (China's Han Dynasty historian) that "One's life can be weightier than Mt. Tai or lighter than a goose feather".

This pair of performances were a quiet, personal reflection upon what such a once revolutionary expression might mean in today's very different time and place. The work was conceived during the Olympic Cultural Festival showing of Intimate Transactions ( - during the tumultuous times leading up to China's proudly staged August 2008 Olympics. The rise and rise of China had long been generating major geopolitical, ecological and cross-cultural shifts throughout the region and beyond. In this dramatic epicentre of change and at a time of such great national pride, how might we each act in ways that are ecologically 'mighty' and yet simultaneously have an impact lighter than a goosefeather? This is both a question for China in its relations with the autonomous provinces and the environment as it is for all of us in our own 'local' affairs. However ecologically speaking all that is of local concern is of global concern and noone can therefore be exempt from the need to sustain that which we share in common and must all protect for the future.

Performance 1: Tiananmen Square, Beijing: Dropping 100 goose feathers. Performance 2: The summit of Mt Tai, Shandong Province. Building a mountain from Goose Feathers.

SHOWING HISTORY: 1: Anniversary of Protest Crackdown, Jun 8th 2008. 2: Dawn on Tai Shan's summit, 15th June, 2008

DETAILS: Performance 1: Begin an hour after dawn (5.45am) in Tiananmen Square Bring pre-prepared performance shirt, a bag of goose feathers tipped with red. Begin at the "Gate of Heavenly Peace" under the image of Chairman Mao. Circumnavigate the world's largest open and the most surveilled public space 5 times dropping feathers periodically. Meditate on Forces of Change. Finally enter Chairman Mao's mausoleum with the masses and move quietly past his preserved body. End the performance at the Gate of Heavenly Peace 3 hours later. Performance 2: Walk up Mt. Tai Shan in silence meditating on Forces of Change (6 hours). Stay overnight on the summit. Begin an hour before dawn (3.45am) in silence. Bring performance shirt, a sack of goose feathers and a simple wooden structure. On the sunrise viewing side of the mountain build a miniature, fragile 'mountain' in goose feathers and sticks on the edge of a sheer precipice. Watch the sun rise as the feathers blow away into the valley deep below (3 hours).

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 31509
Item Type: Creative Work (Performance)
Refereed: No
Material: Live Art Event, Body, Designed Shirt, 1000 red tipped goosefeathers.
Measurements or Duration: 9 hours, stage 1: Anniversary of Protest Crackdown, Jun 8th 2008. Stage 2: Dawn on Tai Shan's summit, 15th June, 2008
Location: From date: To date:
Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China 2008-06-08 2008-06-08
Mt Tai Shan 2008-06-15 2008-06-15
Keywords: performance art, ecological art, sustainability, political art, public art
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN CREATIVE ARTS AND WRITING (190000) > PERFORMING ARTS AND CREATIVE WRITING (190400) > Performing Arts and Creative Writing not elsewhere classified (190499)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Creative Industries Faculty
Past > Institutes > Institute for Creative Industries and Innovation
Copyright Owner: Creative Commons BY-NC-ND
Deposited On: 24 Mar 2010 22:02
Last Modified: 15 Dec 2010 13:00

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