A Plan from the Cosmos: A Reset with External Voids and Internal Chaos / Yu-Ju Lin


There is an artist village on Beiping East Road in Taipei, with artists from many different countries. When I was in my 20s, I often rehearsed there. I recalled those foreigners often holding beers stylishly and comfortably in the village. I often wondered what exactly “residency” was. Some people might not have opportunities to go abroad alone until recently, just like me.

Look down

In 2014 and 2015, I suspended my work at the dance company in these two years. I felt unspeakable losses. With injuries on my ankles, I couldn’t afford to dance as I did. I suffered from plantar fasciitis because of uneven forces acting on my sole of feet. It also impacted my knees. I lost my balance, and later lost my strength on various movement. I gave up all dance assignments, but I didn’t have sufficient creative capabilities or experiences to fill up the gap. How could I dance in the future? Could I become a choreographer? I felt gloomy as I arrived in Paris at 7:00 AM in the morning on February 2nd, 2015. I took a taxi, and it was snowing. I looked down to confirm that my ankles felt stiff again.

Avocado and shrimp

Also in his transition period, artist River Lin was in the same residency program. He was bold and free, and he always had exciting and uplifting ideas. When we thought about dumpling fillings, he would propose avocado and shrimp. When I was reading about festivals, he would suggest to book flight tickets immediately. He would ask other people to crawl on the ground for an hour and told them decisively that “if you cannot dance, find something else!” Indeed, if I couldn’t dance, I should find alternatives and explore something else.

Some people attached themselves on the wall with tapes. Some people repeatedly threw themselves to the wall. Some people drew X marks on their bodies, put a vase on their heads, walked nakedly, and stared into space. Some people retched on the floor, made low sounds, rolled their eyes, drooled and kneeled down like cows or other four-legged animals. I observed for six months, and gradually seemed to realize something. In those inspiring moments, I felt they at least found themselves.

Performing artist River Lin requested me to move by crawling and force myself to address various scenarios.
Solo Show of River Lin - Go Climbing - 7.5 Club Paris 2015, Photo: Te Chen

Eat Kuai Kuai (a Taiwanese cookie: puffcorn) and grow up  (Kuai Kuai means to behave well)

Performance art workshop: Chantons Aux Vaches
Video work “Chantons Aux Vaches – Dry to Wear” at Rue Francaise , Paris 2015

I went to a performance that there were other spaces in the venue. I didn’t experience promenade performance in the past in Taiwan, so I entered early to wait. I was worried that my actions or sounds might interfere with others. Some people subsequently arrived. They moved and chatted freely in the space. I noticed a small space without doors on the side. I stopped by the space, and asked a white girl nearby, “May I go in there?”. “Sure, there are no prohibit signs here,” she responded. “If it is not allowed, someone would stop you.” She looked and sounded so relaxed and comfortable, and I really learned a lesson from her. When I was young, I was always told to behave and “nothing is allowed without explicit permission.” To her, however, “everything is allowed unless explicit prohibition.”

Blue birthday party

It was so dark at the party that I only had a photo of the happy birthday boy.

My 65-year-old physician friend invited me to his birthday party, with a notice “dress code: blue.” For my first party, I wore a pair of blue serpent-pattern pants, a blue shirt, a pair of serpent-pattern leather shoes, and blue nail polish. I also chose lipsticks in dark color. However, when I arrived, my outfits looked boring compared to others. As I walked upstairs, a man walked down with a blue mask, and another person full of blue feathers walked past me. She wore a miniskirt and a pair of high heels with blue gems. Her coronal on head was 60 centimeters, and to me, she was around 70 years old.

It’s undeniable that “we don’t have party culture” in Taiwan.

In my life, it’s rare to push my body beyond boundaries. I rarely wear outfits that highlight body shapes. I rarely wear full makeup, and I rare have opportunities to play another role. As a result, I rarely experience ecstasy, and I don’t have the courage to be humorous and playful. In my life experiences, happiness may happen when we celebrate birthdays for grandparents. However, after we sing the birthday song and blow candles on the cake, everything returns to normal. People watch TV or chat with each other again. On the other hand, I watched this group of people having a great time in their 60s and 70s. After they broke a glass by accident, they kicked broken glass under the table. The music stopped for a moment, and I heard someone (seemingly) spoke to the microphone that “Attention! Attention! There’s broken glass under the table.” Everyone cheered afterwards. It was joyful, merry and youthful.

I was really envious about not only the ecstasy, but also everything behind it.

On the way home, my friend held on to a streetlamp by Notre Dame. She said that she wanted to cry. Then, she cried. She kept talking and crying afterwards. As she released long-held pressures and worries in a healthy way, I felt that “alcohol is really great!”


Even though parties abounded in the evening on weekends, people should avoid taking bus at night alone. When buses left downtown, people stared at you more directly. I often took advantage of bus routes in Paris to learn about various boroughs. Several bus routes return to the same place after a whole round. I once arrived at a beautiful area. After getting off the bus, I walked on a pedestrian bridge. As I felt people behind me, I turned around. Two black men were one meter away, and they attempted to surround me. I suddenly came up with the idea, yelled “Yannick”, and ran towards a man across the street. After I mumbled a few words to the stranger, I got on a bus, and my heart was pounding for a long while.

I also went to Athens. As Greek government declared bankruptcy, local situations deteriorated. Most stores were closed, and banks ran out of cash. I went up to Acropolis for sunset. As I walked downhills, it was dark. There was a disabled homeless man walking in front of me. He stopped, turned around, and looked at me several times. I walked slower and looked for alternative routes. Two stray dogs suddenly appeared, growled and jumped on me. They had entangled hair and skin diseases. I was terrified and threatened to cry. In the next second, my bag was pulled to the back. I couldn’t understand what he said with laughter. I squeezed the water bottle so hard that it burst. I pulled my bag back as hard as I could and ran with water spilled all over myself. I was horrified that cause my teeth hurt until I left Greece.

Cold radish soup

I also visited Barcelona for Aerowaves Festival and planned to see as many shows as possible in four days. Every evening, viewers could get food at the lobby with their tickets. In the last evening, the food distribution lady seemed to have recognized me. She chatted with me. “Where are you from? Are you travelling? Are you a dancer as well? … Enjoy your food. Do you need anything else?”

I: “Excuse me, do you have microwaves?”
Lady: “Oh no, sorry Asians.”
I: “I really want to have warm soup!”
We burst into laughter.

After returning to Paris, I immediately watched food shows from Taiwan, and learned how to cook, and wait. Soups should be warm and clear.


After the residency, my style was drastically different. I still prefer minimalism and feel fascinated by cultural aesthetics in chaos and collage.
“Taiwan Made 2019” as NTCH artist in residence in 2018. Photo: Chang-Chih Chen. Dancer: Chu-Hua Wang

People often miss and try to reproduce hometown flavors when they are faraway. I cried and wrote postcards to family members at the night after robbery. Even though we don’t have party culture, even though my 96-year-old grandma still insists that ladies should not grin, and even though we are educated to follow the norms, we can also be dramatic and ridiculous at certain occasions. At religious gatherings, election campaigns, or local funerals, people release their emotions often suppressed by regulations. After returning to Taiwan, I participated in a Matsu religious pilgrimage. I also recalled outdoor cinemas, Taiwanese operas, and roadside performances when I was young. They were all immersive and promenade performances by current standards.

Artists born and raised in Asia

I spent a lot of time walking, and thinking about issues I hadn’t thought about before. If dancers at Pina Bausch’s performances wore daily outfits on stage, why did we wear formal dresses and top hats rashly in our performances? Why did we always associate elegance with Western classical music? Are we hijacked by Western aesthetics? Are we aware of our own cultural values? Do we recognize them? To me, Europe is now more than ideas in print or on screen. It’s a physical experience. In Europe, people encounter multiple countries and languages easily in trip. In comparison, we travel through the whole Taiwan from north to south in two hours by high-speed rail, and almost everyone can communicate with each other in Mandarin or Taiwanese. How does the European continent influence people? Are they independent and mobile as a result?

Ces’t À performance at Paris city hall in collaboration with sound/video artist Jinyao Lin before the residency ended.

I was chaotic internally in those six months, and my works were mostly inward. What should people do in their residency? Some people might finally decide to go abroad alone after spending many years living in Taiwan, just like me. “Cultural shocks” happened to me at the age of 34. It was a critical life experience for me to really pause for six months. My perceptions to the environment almost experienced a total reset. Residency really means differently to different people.

By the way

By the way, there is one more thing. After those terrifying experiences, I felt calm and comfortable before going on stage in Taiwan. Maybe it’s really shocking enough.


Author: Yu-Ju Lin
Edited: Brix