Huang Ding-Yun, Henry Tan: Sweet Potato in the Air

4 episodes in total. (Duration: 20 minutes per episode)

Sweet Potato in the Air is a series of extended interviews from the program IsLand Bar in the 2019 Taipei Arts Festival. Each episode conducted an exclusive interview with a foreigner who has long resided in Taiwan. Treating the individual experiences of migration, dwelling, and identity as the point of departure, we invoke the metaphor of sweet potato to represent localization, discussing the localization in different aspects of our life experiences. Sweet Potato in the Air regards sweet potato as an ingredient that connects personal history to food culture and new types of fusion cuisine. Based on this script, we seek to highlight the potential diversity of Taiwan. After the Nationalist government retreated to Taiwan due to its defeat in the Chinese Civil War, “sweet potato” became a symbol of localization for its shape resembles that of Taiwan, in contrast to “taro” as a symbol of mainlanders. However, the truth is that sweet potato is literally an exotic species, while taro is a local one. Sweet potato is deemed as an emblem of local spirit not only for its shape but also for its characteristics such as easy to grow and close to soil. Besides, previous lack of resources had made sweet potato the staple diet for people in Taiwan, which also contributed to its symbolic significance. Such a dichotomy has shaped our identity through the symbolic classification of species for a quite long period of time in Taiwan’s modern history, in which the “local ideology,” a product of deliberate construction and manipulation, finds expression.

Huang Ding-Yun

Huang Ding-Yun is a co-founder of Taipei-based multi-creator collective, Co-Coism, playwright and director of Boo-Way-Who, and founder of the Living-room Without Boundary project. Among his recent works are Boo-Way-Who’s Teapot Storm for the Macau City Fringe Festival, and Co-Coism collaborations including An Unidentified Dialogue; Between Meals; You Can Sleep Here and Tomorrow Inn. Other works by Ding-Yun include Chaos in Chronicling in 2016 Young Stars New Vision series and Event: Faust Is Dead, a collaboration with Soundbody Art Lab. He has a B.A. in Theater and an M.A. in Interdisciplinary Arts from the Taipei National University of the Arts.

Henry Tan

An artist based in Bangkok, Thailand, Henry Tan engages with recent trends and critical debate in participatory art or social practice. He is interested in inter-human connection, and in the erosion of individual beliefs and understandings in regard to contemporary technologies of communication more generally. He constructs situations and performances based on specific location, context and concerns where people are always invited to connect, contribute and share. How can or do individuals make sense of artistic practices in an era of endlessly circulated memes and ever-shifting boundaries and cultural contexts? Henry is co-founder of Tentacles, art initiatives based in Bangkok.