The Square is the World. Jan 19, 2016
by Shin Yu Pai
At the apex of The Life Model, Henry – one of the piece’s key characters – takes himself though an internalized and aesthetic mandala of his sense of the artistic sacred which shocks him into the realization that what’s absent in his portraiture work is the animating force of the revolution out there. “The square is the world” with revolution at its center.
Outside of the square, I map some of the symbols presented in this play.
Prior to Henry’s epiphany, Gabriella picks glass from the wound of a young protestor. Sews up his leg with a needle and thread, while the audience looks on in a live enactment of an operating theatre. Later, the portrait artist paints the exhausted doctor who overlooks her charge, in an absurd moment of artistic detachment and disengagement.
Substitute your choice revolution – Taiwan’s Sunflower Movement, Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution, Black Lives Matter…What shifts when social change penetrates our sensibilities and we can no longer be casual observers untouched by human struggle and suffering? How can we stop consuming culture as tourist and embody the lived experience? While The Life Model brings these questions to light, I was disappointed that Henry’s character functioned as a device and foil – the story revolved around awakening his own sense of fire and urgency – it’s true that Muna also came alive through her participation in the protests– but Henry’s centrality to the story and the dominance of his art and his success distracted from the stories of those more deeply engaged in their own cultural revolution.