Autumn Yunting Tsai

Autumn is a writer and interdisciplinary has lived in Taipei, London, Perugia and Marburg. Her travels, research on Dante and experiences working in theater settings have informed her multi-lingual, multi-dimensional creative output. 

Text transcribed from a live interview in Taipei on February 28, 2024

Table of Contents

Background

Autumn Tsai holds dual degrees in performance and literature. She explored performance and performing arts while pursuing MA Performance Making at Goldsmiths, UoL, and deepened her knowledge of Western medieval literatures during her studies at the department of English Language and Literature, Fu Jen Catholic University, Taipei, Taiwan. During her studies, She gained insights into diverse English studies cultures as she travelled across the UK, Taiwan, Italy, and Germany.

Literature lives in her own changing life between the East and the West. Her artistic productions delve into identity questions, post-colonization, orientalism/racism, heritage, and diaspora. Her literary works are often written in a tapestry of different languages, evolving into various art forms. 


With semiotic analysis and historical research as her research foundation, and improvisation as her creative methodology, Autumn’s works blend academic research, artistic research, and artistic production, connecting the western medieval culture with her own presence in the here and now.

Her creative material allows her to connect fields, and as a communicator between fields, her story will continue to be told across space and time. 

Her work in the field of words and grammar

Autumn's written work includes short stories, concrete poetry and scripts, drawing upon her background as a writer, experimental theater performer, and historical researcher: her writings are collages of places, languages and ideas.

Autumn's collaborations with living composers and musicians as well as her own performance and recording practice based on prose recitations pave the way for pieces which retrace history while opening new perspectives. 


Indeed, the possibility for works to exist in both written and sonic forms is a continuation of the collage-like architecture of her works: that there is always a possibility for plurality and dialogue between sources, even within the work itself.


Previous musical and theater realizations of her texts have been heard during collaborations with the Beiguan troupe Ensemble Water-Stage (Taipei) as part of a project organized by Die Hannoversche Gesellschaft für Neue Musik (HGNM), a series of performative theater works created and performed in London during her Masters at Goldsmiths (UoL), a series of collaborations with the composer Rachel C. Walker as well as with percussionist Zhang Yongyun and pipa player Xia Yuyan.


Everything is literature. Everything we perceive has literature and is a part of it.

A Critical Introduction to Gone with the rainy season

Sanmao, known by her English name Echo, born in 1943, was a Taiwanese writer who spent half her life living in the Sahara desert with her Spanish husband José. During the post-war period when travels were more restricted and people were less open to different cultures, this young Asian woman left her footprints all over Europe. Stories of her travels and life in the desert are penned down in simple but mesmerizing words published in the press. To the young female Taiwanese students whose lives are restricted within a conservative educational system, she is a symbol of a free and bold female being who follows her own voice in search of her own definition of life and love. 

We never learn the full nature of Echo, this earliest and most important Taiwanese female literary travel writer. A part of her is seen through her words for her faithful Taiwanese and Chinese readers, but a larger part is left with the people in the Western Sahara (occupied by Spain at the time); José, the love of her life; the childhood trauma that suspended her in time; and her familiars in the West. 

What are the faces of Echo? 

Echo’s earlier writings reveal a colorful and illustrated inner world. Later writings from the desert are plain and simple, and those from the time before her eventual suicide leave readers in sorrow for her loss of José. Her language is always light and soft, as though she is only a part of the surroundings that form her life rather than the leading actress; within her words, there is always a kind of unrestricted flow. Changes in her linguistic style can only show us a portion of what these experiences may have meant to her. 

Through the lenses separating Echo and her surroundings, we view a set of photographs of ourselves. What has stayed the same and what has left us in the time following her travels? Perhaps our attraction towards Echo speaks to something within, and, as we peek into her life, we are peeking into our own lives between the East and the West — as a Taiwanese writer and percussionist who have lived in Europe and an American composer who has lived in Europe and Asia.

To present our answers as a communication through time and space, we weave our own stories into selected texts of Sanmao. Our methodology for the text includes elements of improvisation and word play to form a script consisting of Echo’s own voice in combination with her surroundings. The languages from Sanmao’s lived environments – and our own – are used to form the script. The electronics and the vocalizations of the percussionist create a web of multiple story lines and narratives. Instruments that serve the musicality of the story are both ones constructed for the piece, as well as objects that are alluded to in Echo’s work.

Autumn Yunting Tsai
January 2022

Autumn in conversation

Our presence is connected with the materials we have. 

I think it's also one of the reasons that I like doing both sound recordings and writing at the same time: the words can be alive in different ways, depending on how they are kept, how they are reread, and how they can be perceived by different people and in different ways. And these all change.

I think about theater a lot because, in the past, when I was in school, we usually only think about theater in terms of its themes of its connection within the textbook. We didn’t think about theater in terms of its connections with our own entity and our own presence. 

But actually it is our own presence that gives the theater life. And that is why, to write about San Mao, I didn't try to ‘recreate' what she did, which is impossible. She already did what she did. What I am looking at is the second and the third and the fourth material of her story, which is already not true - I can only retell my own experiences, from my own presence,  as closely as possible, to recreate San Mao. 

...

San Mao’s Gone with the rainy season is a prose series where she writes about stories in her life as she was between the ages of seventeen and twenty-two years-old. I read it as a young teen when I was around thirteen. To me, she was not a woman, but like an older sister, who had the dream to go abroad.

It was another world. It is unimaginable, and as a child I think I always wanted to be abroad to see things other than the familiar ones I'm surrounded by, surrounded with.

...

I would say that this piece is about Asian travelers, and their connections and communications with European and American artists. 


It is about reflection and connection, through the lens of reading San Mao’s work, San Mao being one of the earliest and most influential female travel writers.

...

I tend to read sources and languages as a part of a connection between the past and the future. And by that, I mean that 'the past' is the experience of reading San Mao as a thirteen year-old girl. The way that I then read it, when I was seventeen, and the differences as I went into the English department to study, re-reading her as a twenty year-old... that same story changes when I went abroad and was myself in the airport in London that she had written of... later, having been to Germany... [tracing her steps across] Central Europe, Italy, and she was in Spain... it's completed. In these different stages, as I read her work, I got the idea of writing a kind of 'multilingual tapestry' as a script.

Work Samples

Performance Schedule