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一个广东当代舞蹈剧场中的「么哒现代感」Metamodernism in a Canton Dance-theatre

by Archy Will He, Self-translated
作者 魏何阿奇,自译

Metamodernism is a concept proposed by Dutch cultural theorists Timotheus Vermeulen and Robin van den Akker in a paper published in 2010 [2] as a way to explore and contextualise aspects of contemporary cultures that can no longer be described using the vocabulary of postmodernism [3].

「么哒现代主义」 (metamodernism, 又译为“元现代主义” [1]) 是荷兰当代文化理论家蒂莫托伊斯·维穆伦(Timotheus Vermeulen)和罗宾·凡·登·埃克(Robin van den Akker)在一篇2010年的论文 [2]中提出的一个概念。维穆伦和埃克希望透过这个概念铸造新的语境来探讨当代文化中一些难以完全用「后现代主义」词汇来描述的现象 [3]

Metamodernism is essentially an oscillation between the grand, romantic narrative of modernism and the irony and detachment of the postmodern. An oscillation that is rhythmic but not necessarily regular. An oscillation in which we find the commingling of modern naïveté and idealism and postmodern melancholy and skepticism.


Metamodernism does not aim to maintain some form of homeostasis during the oscillation and is thus not a middle ground between the modern and postmodern. Metamodernism is more about exploring the paradoxical double-bind that both is and isn’t. To put it in Vermeulen’s words, the metamodern epistemology and its ontology should be conceived of as a “both-neither” dynamic: they are each at once modern and postmodern and neither of them. Metamodernism is meta in the sense that it resembles the Platonic metaxis, “being simultaneously here, there, and nowhere.” [4]

「么哒现代主义」探讨的并不是「摇摆」中对平衡的保持,所以它并非是一个徘徊于「现代」和「后现代」之间的中间立场。「么哒现代主义」探讨的是矛盾与非矛盾的同时存在。用维穆伦的话来说,「么哒现代主义」的「本体性」和「识知性」取决于一种即「现代」又「后现代」的同时非「现代」和非「后现代」的动态,如同柏拉图的「么哒西」(metaxis)一般,“在那处和这处的同时也在无处” [4]。「么哒现代主义」的前缀 “么哒”(meta-) 也是来源于此。

Metamodernism as a system of thoughts is still under development. It was only in the past few years that the word “metamodernism” gradually found its way into western media and pop culture. Meanwhile in China, metamodernism remains a foreign concept not known to many. Nonetheless, metamodernism is gradually gaining interest among Chinese academics in the recent years. Just back in November this year the China Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) organised a conference titled Re-thinking Modernity — Global Art History Conference where metamodernism was one of the main topics of discussion. And Vermeulen was among the speakers invited.

作为一个思想体系「么哒现代主义」至今仍处于发展阶段。「么哒现代」一词也是在过去几年才漫漫渗入西方媒体和流行文化中。目前「么哒现代主义」在国内仍然是一个陌生、鲜为人知的概念。然而近些年来「么哒现代主义」也逐渐受到中国学术界的关注。「么哒现代主义」是今年11月中央美术学院举办的 “反思现代性:全球艺术史国际论坛”(CAFA论坛)其中的一个主要议题,维穆伦也是这次论坛邀请的演讲嘉宾之一。

If theories like “the end of history” and “the end of art” suggest the waning of Hegel’s “positive” idealism, Vermeulen reckons that we can perhaps return to Kant’s somewhat “negative” idealism. That is to say we acknowledge the unrealistic nature embedded in the teleological approach to history but we nonetheless think and act as if there is some truth to it. In many ways arts today are expressed in manners that are both ironic and sincere, with emphasis on the intuitive appeal as well as diversity and heterogeneity.

“Re-thinking Modernity — Global Art History Conference”
by the Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA)



Without further ado, here I present to you “Metamodernism in a Canton Dance-theatre: A little commentary on a contemporary dance-theatre I recently saw at the Guangdong Times Museum in Guangzhou”.


ErGao’s Kung Hei Fat Choy is a continuation in the series of works about nostalgia and this time the work focuses on the complicated and personal relationship ErGao has with his family and the concept of home.

Contemporary Dance-Theatre: Kung Hei Fat Choy
by Guangdong Times Museum


当代剧场 | 恭喜发财 Kung Hei Fat Choy

By taking source materials from personal life, Kung Hei Fat Choy is a work that depicts the artist’s memories and sentiment about home.

The Multi Body Experience in Kung Hei Fat Choy
by NxDxCxx


文| 龍飛鳳舞,NxDxCxx

Kung Hei Fat Choy is a one-man dance-theatre presented in the form of environmental theatre [5] in which there are no clear spatial separation between the dancer and the viewers. Choreographed and performed by artist ErGao, Kung Hei Fat Choy is a self-reflexive piece on ErGao’s recollection of what the 90s was like as well as other things in the his personal life, real and fabricated. The piece is a mix of contemporary dance, storytelling, and multimedia in conjunction with broth making and broth tasting and other forms of audience participation.


Kung Hei Fat Choy is a composition of small, fragmented, and down-to-earth narratives put together in a way that (unlike in a typical postmodernist work) does not entirely negate the modernist grand narrative but more as an attempt of reconstruction in its absence.


The narratives in Kung Hei Fat Choy oscillate between expectation and false expectation, the past and the future of the past, tradition and none-tradition, and the new of the olden days and the not-new of the present time. Despite the fact that throughout the piece there is no explicit mention of concepts like ambition or anything having to do with grand narratives, the main characters in the story have all acted and behaved as if they are each working towards something. The narrator who managed to become an artist, the narrator’s father who recently started a rabbit farm in Yangjiang, the mother who immigrated to Hong Kong, and the brother who is studying and working aboard in Seoul - everyone is working as if heading towards something. Towards the end of the piece, we the audience still couldn’t quite tell what exactly that something was. And yet we could all agree that they should keep on going, and never stop pursuing what it is that they are pursuing.


This meta-sentiment forsakes the modernist commitment to grand narratives without betraying the modernist aspiration, and is in many ways metamodernistic akin to the overall sentiment throughout Kung Hei Fat Choy.


When the audience was welcomed at the performance site in the museum, they were told they had arrived at Ergao’s home and were free to explore before he returned. It was under this pretence of home a double frame was created at the opening when ErGao arrived with a basket containing baby bok choy. By directly referencing the performance itself, ErGao’s opening brought into awareness that this was a performance. And instead of undermining the notion that this was a home gathering (in accordance to the play’s setting), the self-conscious awareness further reinforced the overall self-deceptive nature of the experience. It was through this double frame in a somewhat wilfully deceptive performatist manner à la Eshelman [6] that the metamodernistic sentiment was expressed in Kung Hei Fat Choy.


As compared to metamodern works in the West (such as those of LaBeouf, Rönkkö & Turner’s [7]) that are more postmodernistic in nature, metamodernism in Kung Hei Fat Choy is subtle if not relaxed. And it is in this gentle oscillation between the modern and postmodern that Kung Hei Fat Choy attempts to describe a sense of belonging and non-belonging in terms of space and time that oscillates between existence and none-existence per se. It is an attempt that intersects with a Cantonese sense of nostalgia, a positive attitude towards the dissolution of family in the twenty-first century and towards progress and the New Things. All this in conjunction with a feeling of being lost and inarticulate, and the acknowledgement and acceptance of it all.

对比西方带有强烈「后现代」色调的「么哒现代」作品(如“拉博夫,伦科&特纳”的作品 [7]),《恭喜发财》中的「么哒现代主义」更像是一抹淡淡的「么哒现代感」,轻轻地晃悠于「现代」和「后现代」之间,呈现出一种在时间和空间上隐约雀跃于「存在」和「不存在」之间的归宿感的描述、一种对广东传统文化的幽情、一种乐观。这是一种对二十一世纪「分裂的家」的乐观,也是一种对「发展」、对「新事物」的乐观。同时乐观的背后又是一种迷茫、一种难以言表、一种接受。

The usage of the phrase “Kung Hei Fat Choy” (which is the romanisation of the Cantonese expression “恭喜发财” that literally means “congratulations for achieving wealth”) as a Chinese New Year greeting was first popularised in Guangzhou in the 19th century [8]. It was only in the recent decades - after the Chinese economic reform - that we saw a popularisation of the phrase across mainland China. Similar to red envelopes and mandarines, “Kung Hei Fat Choy” reflects the wish for wealth in the upcoming year among people of Chinese heritage. ErGao’s Kung Hei Fat Choy is in many ways a deconstruction of that very phrase in the form of dance-theatre, a probe into debris of memories and none-memories for non-existent meanings and a metamodern romantic sensibility.



[1] 英文前綴「meta-」一般译为“元”,然而在近代越来越多人(其中有艺术家、作家、各领域学者等)一致认同「元」这个译法并没有很完善地表达出「meta-」的含义,它更多的是引起误解与造成误导的作用。详情可参见北京大学辜正坤教授的《外来术语翻译与中国学术问题》(1998).

我个人比较喜欢音译(即「么哒」),加上 metamodernism 自身带有新浪漫主义性质(见 [2] )的同时又含有一种虚拟又真诚的态度,故此,我选择「么哒现代主义」为它的中文表征。字眼上可以让当代人联系到网络用词「么么哒」,其中又是带有着另一种更俗气的“新浪漫”感,同时也是互联网虚拟但又真诚的卖萌方式。作为一个新用语,「么哒现代主义」后现代式地拉近了高雅文化(文化理论学)与大众文化(网络流行语)之间的距离,恰好也自身反映出了 metamodernism 概念的后现代根源。

[2] 详情见 Notes on metamodernism (Journal of Aesthetics & Culture, Vol 2, 2010) by Timotheus Vermeulen [蒂莫托伊斯·维穆伦] and Robin van den Akker [罗宾·凡·登·埃克], 英语不强的读者可以参见山东大学陈后亮博士的译文《元现代主义札记》。

[3] 详情见 The Passing of Postmodernism: A Spectroanalysis of the Contemporary (Albany: SUNY Press, 2010) by Josh Toth [乔什·托特]

[4] 详情见 Equivalences of Experience and Symbolization in History (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1989) by Eric Voegelin [埃里克·沃格林]

[5] 详情见 6 Axioms for Environmental Theatre [《环境戏剧》] (1968) by Richard Schechner [理查·谢克纳的]

[6] 详情见 oxfordreference.com

[7] 详情见 Performatism, or the End of Postmodernism (2008) by Raoul Eshelman [罗尔·埃舍尔曼]

[8] 详情见 en.wikipedia.org

[9] 详情见 The ‘Fan Kwae’ at Canton Before Treaty Days [《洋人在广州》] (1825-1844) by William C. Hunter [威廉亨德]

Photos ©️ Liu Qingyu, Chun Li

照片 ©️ 刘卿羽,春丽

A new work titled Kung Hei Fat Choy N+ in the same series has been commissioned by the Chinese Dancers’ Association under the 2019 PeiQing Program, and will premiere in Beijing in Octoboer 2020.


About ErGao 关于二高

ErGao is an independent choreographer and dancer from Yangjiang, Guangdong, whose works utilise multimedia such as film, media installation, etc. After graduating from Guangdong Cantonese Opera School in 2001, ErGao studied contemporary dance in the joint college of Sun Yat-sen University and Guang Dong Dance College in 2002, and later received full scholarship and studied at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts where he graduated in 2006.


ErGao founded ErGao Dance Production Group (EDPG) in 2007 in Guangzhou, Guangdong, with a focus on dance-theatre, dance film, community art and dance education. His productions continuously see the body as the primary medium and the site of artistic investigation and use diverse strategies to explore Chinese social and cultural identities, sex, gender and other topics.


Between 2007 and 2012, ErGao was invited to participate in projects in collaboration with international dance companies and dance festivals, including Rubatu Tanz Company, Angie Hiesl and Roland Kaiser (Germany), Living Dance Studio (China), Limitrof Company (France), Emio Greco | PC (Holland). From 2012 onwards, ErGao accepted commissions from various arts organizations and art festivals, including Ibsen International (Norway), Fabbrica Europa (Italy), Hong Kong Arts Festival, Hong Kong Jumping Frames Dance Film Festival (Hong Kong), Guangdong Modern Dance Festival, Guangdong Modern Dance Company, Guangdong Times Museum (Guangzhou), Shanghai Ming Contemporary Art Museum (Shanghai), DPAC Dance Company (Malaysia) and other organizations. He was selected as resident artist of Pro Helvetia - Swiss Arts Council in 2019. In 2015, German’s media “Deutsche Welle” named Ergao “one of the bright stars of contemporary dance in China.”

2007年至2012年受邀参与多个国际舞蹈团和艺术节的项目,包括德国Rubatu Tanz Company、荷兰Emio Greco | PC、法国Limitrof Company、中国草场地青年编导计划、德国Angie Hiesl and Roland Kaiser等。2012年之后,先后接受了多个艺术机构和艺术节的委约创作,包括挪威易卜生国际、香港跳格国际舞蹈影像节、意大利Fabbrica Europa、广东现代舞周、广东现代舞蹈团、马来西亚DPAC舞团、澳门诗篇舞集、香港动艺、广东时代美术馆和上海明当代美术馆等,其舞蹈影像作品相继展览于广东美术馆及深圳华美术馆。近年来,积极推动舞蹈教育,先后于中国美术学院、广州美术学院、法国Musee de la Danse舞蹈中心、中山大学、浙江大学、马来西亚DPAC舞团、北京雷动天下等机构开展工作坊、讲座等。近期获选瑞士文化基金2019驻地艺术家,2015年《德国之声》称其为“中国一颗冉冉升起的编舞之星”。

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