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The Firsts of New Aspect, the Foundation of Art and Culture

-- Bits and Pieces of Hsu Po-Yun’s Life in Arts

Dr. Wu Jing-Jyi
Endowed Chair in Creativity & Emeritus Professor, National Chengchi University

In 1978, Hsu Po-Yun and Fan Man-Nong established New Aspect. The motivation was based on values rather than profits. However, even in the competitive society of Taiwan, their foresight in cultural innovation resulted in many firsts.

New Aspect was the first activity center in Taiwan that primarily focuses on performing arts but also includes visual arts. Three years after its establishment, the Council for Cultural Affairs (predecessor of the Ministry of Culture) was formed. Five years later, the Taipei Fine Arts Museum was established, followed by the National Theatre & National Concert Hall preparatory office’s establishment after another two years. Then after 21 years, the Taipei City Government’s Department of Cultural Affairs was founded.

If New Aspect could have had a fixed government budget and a permanent performance venue, one can only wonder what the cultural activities and performing arts landscape in Taiwan could have become over the years. The government’s cultural institutions and venues would have taken a different form, and New Aspect would have had a much bigger impact.

Nowadays, both central and local governments put huge effort into holding Taiwan International Festival of Arts and Taipei Fringe Festival. However, back in the 1980s, New Aspect had already started to organize large-scale International Arts Festivals, inviting numerous international performance groups and artists.

Of course, the term “international” includes Taiwan. At that time, the indigenous warrior dance from Taiwan’s Orchid Island did not have much recognition on the main island. However, due to New Aspect’s pioneering move of inviting the Tao people to perform alongside international artists, it gradually gained recognition and appreciation from the public. Unexpectedly and surprisingly, at the backstage of the National Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, the Tao people and their joint performers, the Invatan dancers from Ballet Philippines, found that their languages are pretty similar!

New Aspect was also the first to organize a small-scale Fringe Festival that encompassed both international and local artists and groups from over a hundred countries. Just like inviting the Tao people from Orchid Island to the International Arts Festival, they also brought international art performances to many cities and towns across Taiwan.

In the 1980s, the global community had little knowledge about Taiwan’s performing arts. New Aspect was the first to introduce Taiwanese groups and their arts, featuring regeneration of traditional culture, onto the world stage.

New Aspect also made performing abroad possible for local groups, resulting in Cloud Gate Dance Theatre’s first international performance at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Contemporary Legend Theatre’s performance at the Royal National Theatre in the United Kingdom as well as Lanlin Theatre Troupe’s first performance in the Philippines.

During the time when interdisciplinary approaches were still not officially recognized, New Aspect started an art center embracing both performing arts and visual arts. Performance Workshop’s work That Night, We Speak Xiangsheng was initially planned to be held at that center. However, New Aspect saw its potential and moved the performance to the National Taiwan Arts Education Center, which can accommodate more audiences. The show quickly attracted widespread attention.

The New Aspect Art Centre, besides hosting exhibitions of artworks and sculptures, also served as a platform to showcase the potential of smaller theater companies.

In 2012, during the time Lee Tai-Hsiang served as the artist-in-residence at National Chengchi University, he held a press conference and, as the composer, enthusiastically announced the first made-in-Taiwan musical Chess King. This musical was produced with significant investment by New Aspect. The official name of New Aspect is the “International New Aspect Cultural and Educational Foundation,” which indeed lives up to its commitment to the global art community. It not only acts as a bridge between art and audiences but also facilitates the participation and even the creation of both domestic and international artists in performances.

Before the government got aware of the importance, New Aspect had already become the first to promote Taiwanese groups and artists at performing arts expos in countries like France, Japan and at the Federation for Asian Cultural Promotion, which was founded by Po-Yun and Lucrecia R. Kasilag, president of the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

Over its 45-year history, New Aspect has undoubtedly come in first place in many areas; however, what we cherish is not only its pioneering role in the field of culture, but also its commitment to cultural innovation and influence on artistic activities. These commitments, innovations and influences reflect the bits and pieces of Hsu Po-Yun’s life as an artist.

Hsu Po-Yun began his memoirs with these words, “Being able to work in the field of art throughout my life is fortunate.”

However, his greatest passion was composing music, as it brought him more joy in life than any other art-related work. “HSU Po-Yun’s 60th Musical Anniversary” showcased Hsu’s works from 1962 to 2022. He seemed to have two regrets that needed to be reconciled in the concert. The first regret was realizing that he spent too little time on composing over the years. Fortunately, creativity is about quality, not quantity, so the concert of his life’s work could compensate for the limited composition output.

The second regret was never composing for his wife, Fan Man-Nong- the “mother of flute in Taiwan”. It was not until this recent presentation that he took the opportunity to “painstakingly” compose Flute Capriccioso as a dedication to her. Throughout his life of seeking perfection, Po-Yun managed to transition his mindset and relax to finally complete a late but perfect piece for his wife.

Sadly, Hsu Po-Yun did not get the chance to formally present the admirable works he created. “The most beautiful life is the imperfect one.” With such legend, he departed from his beloved Taiwan, art and loved ones. We cherish his memory and we offer our blessings. As the saying goes, “Value one’s and other’s beauty, the world will become one.” We eagerly anticipate that New Aspect, created by Hsu Po-Yun and Fan Man-Nong, will continue to thrive with art and Taiwan.

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