top of page

On the Mysterious Self-Shackled Island the Benshi Makes Noises









無知 Written by Ignorance 有一天是東海上自制島的一個大紀念日...... It was a big commemoration day for Self-Shackled Island on the Eastern Sea......

神秘的自制島(1923) A Mysterious Self-Shackled Island (1923)

無知 Written by Ignorance 有一天是東海上自制島的一個大紀念日...... It was a big commemoration day for Self-Shackled Island on the Eastern Sea......

神秘的自制島(2021) A Mysterious Self-Shackled Island (2021)


On the Mysterious Self-Shackled Island the Benshi Makes Noises

2021-11-05~ 2022-02-06

Kuandu Museum of Fine Arts

Mixed media installation

Dimensions variable



「神秘的自制島上辯士作聲」將著眼於文協以「辯士」為核心的多重文化實踐,進入展場,首先會看到劇場演員扮演的辯士,透過話語將1923年的〈神秘的自制島〉「臨場式本土化」。接續則以〈神秘的自制島〉的續寫,開啟「影像的說」、「戲劇的說」、「印物的說」與「事件的說」四個環環相扣的次展區,探討「辯士」——或是「說話者」 ——的變形。在〈神秘的自制島〉的續寫中,無知再次造訪了自制島,觀察到島上的政治動盪,並訪問了島上的島民、紳士、黃巾力士及祖師,四篇以第一人稱書寫的短篇,分別回應四個次展區開啟的言說課題,期待透過寓言的加入,補足上述實踐背後的政治脈絡,提供另一種閱讀檔案的管道,並在文協成立滿百的今年,呈現出文協如何透過不同言說技藝的操作,在獨立思考日漸不可能的「自制島」上,以言說打造一具內建反饋機制的啟蒙機器。



















The project title was inspired by the author named Ignorance in “A Mysterious Self-Shackled Island,” a novel published in Taiwan in 1923. The novel was essay about an individual visiting to “Self-shackled Island” on the Eastern Sea in a trance. On the island, be that a woman or a gentleman, each of them wears a shackle bearing the word of “self-shackled.” The traveler inquired a gentleman on the island isn’t it nice if he is liberated from that strange ornament. The gentleman raged and told the traveler that this is something everyone longs for, so how would one want liberation from it? With that neck accessory, “To begin with, it makes people eat no food despite hunger and wear no clothes despite coldness. Secondly, it allows one to labor without exhaustion and be insulted without shame. Thirdly, it allows us to acquire no new knowledge and learn no new trends of thoughts.”

The year 1923, when the novel was published, was also the year the Peace Act Incident took place. After Japan adopted “the Extension of the Mainland Law Policy,” it marked the shift of the major mean of resistance by the Taiwanese to a non-violent approach. Facing the colonial home country that upheld the big banners of “fusion of Japanese and Taiwanese” and “equal treatment,” many movements and associations on the table no longer appealed to politics since the 1920s. Instead, they emerged as cultural groups, such as the numerous academic societies, art societies, sports societies, study groups, among other groups. Just as the Record of Police Reform in the Office of the Taiwan Governor-General, these groups with enlightenment as the main contents, despite their rich characteristics of cultural activities, their appearances and contents were varied out of the tactical needs. Among all the “political associations that are not political associations,” the cultural practices carried out by the Taiwan Culture Association (TCA) emerged as the most brilliant case. The literati learned that armed resistance was no longer viable and felt the crisis brought by the assimilation policy. In light of the Taiwanese with a school attendance rate less than 30 percent then, the goals of the TCA included not just the resistance against the colonial reign but also the resistance against the “old culture of feudalism” with modern knowledge and enlightenment. To achieve these two goals contradictory to each other at times, the TCA utilized multiple idea communication tools. Through the cross-media organizational actions, it created a unique space for speech in the history of Taiwan. Facing different targeted audience from cities to villages, the TCA chiseled out countless pores in the strict colonial reign via practices of newspaper publication, news reading clubs, cultural lecture event, general lecture event, film screening, cultural theatre, and so on.

“On the Mysterious Self-Shackled Island the Benshi Makes Noises” shall center around the multiple cultural practices of the TCA with “Benshi”(弁士, orators or narrators) at the core. As visitors enter the exhibition, they will see “Benshi” played by theater actors, conducting the “impromptu localization” of A Mysterious Self-Shackled Island (1923). Next, with the sequel of A Mysterious Self-Shackled Island, four interlocking sub-topical exhibition sections, “Speech within Image,” “Speech within Theatre,” “Speech within Publishing,” and “Speech within Event,” are unveiled to delve into the transformation of “Benshi” – or “speakers.” In the sequel of A Mysterious Self-Shackled Island, Ignorance visited Self-Shackled Island again, observed the political turmoil, and interviewed the islanders, the gentleman, the Might Guards with Yellow Scarf, and the Patriarch on the island. The four short stories written in the first-person point of view correspond to the speech topics introduced respectively by the four sub-topical exhibition sections. The addition of the fables is expected to supplement the political context behind the abovementioned practices, offering an alternative mean to dossier reading. Meanwhile, in this year that marks the one hundredth anniversary of the TCA establishment, it sheds light on how the TCA, through its operation with various speech techniques, built a machine of enlightenment embedded with a feedback mechanism on the “Self-Shackled Island” where independent thinking is increasingly impossible.

Research Consultants|

Mamie Misawa

Shih Wan-Shun

Writing Partners|

Yunyu “Ayo” Shih

Tseng Po-Hao


Wei Chun-Chan


Lee Yi-Cheng

Lin Yong-Yi


Onez Production


Jasper Chen

Special Thanks|

Lin Chang-Feng

Chuang Ming-Cheng

Chiang Wei-shui's Cultural Foundation

bottom of page