PRODUCTION CREDITSDIRECTOR, WRITER: Royce Ng PERFORMERS: Royce Ng SOUND DESIGN: John Bartley ANIMATION: Zheng Mahler Studio TECHNICAL DIRECTOR: Michele Piazzi QUEEN ZOMIA is co-produced by the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul, South Korea (MMCA), New Vision Arts Festival, Hong Kong, Kampnagel, Hamburg, Germany and the Zürcher Theater Spektakel, Zurich, Switzerland. The piece was developed during 2017/2018 at Eaton Hotel artists residency in Hong Kong, Ne’na Contemporary artists residency program in Chiangmai, Thailand and at Piazzi Studio’s in Berlin.
TOUR2019 Zürcher Theater Spektakel, Zurich, Switzerland
2018 National Museum of Modern and Conteporary Art (MMCA), Seoul, Korea
2018 Kampnagel, Hamburg, Germany
2018 New Vision Art Festival, Hong Kong
I traveled to Thailand twice and tried to meet Olive Yang's son who lives in Chiangmai but was unsuccessful, so I've slightly shifted the emphasis of the performance from a direct biography of Olive, which would have been difficult to do in the confines of a one hour performance anyway, to using her story as a way to talk about larger themes. While in Thailand, I tried to find opium but was also unsuccessful though I did travel to the Golden Triangle, to the abandoned compound of the former drug lord Khun Sa, the Kuomingtang village of Mae Salong on the Thai-Myanmar border and a few opium museums in the region. I guess a part of the irony of my research and, with a bearing on the question of global drug policies today, it was ultimately easier to find opium in Berlin than in SE Asia, a point which I also speak about in the performance.
In general, my team tried re-create the experience of taking opium through aesthetic means, manipulating images, colour, light, sound and atmosphere to create a completely immersive, sensory experience for the audience. It is meant to be an opium dream poem in the mode of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's 'Kubla Khan' or Thomas De Quincey's 'Confessions of an English Opium Eater'.
I've been doing a lot of thinking about drugs, not just opium but psychedelics and their role vis a vis the state and culture in general. I was running a reading group with the Hong Kong based American anthropologist Gordon Matthews on psychedelics and technology, and what I've come to understand is that drugs are simply shortcuts to altered states of consciousness, spiritual, religious and liminal experiences which are at the core centre of most cultures throughout history. Think of the Elusinian mysteries in Classical Greece, to the role of ayuhuasca is Indian societies in Columbia, opium in Asia, to Terrence McKenna's 'stoned ape' theory of evolution and of course the role of alcohol, the most dangerous of them all. Rather than seeing drugs as being pushed to the outer limits of society, I see them more and more as the absent center around which we structure out cultures. So, there will be continuing efforts to suppress drugs, and efforts to make them more accessible, but the nature of these experiences themselves can be accessed through many paths; meditation, death and artistic experience itself (in which I find myself humbly engaged) and my interest at the moment is in continuing to explore their convergence through art.