Re- Triptych is a three parts special: Re-(I), Re-(II), and Re-(III). Born of Shen Wei's experiences of Tibet's plateaus and his memories of Cambodia and China's Silk Road, it fuses Wei's personal history with a broader look at the history of the famous eastern trade routes.
Looking over your career, it seems that you have come from a recognised and traditional Chinese form and moved into a more western, contemporary dance world. How far is your work still based in the movements of the Chinese Opera, or has it taken on more western disciplines?
Its hard to describe exactly which elements are solely Western or solely Eastern. In the past decade, I have created my own technique and my own vocabulary based on my experience of both traditional Chinese opera and western modern dance technique. That is to say East and West are in constant dialogue with each other, producing something different than their respective parts. Additionally, it is not just movement I am concerned with — I also look at movement in context. I am sensitive to the philosophies behind movement, how people use movement in various cultures and understand the body differently. Chinese Traditional Opera and Western modern dance are just two of the ways in which we can apprehend the human body and its place in a cultural context.
You are famous for working in multiple art forms: how far do you recognise the various strands of your career as distinct, or is it a case that you move between mediums as the content inspires you?
I have always been interested in all different kinds of art forms — much like how I encounter the world with all my senses. My education has never been limited to one art form, so I have always appreciated a variety of media. While my interest in movement and the human body began when I was very young and has subsequently served as an artistic foundation, other art forms are able to inspire me just as much as dance. Work in one medium helps me think about another medium in an alternative way — they are all interconnected. My works therefore frequently incorporates many artistic fields, where one can complement another, and hopefully provide multiple sources of inspiration for the audience.
Re Triptych is both personal and on a huge scale. How do you cope with the challenge of telling a story that is both based in your own biography and has huge political and historical associations?
Large scale topics do not have to be mutually exclusive with the personal stories that I want to tell, nor does there have to be tension. In creating art, I am trying to uncover something about the qualities of the human soul and humanity's history, as well as closely consider the integration between humanity and nature, spirituality and reality. Re-Triptych is my own personal journey of understanding in the context of some of these large-scale topics. It is a montage of personal experiences, but perhaps experiences that may also resonate with a larger audience. Through performance, I hope to show people what is going on in my life as well as their own lives, and to have viewers take more notice of the environment they exist in.
One of the ways that Europeans tend to approach work from the East is to see it as Other: yet your career suggests that the world is not quite the duality as this suggests. Would you characterise your work as Eastern, or has that term lost much of its meaning?
No, I wouldn't characterize my work as Eastern. What is interesting is that when my work travels to the West, people think it is very Eastern, and when my work travels to the East, people think it is very Western. Like I mentioned earlier, the elements all mix together. For me, East vs. West is a false dichotomy — my work lies beyond these categories.