Samson Young: The Immortals

When 2 Nov 2019
5:00PM - 8:00PM
Governors Island
United States

A ferry will depart for Governor’s Island from the Battery Maritime Building, located at 10 South Street, New York. The ferry will depart at 5:00pm on Saturday, November 2nd. Guests are permitted to enter the boat half an hour prior to departure.

For standby tickets, please sign up in person at the venue one hour before the performance begins. The Box Office will open at 4:00pm on Saturday, November 2nd.

Artist and composer Samson Young has created a contemporary interpretation of the popular Chinese folkloric myth of The Eight Immortals—a centuries old legend that has numerous iterations in Chinese mythology and culture, ranging from opera to children’s cartoons. This popular fairy tale tells the story of eight deities, each with their own special power represented by a magical tool, as they cross the ocean from an island in the Bohai Sea to attend the birthday banquet of a higher deity, the Queen Mother. Guitar quartet DITHER, Cantonese opera singer Eliza Li, and jazz vocalist Michael Schiefel—will play the Eight Immortals, performing music and lyrics composed and written by Young, accompanied by the other characters played by animations projected onto the castle walls. The cranes—giant locomotives to power them across the sea—will slowly rotate through the space during the performance to create a mechanical ballet, whilst also forming a moving sound system to fracture the music’s journey through the castle’s architecture.

These characters, who are revered by Taoists and considered signs of prosperity and longevity, have appeared in different guises in Chinese art and popular culture since the Yuan dynasty in the thirteenth century. Historically, wealthy families would hire Cantonese opera troupes to perform this during birthday celebrations, a tradition that continues today in Hong Kong, where Young was born and still lives. Young equates the opera troupe performing at birthdays with the idea of “the artist for hire”—whereby the artist is an entity who exists to provide a cultural product as entertainment for the enlightened.

Young’s Eight Immortals comments on the schizophrenic role of the artist in society today, positioning them as people who see and hear things that others may not see nor hear, as individuals whose role is to fracture and disrupt the systems of power. Each of Young’s Immortal is an artist, a psychic, and an outcast, a speaker of truth to power, a deity riding a giant, magical animal enabling them to move freely through the air, elevating them to great heights, offering a metaphor for the great distance between artist and audience, then lowering to the ground to meet the audience on their own terms. Their movement may be out of the Immortals’ control, but their art, the lyrics and the music, can be weaponized to fight the system—emphasizing that in order to find freedom, one has to utilize aspects of system against itself. For Young, The Eight Immortals is an allegory that offers a latent critique of the institutions and systems of contemporary artistic and cultural production in Capitalist society.

Date: November 2, 5:00pm
Cost: $17.50/$42.50
Location: Castle Williams, Governors Island

Image courtesy of the event organizer.
For more information please click here.