In November 2022, Zuni Icosahedron staged a 12-hour-long audio-visual art Happening, as part of its classic series “One Hundred Years of Solitude“. Twelve Hours is the eleventh episodic intervention in the series.
The production drew from Zuni’s expansive archive of over 40 years of multi-sensorial experiments exploring themes of cyclical time, collective memory, democratic creativity, and the inevitable breakdown of narrative.
Twelve Hours paid tribute to Danny Yung, Zuni’s founding director and a revered proponent of innovative collaborative theatre practices. Three young Hong Kong musicians, KJ Wong, Gordon Lee, and Olivier Cong, were invited to create layered cycles of music in response to a decentralised stage created using minimal yet evocative visual design and lighting. The result was a glimpse into an ever-changing world – an unfixed continuation of images expressing a common creative vocabulary.
“[The] decentralised stage was a glimpse into an ever-changing world – an unfixed continuation of images expressing a common creative vocabulary.”
Since the 1980s, Zuni has been at the forefront of alternative theatre’s evolution in Hong Kong. The “Solitude” series embodies the spirit of Zuni’s appropriations (and transformations) of popular cultural texts. Inspired by the 1967 Gabriel García Márquez magical realism novel of the same name, the series carries forward the text’s ideology.
Thus far, the “Solitude” series has revived various internal vocabularies of “direction” and “action”, articulated over decades of successive productions, to explore the novel’s main elements: the love for language, the role of technology in modernity, and the proximity between love and death.
Previous productions have focused on shared journeys and recurrences: performers flowed endlessly from left to right while referencing a universe of signs and gestures. Each episode has been open-ended, making way for further cycles, seasons, parades, marches, processions, and other collectivities which exemplify the tide and temporality of human life.
Mathias Woo, Director and Production Designer of Twelve Hours and the Co-Artistic Director of Zuni, described the production as an intervention in the age of fast consumption: “It challenges us to think about what art can be in a consumption-based economy. It’s different from just entertainment; we get rid of the narrative frame, inviting the viewers to look at novels and theatre from a new perspective and restoring the pure fundamentals of theatre art.”
“It’s different from just entertainment; we get rid of the narrative frame … and [restore] the pure fundamentals of theatre art.”
Much like the novel, the production also disrupts notions of linear time while emphasising the circular motions of history – there is no beginning or end to the processes of witnessing.
Multi-instrumentalist Olivier Cong explained his meditative improvisations to create a “never-ending noise soundscape”, where the beginning trills of one instrument could not be distinguished from the ending notes of another. Cong recalled, “I got into a trance and kept playing, almost mindlessly. I looked down and found my hands almost folded in prayer.” The “Solitude” series is a collective effort which nonetheless creates a space for reflections on the eternal loneliness of being human, being flawed.