STS Scholars Contribute in Theater of Negotiations at Taipei Biennial 2020

Volume 15, Issue 1

Curated by renowned STS scholar and EASTS editor Bruno Latour and his colleague Martin Guinard, the Taipei Biennial 2020 has not only been one of the very few artistic exhibitions that can be held during the COVID-19 pandemic – it has attracted a quite phenomenal viewership with a curiosity in art and science, the Anthropocene, and artistic/political representation of Gaia. One event at this transdisciplinary celebration was the Theater of Negotiations, organized by the Taiwan STS Association, the International College of Innovation, and the Center for Democratic Innovation and Governance at National Chengchi University, with collaboration from EASTS editors Chia-Ling Wu, Wen-ling Tu, Hsin-Hsing Chen, and Yi-Ping Lin. Dr. Chih-Yuan Yang, one of the main facilitators, kindly offered a resumé of this serious yet light-hearted occasion.

— EASTS Editorial Office

The Taipei Biennial 2020 – ’You and I don’t live on the same planet’ – officially opened at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum on 21 November 2020 and will run through 14 March 2021. The curators of this rare event during the COVID-19 pandemic are Bruno Latour and Martin Guinard, with local collaborator Eva Lin. Focusing on Latour’s thoughts on “The New Climate Regime,” the exhibition discusses the devastating ecological impact which mankind has wrought in the global epoch of the Anthropocene, in just the short period since World War Two. How can we face up to this challenge and choose to do differently, not only at a personal level but also in the entire pattern of exchange and interaction between Earth’s system(s) and humanity?

Latour emphasizes how everyone takes a different geo-social position on the territorial space they occupy and depend upon, and how there are different ties and arrangements between material objects in localities. The ability to reconstruct space with the sensibility of ‘terroir’ means that the relationship between ‘us’ and ‘local land’ need not to be reconstructed under the banner of globalization but needs instead to be rebuilt into a contextual ‘we-place’ linkage which exemplifies object-oriented politics. Because everyone reconstructs and prioritizes different geo-social positions, we all must act as diplomats, cultivating a consultative and diplomatic capacity to join in this new diplomatic collision.

One of the Biennial’s highlights is its Public Programs, and here the Theater of Negotiations took central stage. It was an innovative pedagogical method for exploring the close ties among actants in local sociotechnical controversies and illuminating the cultural understanding of technoscience and the possibility of public engagement through performance. This cooperative project was a joint undertaking by National Taiwan University, National Chengchi University, National Yang-Ming University, National Kaohsiung University of Science and Technology, Shih Hsin University, Academic Sinica, and the Taiwan STS Association. Topics ranged from Anticipating Reproduction, the Pending Future of Nuclear Waste, Revisiting Plasticizer Food, and Offshore Wind Power in Progress, all based on Taiwan’s contemporary technological, social, and ecological landscape and foregrounding complex local issues through simulated negotiations. For more details about each event, please see its Facebook page (in Chinese) at

Students who participated in performances had a chance to develop their multi-party negotiation skills and improve in confidence in their public speaking, learning from this rare opportunity to take a leading role in an event at the museum. It was an attempt to acknowledge current differences and to find a new direction for our future geo-social existence, however tentative and initial the start may be.

The performances were put on before a public audience in Basement Gallery D of the museum from late November to the end of December 2020. The event was attended by 15 teaching faculty and 60-plus students, both undergraduate and postgraduate, and attracted more than 550 visits. The organizing and administrative team of the Taiwan STS Association has had the whole planning preparation process across five universities well documented by photography, videos, and recorded interviews. A documentary and an edited book depicting the originating, devising, and implementing phases are planned for 2021.

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