2017 Melbourne, Australia
Collaborator: Jeffrey Shaw, Hing Chao
This exhibition as part of Asia-Pacific Triennial of Performing Arts Festival is based on high fidelity 3D motion data and, photographic, ultra-high-speed and green-screen video captured of expert kung fu practitioners of south Chinese traditions in Hong Kong (the ‘masters’). Currently comprised of a selection from 130 sets of ‘empty hand’ and ‘weapon’ sequences known as taolu (套路), the archive represents 19 styles by 33 elite practitioners. Taolu are pre-arranged movement sequences used for learning, practicing and performing traditional martial arts and were initially created as mnemonic aids. Importantly, taolu are considered the primary ‘text’ for Chinese martial arts, whereby learning consists of memorizing the ‘text’ through imitation and repetition.
For the first time in history, motion capture has allowed the precise recording of these taolu, forming the largest motion data archive of its kind in the world and the basis for a series of international exhibitions and publications (e.g. Chao et al 2017; Kenderdine & Shaw 2016, 2017; Chao, Shaw & Kenderdine 2016; Hincks 2017). The archive is transforming the way martial arts are documented and researched and, the methods by which kung fu research is taught and learnt.