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A Man After Midnight

Three channel video installation and photograph,2015

A Man after Midnight insinuates the variety show “Singing against the Wind” hosted by Frankie Kao (⾼凌風) between 1980 and 1983. This variety show was a rare spectacle at a time for its magnificent lighting wall and overwhelming dancer troupe, alongside two groups of chorus and an exclusive orchestra composed of a dozen members. Frankie Kao not only hosted the show, but also took charge of singing, dancing and playlet. It was not only the peak of Kao’s career in the 1980s but also Su’s most vivid childhood memory of Saturday nights.

As one of the pioneering performers who emulated the Western Disco and Rock style, Kao not only introduced a new form of pop music to Taiwan by adapting and covering Western songs, but also endorsed the straightforward, undisguised lust and corporality embedded in disco music. Nonetheless, Kao’s songs failed to pass the cultural censorship from time to time, since Taiwanese society was still under martial law in the early 1980s, an age when entertainment was demanded to be enlightening.

The magnificent spectacle of Kao’s early variety show served as a stark contrast to the miserable twilight years of his stage career, which is exactly the kernel image that the artist attempts to convey through the work A Man after Midnight. Su replaced the scene in this work with that of the only remaining red envelop club in Ximending — The Phoenix Grand Cabaret, and provided the instrumental accompaniment of Kao’s hit song The Annoying Autumn Winds. This song was adapted from the best-selling single Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man after Midnight) released by the popular Swedish band ABBA in 1979. The original lyrics depicted a woman who watched television for most of the night, expecting an ideal man to come out of the world of fantasy from the television and take her away from the suffocating reality. In Kao’s adapted version, the lyrics were modified to represent the call of a man to his lover who has gone away. What remains in the coda of this video are the instrumental accompaniment and the frustrated singer who seems disoriented on a step chair as if living in another parallel universe.

#Censorship #Martial-law #Asian-western-pop