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Godzilla Can't Be Killed 2023 YAO Qingmei Live Show 120 mins “Godzilla Can’t Be Killed” is a performance I created in the Jijian apartment of the historic building “The Cloister” in Shanghai. It begins with the story of the North Korean film “Pulgasari” (The Monster of Pyongyang). This performance brings together several texts of different styles, integrates operatic singing, television broadcasts, gymnastic exercises, public square dances, and fragmentary recitations. It serves as both a live rehearsal and an open reading experience of my essay “Li Ge Zhi” (Journal of Confinement), written in 2021 during my quarantine in a hotel room in Shanghai. I collaborate with a group of senior amateur dancers who practice in Xiang Yang Park, a master’s journalism student and TV presenter, a traditional operatic singer, a schoolgirl, and a stay-at-home mom passionate about energy crystals. This performance is a retrospective of my personal experiences while exploring the interactions between the public and private space, as well as dreams and reality. To reflect the bodily experience related to the “Journal of Confinement” I consider the entire building as the performance space. The entrance of the building becomes the starting point, so the performance unfolds from the outside, continues inside the second-floor apartment, and finally concludes on the rooftop terrace. During the afternoon, some audience members gradually arrive, participating in the actors’ rehearsals. When the performance time comes, a heavy rain suddenly falls, forcing the audience to gather inside the building’s entrance. The security guard prohibits us from gathering in front of the staircase. Our unexpected negotiation serves as the prelude to the performance. In front of the audience, I ask operatic singer Tingting to step out of the crowd and stand in front of the staircase to start her vocal exercises. I have always been interested in vocal training as it prepares the body for performance. She practices scales while going up and down the stairs, with the notes ascending and descending as she ascends. Once she reaches the final step, she must hold the highest note of her vocal range in front of the “Godzilla Can’t Be Killed” poster. Then, the audience follows her to the second-floor apartment. Spectators can admire the Spanish style of the apartment. Simultaneously, radio host Ruoxuan practices vocal exercises on the entryway sofa. When Tingting crosses the apartment corridor to reach the terrace, I ask her to produce some deep, long, and slow notes, conveying a melancholic and solemn mood. She then crosses the terrace corridor to enter the inner hall, and her silhouette, dressed in a blue gown, disappears from the audience’s view. At this moment, the audience gradually takes their seats on sofas and chairs. Ruoxuan continues to rehearse vocalizations, using her hands to support her waist, her abdominal muscles contracting, her dress vibrating to the rhythm of her exercises. Her usual training method requires the intensive mobilization of various muscles, including the tongue, vocal cords, and mouth, to work on chest resonance. These rhythmic and cadenced vocal exercises are entirely technical and devoid of semantic meaning. They aim to precisely stimulate the appropriate muscles, including the tip and the back of the tongue, the upper and lower lips, like a gymnast’s physical training. I have selected some tongue twisters and a daily news brief in her training routine. Additionally, I asked the presenter to give a brief lecture on “TV Mandarin” pronunciation. Next, the living room television broadcasts a radio gymnastics demonstration, and schoolgirl Yiwei, appearing in her school uniform, performs the movements twice. Radio host Ruoxuan shouts “1-2-3-4, 2-2-3-4,” providing the rhythm, and Yiwei follows. The host’s speed gradually increases, and Yiwei accelerates until her body can no longer keep up, rendering her movements unsynchronized, before leaving the stage. I turn off all the lights in the room. In the darkness, senior amateur dancers from the “Meifang” public square dance group take turns searching for excerpts from the essay “Li Ge Zhi” that they had hidden in various places around the apartment during the afternoon rehearsals, whether near the fireplace, between the sofa cushions, or under the rug. “Li Ge Zhi” is an essay I wrote in 2021 during my isolation in Shanghai, and it includes numerous fragmented reflections and observations on the interior layout of hotels. The apartment is crowded, and the spectators are seated very close to each other, able to feel someone getting up or passing by. Holding a flashlight and searching for excerpts of the essay, they read each piece aloud. The content of this text is unknown to them, and each one has a different Mandarin accent. However, these accent differences, as well as the gap between spoken and written language, allow them to interpret and make the text their own. This reading, occupying different spaces within the apartment, is carried out in several parts throughout the performance. Next, the salsa music “The Boy” played, and Yawei reappeared in a pink dress, while distributing homework sheets to the audience. She then returned to a table to read these sheets aloud. Evoking a family scene, Yawei’s mother, Azhen, sat at the table to guide her. The homework sheets contained pronunciation exercises in Pinyin from the week, featuring grand words like “民族” (nationality), “伟大” (great), “崇高” (sublime), and more. Subsequently, I asked Ruoxuan, the radio host, to insert phonetic exercises composed of monosyllables, semantically obscure, between the words Yawei was reading, giving them a dynamic rhythm. Azhen, a full-time stay-at-home mom with a secondary activity of selling energy crystals, presented her crystals and their magnetic fields to the audience. To help the audience meditate and eliminate negative energies, we played therapeutic music containing a 4096 Hz crystal diapason over the Internet. Then, the public square dance group Meifang started a second reading session of “Journal of Confinement.” Tingting, the operatic singer, exited the inner hall and stood in the center of the room. The symphonic prelude of a patriotic song rang out. I shouted, “Start!” and Tingting began to emotionally prepare herself. When she was about to sing, I yelled, “Stop!” immediately interrupting her emotional state. It was a forceful action, demanding the operatic singer to continually accumulate emotions, only to be constantly interrupted by the director. After this performance, the third reading session of “Journal of Confinement” took place. This time, I asked radio host Ruoxuan to lead everyone in an on-site vocal exercise. With the collective sound rhythm, “Di-liu-liu-liu-liu-Di-liu-liu,” the dance group members searched for the text in the apartment. The spectators’ cheers made the text-searching process fun and ritualistic. The interpretation of the dance group members deeply moved me. Due to technical constraints, as soon as someone approached the audio area with a microphone, a sharp feedback noise occurred, abruptly interrupting the text recitation. Eventually, we had to carefully test the auditory boundaries of the apartment and move part of the reading to the entrance hall. In essence, whether it was the positioning of people in the apartment or the distance between people and microphones, everything was in a flexible and fluid state, far from a precise, compact, and disciplined grand gala. After the reading, the lights in the room were turned back on, and finally, the public square dance commenced. The group members introduced themselves and then danced to the two songs, “等我熬过了所有的苦” (After I Have Overcome All the Suffering) and “时间你再慢点” (Time, Slow Down a Bit). I had selected these two songs from dozens of popular dance songs. These dancing bodies, typically gathered in public outdoor spaces, were now inside an apartment, mingling with the audience, freely expressing their joy and bodily freedom. Contrary to the initial plan, the dance group members did not want to slow down to dance “时间你再慢点” (Time, Slow Down a Bit) again. I decided not to insist on this attempt because, at that moment, the room was filled with joy and emotion. I felt capable of concluding this performance at this resonant moment. The work is titled “Godzilla Immortal,” but “after overcoming all the suffering,” we see that people’s bodies and voices remain agile. Perhaps the “immortal” is now “mortal.”

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