The First Genre: Sacrifice and Salvation

Since the beginningless kalpa (eon), creatures on the earth have encountered innumerable calamities. Paleo-organisms went extinct five times before they evolved into new species. Thanks to celestial anomalies, locust plagues and natural disasters, shamans in primitive tribes enjoyed privileged status for they had access to mystic powers. Potentates tended to perform secret rituals in which living men or animals were offered as sacrifices, insofar as to seek salvation from sin. However, whether these rituals could bring temporal harmony between nature and humankind remains dubious. These sacrifices were equally vitality-laden. Killing innocent lives wouldn’t necessarily prevent the ritual performers from misfortune. Sentient beings are not indulgentia. Sinners humbly sacrificed themselves to good and evil spirits, expressing the reverence to evil spirits and the gratitude to deities. It was not until modern civilized societies that non-living things were substituted for living sacrifices. Memento mori. We’re all being-towards-death. Death renders all sentient beings equal, and creates various immortal entities. Whoever seeks secular interests by offering materials or even lives to divine entities will be plagued by the five poisons, let alone attain salvation through taking the life of a living creature. Only by adamantly confronting the delusions and obsessions and remembering that everything with form is unreal, that is, abstaining from the mentality of sacrifice and salvation, can one empty the five aggregates and escape the fate of eternal return.

The Second Genre: The Sub-history of Wildlife Trade

If the total number of terrestrial creatures is 100, the 7.7 billion people account only for 0.01%. Before the coming of agrarian society, fishing and hunting provided a livelihood for people without disturbing the global ecological balance. The rapid population growth and technological innovation ushered in the Age of Discovery and accelerated colonialism. Spoils of wars and slave trade were breeding like flies. Innumerable, free animals satisfied aristocrats’ appetite. Harnessing the Maritime Silk Road, the glitterati and politicians formed consortia to dominate trade and vie over land, forest resources and fishing grounds at the expense of the extinction of 83% species of wildlife. Cash crops are preserved by modernized production and warehousing systems. Booty capitalism manifests itself in the increasing immigrant workers. Black markets beneath legal animal trade remain choppy. Bribery, smuggling and indiscriminate hunting for profits are common occurrences. Virtual currencies rise in the cyber society. People make a beeline for capital gains without hesitation, even if it entails tormenting living beings. Humans breed and slaughter profitable creatures. Rare animals become precious medicines. Who has ever heard their plaintive cries? Animals are politicized and symbolized as beasts. Wildlife went extinct due to deforestation. These wronged sentient beings metamorphose into chimimōryō, and the divine retribution on humans will soon follow. Animals will no longer be lovable as they are in anime, but become Nature’s fury incarnate in the form of quasi-creatures. Anonyms incubate alternative viruses from content farms and darknets in the aseptic cyberspace, so as to capture vulnerable souls and solidify humans’ inherent dark mind!

The Third Genre: Portrait of Unknown Heroes

Be it chaotic warfare between ancient tribes, medieval castle besieging, or modern nuclear warfare, the human history is little more than a brutal history of conflict. Diplomatic or military affairs are a dog-eat-dog world in which the devil take the hindmost. A general’s victory is built upon ten thousand rotting bones, but at least their spirits go down in annals, whereas those in a totally defeated army become unknown souls. Without exception, overlords and victors ascend to their thrones at the expense of countless lives. The defeated sink into oblivion, and the annihilated are busy with reincarnation. Granted that sympathizers dare put the lie to rulers’ legitimacy-oriented arguments and recount those unknown soldiers, how should they describe those animal heroes? Animals have been frequently exploited in warfare. Victory is the prime directive. In the two world wars, only war pigeons could be placed on a par with radio transmitters in carrying military orders and cypher-texts. They were even the key to win battles. Hounds are as well successful at reconnaissance, sentinel and assassination on battlegrounds. Owing to their great gifts, animals have been deemed tribal totems since ancient times, and modern military units like amphibious forces and intelligence agencies also use deadly animals as unit symbols. POWs resemble domesticated dogs or lambs to the slaughter. There is no such thing as humanitarianism in concentration camps, but domination, control, surveillance and death. Surplus value is the sole criterion of survival for those seen as impure. Domestication is the only path that every slave must follow.

The Fourth Genre: Laboratory/Operating Room/Specimen Room

Great plagues known as the wrath of Heaven, rather than endless wars, killed the largest number of people. As knowledge advances every day, laboratories have become the key of hope for people to study and fight against pathogens. Animal testing can be seen in labs for various purposes. How many lives died in labs? Lots of animals have been sacrificed for the sake of the R&D of a picayune medicament. Just like petroleum from the corpses of prehistoric lives, human civilization flourishes at the expense of innumerable lives. Today, biotechnology replaces the will of God. Homosexual- and even auto-reproduction are no longer myths. Therapeutic cloning and precision robots are just around the corner. Blood is to operating rooms what water is to kitchens. Surgery repairs corporeal bodies, yet human greed remains as bloodthirsty as cancer cells. No scalpel can excise unquenchable desires no matter how powerful it is. Museology-based specimen rooms brim with corpses of creatures finely selected from all sentient beings. The lifeless codes on the tags are nothing but meaningless numbers. All specimens are fixed in formalin. The world’s first animal welfare act can be dated to 1822 in London (less than 200 years), and animal euthanasia remains contentious. Biological and computer viruses continue to mutate. The formers are so contagious that they killed many people. The latter paralyze the virtual world of fantasy. The black hole of junks knows no bounds. It’s a hotbed of pathogens. Marine animals’ stomachs are filled with marine debris. Whales no longer blow a jet of rainbow spray, but explode with overpowering stink on the scorching beach, as which shameless politicians’ empty promises are the same in spades!

The Fifth Genre: Festivals/Sandbanks/Green Coverage Ratio

Festivals are many and varied. Although advanced technologies ushered in the flourishing 21st century, traditional festivals featuring cruelty to animals remain thick on the ground. The Lantern Festival in Asia is comparatively moderate. Traditional polytheistic festivals in Taiwan take place annually according to the lunar calendar. Plazas, pop music and celebrities have replaced Lantern Festival carnivals, operas and folk festival parades used to be held on temple courts. Crowds vie to see the huge lantern of Nian, and politicians say auspicious words. Kiasu local governments draw up generous budgets for the festival in turn, aiming to make it impressive and popular. What for? Debates among kalyāṇa-mittatā remain wanting, and coastal subsidence and wetland degradation are rampant. Breakwaters, tetrapods and cement-based channel regulation lead to deforestation, sea sand hollow-out and mudslides. Urbanization widens the urban-rural gap. Urban sprawl causes high vacant rate, air pollution and narrow spaces, against which the government stipulated the green coverage ratio, an indicator for construction greening. Euphemized as ecological conservation, parks ergo mushroom. These breathing, better-than-nothing parks tend to contain stereotyped playground equipment, while the cement animal statues in remote, poorly lit parks appear even more humane. Actually, most public facilities are used for boosting real estate price, stabilizing land value increment tax, attracting first-time buyers, or easing housebuilders’ pressure. Brightly lit hustle and bustle disguises severe selling pressure. It’s actually nothing but a mirage!

The Sixth Genre: Beast Mimic/Torured Beastnoid

Beast mimic refers to those who can imitate animals and transform their inherent abilities into intelligible symbols, thereby creating readable images of tribes/city states/countries/enterprises. They gradually develop respectable, excellent and coherent powers by civilizing themselves. Enterprises are keen to create lovable, refreshing human-beast hybrids. Relying on their special gifts, these anthropomorphic creatures serve as the virtual heroes who save humankind and prevent the earth from apocalypse, hence empathetic consumption and concomitant profits. Yet, nobody cares about how these appropriated animals feel. To interview animals seems absurd, but it shall not be an excuse. We can find different ways to roughly capture their feelings if we’re determined. Animals are silenced mainly because humans lack compassion. We should step in animals’ shoes and muse on the ultimate meaning of being human. For most animals, humans are the most horrific, tyrannical and ruthless predators. We can see the apotheosis of these convicts in ancient myths, and all civilized entities are more than happy to appropriate the images of violent beasts to strike a balance between arms/intimidation/coercion and laws/rewards/ promises. Both zoo animals and jailed villains are victims of corporeal punishment. Nonetheless, aren’t humans more barbarous than animals under the civilized camouflage of custom/habits/ norms/doctrines/borders/ideologies/firewalls/security cameras/social credit? Such fundamental ignorance is the ultimate cause of human suffering. They mistake delusion for reality. Only after they peel away the layers of disguises will they be aware of the fact that they possess nothing at all, and they can do nothing but shed silent tears!

The Seventh Genre: Habitat/Zoo/National Park

Since the dawn of the Age of Discovery, European aristocrats had taken delight in collecting rare treasure and animals. The Tiergarten Schönbrunn in Vienna was designed on the basis of the Habsburg Royal Hall of Animals in 1752. A zoo for science and education was built in Paris in 1794. It was not until the London Zoo’s founding in 1828 and its sensational opening in 1874 that other countries followed suit. These living specimens from around the world were caged for paid admiration, and this practice provoked constant criticisms. Modern zoos also perform the functions of education and conservation promotion. Tourism is their main source of revenue. Humans have committed sins of extirpating lives on the earth. Ecological awareness didn’t increase until 200 years ago, foremost the establishment of Yellowstone National Park in 1827 and the Whipsnade Wild Animal Park in 1931. Asia is notorious for destroying animals’ native habitat so as to facilitate urban sprawl and bolster economy. Effluents and industrial wastes have replaced chirping birds and buzzing insects. International competition in economic growth rate has intensified. Factories produce poisonous substance day and night. Air pollutions and extreme climate have become a normal occurrence. None of our countermeasures are adequate to suppress people’s insatiable desires. The doomsday or the Last Judgment may not be on the horizon so far. Nonetheless, humans will soon or later need Noah’s Ark if they on the one hand build zoos and national parks for ecological conservation and balance, and on the other hand still allow factories to emit pollutants and discharge effluents without proper regulations.

The Eighth Genre: Performance & Live Art/Multimedia-Installation & Performance

In addition to the indoor and outdoor main venues as well as those for the satellite and collateral events, the 2020 Taiwan Biennial enlists other Taichung-related spaces and includes live performance and sound art for the first time. The main venue contains a multimedia room. The Flash Mob Performance will take place at the Taichung Humpback Dolphin Ecology Museum and the Mazu Cultural Park. Incurring huge expenditures, both facilities have been left unused for complex reasons. The former cost NT$0.8 billion. It was under construction for 10 years and renamed four times. 10 years ago, the premier asserted that “humpback dolphins just go around,” hence the protest by 8 green groups against the Kuokuang Petrochemical plant deemed detrimental to the humpback dolphins, a species on the verge of extinction. However, the museum supposed to promote humpback dolphin conservation has been deserted. The Mazu Cultural Park is no less controversial. It cost NT$0.65 billion. The foundations construction began in October 2014. This three-story building has a penthouse wherefrom one can survey the Taiwan Strait and the Milky Way. 23.6m in height, its roof resembles a lotus seat. It would reach 70m were the colossal statue of Mazu installed on it. Unfortunately, the statue has never been installed, and other religious groups castigate it for favoring over a specific sect. Oddly enough, the two facilities have been utilized as makeshift preparation sites for the Han Kuang Exercise. Now the government plans to tap new sources of budget from crowdfunding, and no one knows the exact dates of its completion and opening except the Holy Heavenly Mother!