Taiwanese artist Hong-Kai Wang has been developing a series of projects since 2010 trying to trigger collective re-writing of the history of sugar labour in her hometown, Huwei, in central Taiwan. Huwei was nicknamed the ‘Capital of Sugar’ during the Japanese colonial rule (1895-1945). Music While We Work (2011) invites a group of retired sugar factory workers and their spouses to revisit their former workplace and make audio recordings inside of the factory and on the sugarcane fields during the harvest season as a video camera quietly follows them. The Sugarcane Fever (2016) works with a group of sugarcane workers and other crop planters in reimagining ‘The Sugarcane Song’ which was credited to mobilize the very first agrarian revolt in 1925. This song powerfully addresses the struggle between the sugarcane workers and the capitalist owners, with references to slave labour and union organising.
“In her works, sound is a tool for conceptualization that, through the ‘organization of listening’, affords the listener new access to life and history, and an experience of the political spaces that exist therein.”
– Amy Cheng