Two months ago, I was in Taipei specifically for Pili’s latest exhibition: Pili Fantasy World of Puppet Art or 霹靂藝術科幻特展 (if you can read mandarin). This is by far the best puppet exhibition I have ever attended because of its grand scale and the “physical closeness” to the puppets. They were literally just centimetres away from me. You could see the puppets’ pores if they actually have pores.
The exhibition is from 29 June 2018 to 24 September 2018 (it’s still on, so you can still visit if you want to) at Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall, Exhibition Hall 1. It opens daily from 9am to 6pm (last entry at 5.30pm) and tickets cost NT280 each. More details can be found on their official sites here and here.
The exhibition will probably take you a hour or so to complete, but trust me, once is not enough. Don’t forget to get the re-entry stamp for multiple visits within the same day. Honestly speaking, I went there really early (around 10am) and only left when they closed for the day (at 6pm). You can imagine how many times I actually went it (5 times at least). I took thousands (yes, you read that correctly) of pictures and I had a hard time choosing which ones to share with you. In the end, I kinda chose those that were either key characters or the ones I like. I included as much description as possible on the photo caption, but there are some that I can’t remember.
I got the map of the exhibition from their website. Basically, there are 12 zones that feature different aspects of Pili Puppets. I will give a very very brief overview of what I saw in each zone below.
Zone 1 「天宙之間」
Zone 1 hits you with moving images and sounds from all directions as you enter the (what I would call) “screen tunnel”.
This face is kinda creepy but also cool at the same time. It is actually a 3D “model” of a human head with a projection of the character’s face on it.
Zone 2 「琉璃仙境」
Zone 2 is the celestial zone (琉璃仙境) where you start to see puppets appearing at super close range. The good thing about this exhibition is that most of the puppets are not encased in glass or behind any barriers. There is basically nothing between you and the puppets, but please don’t touch them.
Zone 3 「名人堂」
On display in this area are the classic characters of Pili. This is also the spot where visitors get to see the beautiful wedding scene of Pili’s poster boy and most important character, Su Huan Jen (素還真).
The above picture is amazing. You probably can’t see it clearly, but the picture and the two phrases at the sides are actually made up of tiny words. They are not just random words, but Buddhist scriptures. It’s the last thing you see in Zone 3, just before the terror of Zone 4.
Zone 4 「等活地顎」
This is (to me) the scariest part of the exhibition because it is the depiction of the demon realm. The entire area is dark and decorated with skeletons. Overall, I felt super uncomfortable due to the creepy aura, but hey this means the exhibit was on point. I don’t want to scare anyone, so no pictures here, sorry.
Zone 5 「天外天先知殿」
This is the experience zone where you are supposed to use the app created specially for this exhibition. You need to scan the beams of lights shining around (refer to picture below) to get additional information on the characters. I am so sorry for the poor quality picture here! I was busy playing with the app and not concentrating on photo taking… Oops..
Oh right, I forget to mention one important thing. You need to download the app from the App Store or from Google Play (search for 「霹靂科幻展」) before entering the exhibition. Throughout the exhibition, you are supposed to use the app to get additional information about Pili and the puppets. This interactive feature is to ensure that visitors get to bring back something from the exhibition. The downside, however, is you need to have a Taiwanese account on the App Store (cos I use Apple and if you use Apple) before you can even download the app. In order to get a Taiwanese account, you just need to install one free app from the Taiwan App Store and then create a new account. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.
Zone 6 「懸空棋盤」
Zone 6 is a simple exhibit. It just showcases a battle scene between the good guys and bad guys. The lighting here wasn’t the best (excuses for my lack of camera skills lol), so the pictures taken here weren’t really good =(
Zone 7 「蹈天橋」
Zone 7 introduces the new remake of an older series that is scheduled to be released in December 2018. The main feature is this puppet (see pic below) and his supposed semi-naked martial arts training scene. This exhibit emphasises the skills of the puppeteers because traditionally, puppeteers control puppets by manoeuvring them from under the clothes. In a way, the puppets’ clothes are also considered a functional part to hide puppeteers from audiences. However, with almost no clothes on, it takes additional skill for the puppeteers to control the puppet and make movements appear natural while “hiding” from audiences. Plus, this puppet has tattoos, further highlighting its exquisiteness.
The pictures here might not show much, but trust me, the only piece of clothing the puppet wore here is pretty much just a cloth covering his lower body.
Zone 8 「天蝶盟」
The best part of this zone is not really the puppets on display but more of the interactive walls that will move/change when you walk pass. It was pretty dark but I managed to snap some shots of the puppets and the interactive wall.
Zone 9 「三十經典」
Here is my absolute favourite zone because its totally puppets galore. It’s THE space for super-duper up-close “interactions” with your favourite puppets!! There are simply too many of them here and I went crazy!!! It’s beyond words. There are a lot more, but I’ll just show pictures of the ones I really love or the ones that look cool =)
Zone 10 「霹靂歷史 & 霹靂劇院」
Here is basically a mini theatre that shows the trailer of an upcoming film (to be released in 2020) about Su Huan Jen 「素還真大電影」 and the history of Pili (on a wall just outside the theatre). I sat in the theatre for quite a while because my back and legs were aching from all the excitement, from walking, and from bending to take pictures. Definitely a good place to chill while watching the awesome movie trailer =)
Zone 11 「魔吞時尚」
The final part of the exhibition features puppets from the 魔吞十二宮 (zero idea how to translate that) wearing new clothes specially designed by Taiwanese designers.
This is the only puppet we could take pictures with the camera flash and by far the coolest because the light will reflect on the cape and reveal a hidden design. Below is a sampler of the others that are equally nice.
Zone 12 「商品區」
The last zone is none other than the souvenir shop! I definitely recommend buying the exhibition guide book because it tells you what you need to know about the exhibition. Plus, it includes a bonus DVD that shows Su Huan Jen and Feng Cai Lin’s wedding. The wedding scene is apparently specially shot as a bonus feature for the exhibition.
I bought a lot more than you can imagine. So, here is a glimpse of my loot.
Bonus for Karen
Honestly, I am the luckiest person ever, because….
This is me with the host of Pili’s fan club (超級霹靂會), Xiao Di (小狄). I was really lucky because I was there when they were filming an episode for their show. When they realised that I had flown in specially from Singapore to attend this exhibition, they interviewed me for that episode!! OMG, super happy!!
In addition, I was also very privileged to be invited by one of their staff to unofficially join in a private tour of the exhibition. On the tour, I met Mr Liu (the person-in-charge of the exhibition), who promptly shared with me some interesting nuggets of the puppets and the company. In future, I hope to get the opportunity to work with the company in expanding the influence of Pili Puppetry in Singapore and Southeast Asia and learn more about Taiwanese puppet theatre. Inspired by the sights and sounds of Pili Puppetry, I will definitely consider becoming a researcher specialising in puppet theatre; that would be so awesome =)
There you have it, this is my take on Pili Fantasy World of Puppet Art. I hope I have somehow piqued your interest in puppets. Pili Fantasy World of Puppet Art or 霹靂藝術科幻特展 is still on till the 24th of September. Hurry down now before it is too late!!
PS: Remember to click here and give my Facebook page a like if Pili’s puppets fascinate you =)