Yannick Dauby born 1974 in Mediterranean Alps, France Wan-Shuen Tsai born 1978 in Penghu Archipelago, Taiwan Live and work in Taipei, Taiwan

Yannick Dauby is a French-born, Taiwan-based sound artist; and Wan-Shuen Tsai is a poet and video and installation artist. While they continue to maintain separate practices, since 2004 they have also worked collaboratively on audiovisual projects that meld field recordings, video projections and publications to explore their mutual interests in landscape and Taiwanese ecology, as well as local customs, cultures and traditions. More recently, they have been collaborating with specific local communities across Taiwan to develop long-term projects that include workshops, discussions and audio documentaries to explore the sociocultural contexts in which these communities exist.

For the 20th Biennale of Sydney, Dauby and Tsai present three works: Childhood of an Archipelago, 2015; Bayin Music at the House of Jiang, 2015; and The Body of the Mountain, 2015–16. Drawn from sound archives and materials gathered and created during three distinct long-term projects with local communities across Taiwan, each of these pieces is an accumulation of responses to a particular environment and the community that inhabits it.

Dauby and Tsai began these projects as Atelier Hui-Kan in 2008, itself a long-term project that focuses on teaching, collection, traditional cultures, communities and the natural environment. Taken together, these three particular works can be seen to explore ideas of transmission, tradition and evolution, and how certain elements of live and ecological experience might disappear and reappear over time.

In rural Nankeng, Dauby and Tsai worked with the local Hakka people to help rediscover traces of traditional life. Through workshops, discussions and events during key calendar moments, such as the cropping of the rice, they were able to support the re-emergence of ancestral music. Elsewhere, in Taoshan Village in the mountains of Hsinchu County, Dauby and Tsai worked with local aboriginal children of the Atayal peoples, teaching them about sound, the environment and traditional music. They then met with older villagers to conduct interviews, make field recordings and run workshops (such as mouth-harp making), which led to the creation of a CD, Listen to the Atayal in Taoshan(2011). More recently, Dauby and Tsai have been teaching on the most remote island in Penghu, an archipelago of 64 islands in the Taiwan Strait. Here again, they have been looking at the formation of unique cultural and natural landscapes and how traditional cultures might be preserved within it.

In discussing the nature of field recordings and sound art versus music, Dauby has said that these fragments and arrangements of captured sound ‘ask questions about listening – it puts the listener into a situation where he or she must ask, “What am I listening to? How am I listening?”’ Having helped communities to remember and rediscover their own lost sounds, Dauby and Tsai’s work within the Embassy of Disappearance invites viewers to reflect on their own subtle understandings of what it means both to listen and to hear.

Yannick Dauby and Wan-Shuen Tsai have exhibited extensively, with both solo and group showings including ‘Habitat’, Treasure Hill, Taipei (2014); ‘Train de nuit pour Guang-Neng’, Taipei (2013); ‘Wā Jiè Méng Xūn’, Digital Art Center, Taipei (2012); ‘Art as Social Interaction’, Academy of Visual Arts and Pier 2, Hong Kong and Kaohsiung (2014); ‘One has said that…’, Taipei South Town Art Festival, Taipei (2014); and ‘ALTERing NATIVism’, Museum of National Taipei University of Education, Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts, Taipei and Kaohsiung (2014).