TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — It was a psychedelic experience with a “random” individual in Burning Man in 2007 that brought Cincinnati-born Ray Hecht to Taiwan.
This person wasn’t random after all. His name was a clever pseudonym or “playa name” that many adopt when they attend the week-long Radical Participatory Art Festival in Northern Nevada’s Black Rock Desert.
Graphic representation of Hecht’s Burning Man experience. (Photo by Ray Hecht)
Engagement is what Hecht is all about, as he’s devoted the past few months to putting together and curating a 48-page fanzine titled “Visions of Taiwan” Issue 1. On Sunday evening, January 15, a small crowd gathered at Vinyl Decision in Huashan 1914 Creative Park to celebrate the launch.
A table near the door displayed an array of prints. One was Hecht’s previous post, “Always Goodbye”, which detailed his past dalliances with expat life before coming to Taiwan.
“I met a guy at Burning Man, he said he could ship me to China. It was the last day of Burning Man and I was a bit confused, but I decided to take him up on the offer,” Hecht said.
The real Ray Hecht in Burning Man. (photos by Ray Hecht)
And as they say, the rest is history, or one hell of a long weird ride. Hecht will first find himself in Shenzhen, China, a thriving city of millions that was fast and free when he first arrived. “It was a great place with a lot of personal freedom. I could teach and do my art there, like get my book published, which is something I’ve always wanted to do.”
His first publication, a kind of graphic novel akin to Harvey Pekar and Robert Crump, was well received and dealt with his many experiences in Asia. He recently posted on his Facebook page that he has sold 10,000 units of this book online. It’s a huge achievement and a primary inspiration for his latest fan art.
“This time around, I thought it would be best to work with other artists. It was nice but quite challenging, like herding cats, to get everyone to meet the deadline and contribute their work to meet our 48-page format.”
Hecht didn’t want any blank pages in the publication, so he hoped everyone could fill their agreed-upon fanzine quotas.
2020 was a year when we couldn’t leave the mask behind. (Photo by Ray Hecht)
One of the contributions, “Island of Inspiration” by Fabienne Good, is notable for its technical details reminiscent of classic typography and iconic artwork. While another, Joel Fremming’s “Some People,” is drawn in thick felt-tip pen and recounts the author’s feelings when an expatriate friend leaves the island, complete with self-imposed shame, when he hurriedly returns a few months later.
Other contributors include Walk & Talks by Patti Hogan and Todd Allen Williams, a look at the art of living and travel as seen through their eyes. And John Renzela’s “ConSequential” is firmly in the adult graphic novel milieu, detailing how his life changed when he was accepted into an art residency at Taichung’s Stock 20, and has since become one art affair after another.
Hecht also contributed to a multi-page comic called “How Not to Your Scooter License in Taiwan.” Spoiler here, Hecht recommends exploring a lenient testing facility and practicing the written test so many times that the answers automatically appeal to you, despite logic or common sense.
While it is too early to plan a second case, Hecht says he plans to stay in Taiwan for a long time.
“China was great at first and stayed for 8 years, but then it became very restrictive. The straw that broke the camel’s back was when I was at a party where 500 people were arrested and drug tested. I don’t smoke marijuana, so I was lucky and didn’t struggle at all. And with That being said, I knew then that I wanted to leave.”
In terms of being home again, Hecht says that’s a long way off because he has few fond memories of his home in Cincinnati, which he describes as having “the worst Greyhound station in America.”