Fri, Mar 08, 2002 - Page 7 News List

Public TV looks at local artists

A documentary series of artists from Taiwan's post-martial law era will begin airing on Public Television starting tonight

By Yu Sen-lun  /  STAFF REPORTER

An untitled piece by Huang Chian-he.

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE ARTIST

The late 1980s and the early 1990s were a period of tremendous change for Taiwan. Martial law was lifted and various social movements began raging. The general consensus of the time was that "anything is possible." As for contemporary art in Taiwan, the era was "a spring that could blossom any kind of flower," according to film and documentary maker Huang Ming-chuan (黃明川).

A long-term observer of Taiwan's contemporary art development after martial law, Huang is ready to present his documentary, Avant Garde Liberation (解放前衛), a film series 10 years in the making which profiles 14 frontier artists from that uproarious era.

Avant Garde Liberation: The Huang Ming-chuan Image Collection of the 1990s, contains 14 episodes, each 30-minutes long, and each focused on a different artist. It will be screened at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum (TFAM) beginning today. It will also be broadcast as a weekly program on Public Television starting tonight, and will air every Friday from 11:30pm to 12am.

The series begins with the story of naturalist installation artist Wang Wen-chih (王文志). Raised in the mountains, Wang was immersed in lumberjacking and bamboo and tea farming. His installation works are hewn from wood, bamboo and rattan. He is one of the first conceptual artists to convey humanism through the use of mountain plants.

The most controversial, and arguably the most memorable of the 1990s contemporary artists is, however, Lee Ming-sheng (李銘盛), subject of the third episode. The most notorious of Lee's "action art" was the so-called "taking a shit incident" in 1990 in front of TFAM. He had a public bowel movement in front of the museum building as his personal contribution to the then on-going Dadaism exhibition. Lee even attempted to enter his feces into an international Dadaism seminar. "I wanted to show what real Dadaism is," Lee says in the episode dedicated to him.

Art Notes:

What: Avant Garde Liberation: The Huang Ming-chuan Image Collection of the 1990s

Where: Taipei Fine Arts Museum, 181, Chungshan N. Rd., Sec. 3, Taipei (北市中山北路三段181號) and on Public TV, from today and Fridays from 11:30 to 12pm.


Lee is no doubt the artist with the longest police record. In 1988, he was arrested for disturbing social order in a street performance in which he wore a TV-shaped magnifying glass on his head while shouting his name. It was performance art satirizing the election campaign of the time.

In 1987, he crawled on his hands mimicking a marathon race to the front of the Presidential Palace. The road in front of the building was off-limits at the time and he was arrested once again.

Lee Ming-sheng was the first and remains one of the few artists in Taiwan to use body as a medium for expression. He was also the first to have been invited to the Venice Biennial in 1984.

Criticism, rebellion, and tracing the roots of Taiwanese popular culture are the common features among the 14 artists in the series. "These artists reflect a cultural and social change during the 1990s. It was a time when art began to flourish," said Huang.

Another artist, Hou Chun-ming (侯俊明) made use of Taiwan's sex scene as a main element of his art work. Girlie bars, moving strip shows on open-air trucks and vulgar cheerleader shows are all combined into Hou's woodblock prints, theater performance and installations. As revealed in the series' sixth episode dedicated to Hou, eroticism is not only the central topic of his work, but became a central issue in his failed marriage. The episode explores Hou's relations with his ex-wife, who is herself an artist.

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