Fri, May 23, 2003 - Page 17 News List

Pixels of perception

A flood of London video art meets Taipei's bar scene and the result is meant to be in the eyes of the beholder

By David Frazier  /  STAFF REPORTER

Still from Taipei Lake, by Hsieh Ming-da.

PHOTO COURTESY OF RANDOM-IZE

First Chen Yung-hsien (陳永賢) strapped rubber bands all over his shaved, orbicular head, then he covered it with strips of smoked salmon and uncooked bacon. "With the meat on I couldn't breathe for almost three minutes. I prepared myself by doing some meditation," he said.

He was speaking of his five minute, 22 second work of video art, Release. The piece is about how eliminating junk from your body feels good and is one of 93 video artworks in Random-ize, an exhibition now showing in Taipei's Eslite Gallery and 11 east Taipei night spots. The multi-venue show is also the most recent stage in a London invasion that's pulsing through Taipei's art scene. It opened last Saturday and runs for at least another week.

Chen is 37, genial and working in an office job at a local art college for the money to finish a PhD in visual arts practice and theory at Brighton University in England.

Before saying anything about the show, he ordered a juice and pulled a G4 Powerbook out of his shoulder bag. When I asked about the computer, he said it had an onboard DVD burner and that that was pretty convenient.

In addition to contributing three works to Random-ize, Chen is a co-curator along with Nina Dimitriadi (from Russia) and Soraya Nakasuwan (from Thailand), two fellow alumni of Goldsmiths College in London, where Chen earned his Master of Arts degree a year ago.

Most of the artists in the show are Goldsmiths graduates, though since the show debuted in London about one year ago, two programs of Taiwanese artists have been added and one program from the Spanish curator Manuel Saiz, who went to the [London] opening, Chen said.

In art circles, Goldsmiths has Harvard-like status. About 15 years ago the college produced a crop of artworld stars sizable enough for its own acronym: YBAs, or young British artists. The most notorious, Damien Hirst, was already known for shock value by the time he displayed cows cut into cross sections in 1996. Collector and advertising magnate Charles Saatchi was also part of the movement, pushing the YBAs through his own purchases and international shows. Now some argue that London has surpassed New York as the art world's capital.

Whether that's true or not, in the last year Taipei has seen a sudden influx of London shows of which Random-ize is the fourth. The others all took place at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum (TFAM), including the contemporary art exhibition London Underground, the second Taipei appearance of the Onedotzero digital film festival, and the modern historical Archegram exhibition, which is still on display. Onedotzero, it's worth noting, came through the involvement of another London art student, Chris Huang, the son of TFAM director Huang Tsai-lang (黃才郎).

Unlike the TFAM productions, Random-ize is very consciously a non-museum show. It mixes unestablished artists with a handful of known ones and puts art into commercial spaces like design bars that offer links between pure art venues and regular society.

"A gallery always shows one piece and it loops," he said. Then he made a face that implied the boredom of an endlessly repeating video clip.

When Random-ize opened in London last year, the debut took place in a converted space. It wasn't until Taipei that Chen found a true alternative to commercial galleries.

Here, working with local independent curator Sean Hu (胡朝聖), he realized he could bring art into the places artists go after gallery openings, like a basement coffee shop or an upstairs bar.

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