Sun, Oct 31, 2004 - Page 19 News List

An artist in and out of love

Conceptual artist Susan Kendzulak bares her soul in 'Relationship Crisis Hotline'

By Diana Freundl  /  STAFF REPORTER

Susan Kendzulak rests on an oversized pillow. The pillow is part of a new project called Relationship Crisis Hotline on exhibit at Nanhai Gallery in Taipei


If your house is broken into, you call the police. If you break your leg, you call an ambulance. But who do you call when someone breaks your heart? Is there really a relationship crisis hotline you can call after a serious break-up?

What began as a business card offering counseling services to those experiencing difficulties in love is now the basis of an exhibition, Relationship Crisis Hotline at the Nanhai Gallery.

A Taipei-based artist and contributing writer for the Taipei Times and various art publications, Susan Kendzulak's new project is part of an ongoing series titled Everything is Dangerous, which began in 1985 and includes an installation called Disasters at the Kaohsiung Container Festival (2001) and Safer City, which was part of the CO2 show at Huashan in 2002.

Her latest work is based largely around the break-up of her marriage and explores how intense pain can also serve as inspiration for creativity.

"Experiencing a trauma is incredibly painful, but it becomes erotic as you are dealing with yourself so intensely, minute by minute, day by day, acutely feeling every sensation and soon developing a very strong self-awareness and self-love. It's a bit like JG Ballard's Crash, which ecroticized car accidents," Kendzulak said.

The exhibition can be seen in two parts: the visual, which includes a massive oversized pillow inside a sterile (almost clinical) white room; and the informative: supplying a wealth of information on how to cope with break-up and depression.

As conceptual art, Kendzulak's installation replaces an object with an idea, making it difficult to document as something tangible. It's an individual's experience of both the exhibit and group discussions generated after that constitute the art, and in turn blur the boundaries between life and art.

"The project is a bit activist and a bit performance, because I do want to help people who are hurting after a serious break-up. But it's also questioning whether art can be passed to others via a business card," she said.

Her research into the subject spans numerous academic publications on gender-related issues, in addition to a collection of popular self-help books. She never claims to be a professionally trained counselor and said the service is mostly for people she knows and who likewise understand it as art.

"It's real life made into art and hopefully should read on many levels; like does art have to be an object? Or can a thought, an interaction, or an experience qualify?" she asked.

Sol Lewitt, a pioneer of conceptual art in the 1930s, said, "Ideas can be works of art; they are in a chain of development that may eventually find some form. All ideas need not be made physical."

The concept of a relationship crisis hotline as a work of art involves the entire process from Kendzulak's experiences to the choice of materials she uses, and -- most importantly -- to the impact it has on the viewer.

"I don't know what people will get from my exhibition. Will they find it peaceful, sad, tragic, pathetic? What I do hope is that it will get the topic of depression [related to break-ups] into public discourse, rather than staying a shameful secret," Kendzulak said.

Susan Kendzulak is a contributing reporter for the Taipei Times and other publications.

Performance note:

What: Relationship Crisis Hotline (伴侶關係危機處理熱線), a new project by Susan Kendzulak

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