Sun, Nov 28, 2004 - Page 19 News List

Pickled memories on display

Lo Sen-hao asks viewers to consider preserved foods in a humorous attempt to compile a book, which, when published, will explore the social significance of pickled vegetables

By Gavin Phipps  /  STAFF REPORTER

PHOTO: GAVIN PHIPPS, TAIPEI TIMES

Rows of clay pickling jars, a grand piano sitting atop a mound of chili peppers bordered by cabbages, carrots, mixing bowls and plates may not sound like a very provocative and meaningful work of art, but there is, in the world of artist Lo Sen-hao (羅森豪) at any rate, much method to this madness and seemingly random assortment of contrasting objects.

Entitled Art for Eating (氣味相投), the 90 ceramic pickling pots and assorted pickling paraphernalia that encompass the visual crux of Lo's current interactive exhibition at the German Cultural Center, may be pleasing to the eye, but this is beside the point. Lo has employed the jars and other trappings for purely aesthetic reasons.

While visitors to the center may look at and touch the fine homemade pots and stare in wonder at the spicy chili-encircled piano, these works are in fact only a minor aspect of his exhibition and ones that allow the artist to ask a bigger question; "what is the social significance of the pickled vegetable?"

To prepare viewers for his flavorsome and thought-provoking exhibition, Lo decided to set the mood for his offbeat interactive display in the best possible way.

At the opening ceremony, guests were invited to bring all the ingredients for their favorite pickled vegetable dish, and, in the plush surroundings of the German Cultural Center, Lo asked them to slice, dice and make pickles.

Art purists may consider the artist's current work to be less than conventional, but such outlandish behavior is nothing new to Lo. Over the years, he has made a name for himself as one of Taiwan's most offbeat artists with a passion for creating outrageous installations and provocative interactive art works.

In 1997, Lo turned heads when he created Mirage (海市蜃樓), a work for which he converted Chiayi Train Station into a mock representation of the Presidential Office by covering the station's plain concrete facade with a huge chipboard model of Taipei's celebrated landmark.

Mirage may have proven to be an eye-catching display, but his interactive work The Banquet (辦桌) was a real eyebrow-raiser. Lo transformed a Taipei gallery into a restaurant, hired a Baroque string quartet, topless waitresses and, taking the role of head chef, he served his guests a banquet of fake clay foodstuffs.

Like Mirage and The Banquet, Lo's latest work is one that relies heavily on viewer participation. In an attempt to entice interaction between his work and the outside world, Lo is asking viewers to consider the importance of pickled vegetables. Visitors to the cultural center's 12th-floor gallery is asked to write a short story about how pickles have affected them, or played a part in their lives.

"Pickles were once a very important and significant foodstuff in Taiwan. People ate them all year round, and, when times were hard, pao cai was often the only form of nourishment families could afford to eat," said Lo. "Everyone has memories of eating pickles, and because of the this I think the social significance of pickled vegetables is next to none."

It took Lo three months to complete his 90 pickling pots and it will, he hopes, take a mere month and a half to fill them with pickled recollections. Each time he receives a new story he puts it into one of the pots. The final aim is to see each of the 90 individual pots with its own distinct pickle flavor inside.

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