Sun, Jan 09, 2005 - Page 19 News List

The powerless are heard

By Susan Kendzulak  /  CONTRIBUTING REPORTER

One of Wu Mali's participant's Queen Condom.

PHOTO: SUSAN KENDZULAK

Nine artists have collaborated with each other and with underrepresented groups to create Taipei on the Move (TOTM), an exhibition that strives to empower the voiceless.

The project began last November during three days of workshops and events which sought to link students, homemakers and seniors. Documentation of what took place and its material results will be displayed in Eslite Vision Gallery until Jan. 23.

"What do Taipei youth think about family, schools, sex and politics?" -- the exhibit itself links the project with the public and this provocative text on a wall helped link the activities with the viewers and included young people's interesting responses. Problems exist among these effective ideas, though, such as the text being sprawled out on a wall about 9m long, making it difficult to read.

The participating artists -- Wu Mali, Chen Yung-hsien (陳永賢), Hsieh Chi-pin (謝啟彬), Peter van Marle, Suzanne Lacy, Unique Holland, Sheva Gross, Marco Casagrande and Martin Ross -- conducted the November workshops and coordinated the show, which takes its title from the seminal Cities on the Move exhibition, noteworthy for introducing Thai tuk-tuks into Vienna.

Cities on the Move was dynamic, as it was a traveling show in flux, varying each time with its different venues and reflecting the rapid changes in Asia brought about by globalization. TOTM, however, doesn't come close to its predecessor.

Even though TOTM's brochure states: "A city in motion; art in action; images, sounds and words expanding understanding," the exhibition does not seem to get its finger on Taipei's urban pulse, as it just conveys images of what seem like weekend activities -- dancing, parading and talking -- rather than showing profound, multi-layered art works.

The collaborative show includes The Empress' New Clothes, a work by conceptual artist Wu Mali that explores women's roles in society. Guided by Wu, the participants created clothes to construct various identities such as the Forest Queen, Primitive Queen, Condom Queen and the Queen of Pain.

Adorned in their handmade constructions the women paraded in front of wedding photo boutiques and in front of the Taipei Fine Arts Museum. One participant stated: "My gown has become a canvas. The street has become a gallery."

Wu's participation extends her former interests. She runs a sewing workshop for disenfranchised homemakers called the Taipei Awakening Association's Stitching Sisterhood Workshop. The workshop is an activist project in that it empowers the women and helps them get in touch with their creative potential.

A more compelling installation in the show, however, was Chen Yung-hsien's Senior Concern. In a huge, dark room, TV monitors -- some placed in wheelchairs -- and full-screen projections show images of senior citizens in a nursing home.

Student life is also explored in TOTM. A video of Hsieh Chi-pin (謝啟彬) and Peter van Marle's November project Groove on the Music shows an exuberant group of singing and dancing teens. It looked fun but the high energy coming from their salsa performance does not come alive in the exhibition.

Suzanne Lacy who is well-known for creating public-based performances teamed up with Unique Holland and Sheva Gross to create monochrome color platforms for students wearing matching shirts to sit on for a recorded discussion. Lacy said she wanted "to allow people to have their own space for their own voice.

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