Sun, Feb 20, 2005 - Page 19 News List

Best heard or smelled, not seen

An exhibition that challenges the senses other than sight entertains but without fully satisfying

By Diana Freundl  /  STAFF REPORTER

Wang Jun-Jieh's Ultimate Safety Zone.


Early last year Taipei Fine Arts Museum (TFAM) director Huang Tsai-lang (黃才郎) challenged five contemporary Taiwan artists to create works of art that do not have to be seen to be appreciated.

The purpose of the experiment was to produce a contemporary art environment that both the visually impaired and general public could enjoy. In the process, each of the artists created an installation that utilizes smell, sound and touch either alone or in combinations, the results of which are on display in the TFAM Exhibition Hall for the next two months.

Lots o'LOTTO: Seen and Unseen combines the effort of five artists organized and sponsored by both the museum and the Lottery Technology Services Corporation. Before beginning their individual projects, the artists collaborated with representatives from the National Blind Association on an underlying concept for the exhibition.

Although each piece is unique to the artist who constructed it, there is a garden theme underlying the show. Astroturf, pink inflatable palm trees and tunnel walkways are used to bridge each work. The end result is that the exhibition resembles a miniature golf course rather than a garden of art. At the entrance of the Exhibition Hall is a dark tunnel that serves as a reminder to sighted visitors to leave behind their dependency on vision in order to appreciate what lies ahead.

Wu Ma-li's (吳瑪俐) Ping Ping Pong Pong is a variation of a table tennis game designed for the visually impaired. It requires sighted visitors to wear eye masks and develop their sense of hearing while playing.

Next to Wu's table game is Chen Kai-huang's (陳愷璜) slightly confusing Intimate Garden. His installation takes the shape of a small hill where spectators can sit, recline or stand among natural and televised images of trees. Chen is credited for his minimalist installations, which stem from his belief that art should reduce its dependency on materials to convey a concept. In this piece however, his attempt to cultivate a personal relationship between nature and the viewer is somewhat unclear.

Sound is explored with a trip down Wang Jun-jieh's (王俊傑) narrow tunnel lined with 20 speakers, each broadcasting a pre-recorded message. The wall of noise is overwhelming upon first entering the tunnel, but is muted as the listener's ears adjust and begin to identify the different sounds. The theme of sound is equally vital to the video-installation titled Do Re Mi Fa So by Chen Cheng-tsai (陳正才). Screened in a Japanese-style tatami room, the hour long documentary focuses on a blind piano tuner.

Throughout the exhibition hall is an overpowering scent of roasting coffee beans, emanating from an installation designed by Wang Te-yu (王德瑜). With absolutely nothing to look at, this is perhaps the most successful at utilizing a sense other than sight and producing a common experience for the audience.

First impressions at the opening were slightly disappointing. Although the theme is well explored, it only satisfies one's aesthetic appetite for a short period of time, leaving viewers hungry for something more substantial.

Perhaps it is vision that impedes appreciation of this exhibit. Apart from conceptual art, most mediums rely, at least to some extent, on a viewer actually looking at the work in order to appreciate the concepts being conveyed.

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