Sun, Apr 17, 2005 - Page 19 News List

Con-temporary Citizens' evokes little epiphanies

The works of seven artists are on display at a site that combines rich cultural history with local civic responsibility in an exhibition that tries to take the pulse of contemporary life


Tseng Wei-hao's PICSOUND allows viewers to scribble on the wall.


Con-temporary citizens (當代公民) is an art exhibition located at a derelict police station next door to the famous Taoist Baosheng Temple and the Confucius Temple, a site chosen by curator Wang Pin-wha (王品驊) since it combines rich cultural history with local civic responsibility -- a good setting for an exhibition that tries to take the pulse of today's life in Taiwan.

The works are smartly installed to create a dynamic and convincing dialogue. The seven artists are not showing major works that tackle weighty ideas; instead, they show works that pack a punch because of the little epiphanies they invoke.

Several works take on broad cinematic vocabularies. One technique used is to keep the camera stationary so as to record unfolding events impartially without the heavy influence of the artist's manipulating hand.

Lin Guan-Ming's (林冠名) Intoxication uses this technique to show an old man seated in a park playing the erhu while two dogs frolic nearby. After he finishes playing, he lights a cigarette and calls the dogs that are surprisingly his; then the piece doesn't feel so random after all.

Tseng Yu-Chin's (曾御欽) provocative videos channel the angst and alienation of a Tsai Ming-liang film. Installed in four separate rooms, each video is projected on the wall. Even though the projections are cinematic in tone, they are of still images that change every few seconds. The dysfunctional home life as seen through the eyes of a young boy as he witnesses his elderly father vomiting in the toilet or his mother fallen on the kitchen floor in a pile of spilled food with her mouth agape in silent pain seems staged, yet private and intensely personal, and simultaneously horrific and humorous. In all, a very riveting work where the viewer fills in the narrative.

Peng Hung-Chih's (彭弘智) humorous short video One Black One White shows two dogs being fed. The event looks staged as the black dog rushes to the bowl on the right while the white dog runs to the bowl on the left. Both dogs seem unsatisfied with their own bowls walking back and forth, exchanging bowls, in a futile attempt for satisfaction. Even though the artist just turned on the camera to document this curious neurotic behavior of his dogs, he more importantly saw that it was a metaphor for our own seemingly random lives.

The idea of abandonment, disembodiment and nostalgia is evoked in many of the works on view. Perhaps this is the current condition for many of Taiwan's people: A disconnection to the present, a dystopic view towards the future and a wistfulness for the past. This also shows Wang's strength as a curator as she brings out more depth in each artist's work due to the conversation the works have with each other.

Tu Wei (杜偉), known for his ghostly, ephemeral conceptual works, has a video that can only be peered at through a peephole. Shadow Dancers shows the images of Yi Sheng, a group of children who perform traditional celebratory dances in front of Confucian temples, and was originally made to be shown in a temple converted into a museum in Beijing, thus linking the two cities, temples and cultures together.

Chang Huei-Ming's (張暉明) installation gives the feeling you stepped into a defunct office with its accumulated detritus of discarded folders and rusty cabinets rather than into an art site. As you approach the desk you realize the potted cactus is furiously vibrating with violent intensity and then suddenly the room no longer feels frozen in entropy. The clock also vibrates. It's a wonderful surprise: being in a room that at first seems so banal, but in a split-second perceiving it so differently.

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