Wed, May 20, 2009 - Page 15 News List

[ART JOURNAL] : Mirror image

Taiwanese artists are struggling to keep print shops in business with their copious use of large digital prints. Hou I-ting’s current exhibition shows her exploration of the medium

BY Blake Carter  /  STAFF REPORTER

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After a year’s break from making art and two years since her last exhibition in Taipei, Hou I-ting (侯怡亭) returns with what one might assume would be an effort to prove she’s still capable of producing the kind of art that saw her short-listed for, and then barred from participating in the Taipei Arts Awards.

Instead, her new work in Image/Playing: Hou I-ting Solo Exhibition (影象嬉劇 — 侯怡亭個展) — at VT Art Salon (VT, 非常廟藝文空間) through June 6 — continues a series of which two works were shown at Taipei’s Aki Gallery in 2007.

After four months’ respite, digital prints once again dominate the walls of VT. Several find the artist looking into mirrors placed in front of construction sites. The backgrounds are plain enlarged photos, but the images in the mirrors show varying degrees of computer tinkering. While Hou says she’s interested in the juxtaposition of the two images, the contrast is either overly simple or subtle to the point of being impenetrable.

In 2005, Hou caused a stir after being selected as a Taipei Arts Awards finalist. She created a series in which she painted herself white and projected images of cartoon characters and celebrities like Lin Chi-lin (林志玲) and Jolin Tsai (蔡依林) onto her body. The resultant distortions require an effort to distinguish between the projected image and the artist. While viewers adjust their focus between the two, Hou’s critique of the “ideal” female body has time to sink in.

After installing her work at Taipei Fine Arts Museum (TFAM) for the awards exhibition, Hou was told that to avoid legal problems she would need to obtain permission to use Lin and Tsai’s images. She refused and had to remove her works before the show opened, losing any chance of receiving one of the country’s most prestigious arts awards.

EXHIBITION NOTES

WHAT:Image/Playing: Hou I-ting Solo Exhibition (影象嬉劇 — 侯怡亭個展展)

WHERE:VT Art Salon (非常廟藝文空間), B1, 47 Yitong St, Zhongshan District, Taipei City (台北市中山區伊通街47號地下一樓)

WHEN: Through June 6. Tuesday to Thursday 2pm to 11pm, Friday and Saturday from 2pm to 1am

ADMISSION:Free


Why TFAM was worried about a lawsuit is something of a mystery. The museum’s media department did not respond to e-mail or phone requests for comment.

Copyright infringement issues often come up with contemporary art, but the onus usually lies with the artist, not the exhibitor. Last year TFAM had no problem exhibiting dozens of works by painter J.C. Kuo (郭振昌) that incorporated copyrighted images taken from textbooks and stickers of Disney characters like Mickey Mouse.

A source close to the Taipei Arts Awards selection process confirmed that Hou was rejected because of legal worries and said the validity of the decision “was a good question.”

Although Hou says the incident didn’t bother her, she showed similar works two years later in an exhibition at the Kuandu Museum of Fine Arts called Super Dirty Yoga — an obvious reference to TFAM’s 2006 Taipei Biennial title: Dirty Yoga. Unsurprisingly, there were no legal problems.

After the show at Kuandu, Hou rehashed the projector idea again, using well-known Andy Warhol images of Marilyn Monroe and Liz Taylor. By the time she exhibited the work in 2007, she was getting tired of the approach. Hence the current, digitally manipulated pieces, which she says allow her “more freedom.”

But more telling, perhaps, is something she said when talking about another artist’s recent exhibition.

“I like the old works better,” she said. “But an artist can’t make every show great.”

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