Going to an exhibit involves a kind of contract between viewer and artist. The viewer agrees to spend an hour or two wandering through the space in the hope of some aesthetic, political or satirical payoff, which the artist (as well as gallery) should in theory provide. The best exhibits bring together all three and more. Art historians and critics have lamented, somewhat cynically, that today’s gallery and museumgoers spend an average of five seconds looking at a work of art — for them far too little time to understand and appreciate it. Viewers could be defended for thinking that much art is only worthy of five seconds viewing, if at all.
A few seconds into 10 Digital Short Films (10段低極透短片), a half-hour video on a flat-screen television that forms part of Kao Chung-li’s (高重黎) Watch Time Watching (看時間看), I was thinking: Oh great, here is another highly abstract work that is going to test the bounds of my patience. Was it time to cut my losses?
Not wanting to appear a philistine and quit the show altogether, I moved away from the video over to another part of the exhibition space, held in the cavernous basement of Tina Keng Gallery. I’m glad I did because it is where the exhibit seems to begin (there is nothing to indicate that this is the case) and creates the necessary context to approach the other, harder to penetrate, works.
On display in this section are several sculptural installations constructed by the artist that take the form of basic animation devices. That many are placed on the kind of desks found in a nursery school suggests we are in the infancy of the motion picture.
Liangzhou Word (涼州詞) features picture slides placed into a kind of Rolodex. On the side of the contraption is a crank that, when rotated, flips the still images into motion. Palm-Sized Physical Mobile Imaging Device, 2005, Mold Version (掌中型物理性活動影像裝置2005模具版) plays on the same theme whereby a series of simply drawn images on cardboard are affixed to six frames that rest on a rotating device mounted to the center of a plastic pot. Turning the gadget on rotates the frame in a circular motion. Another contraption, Palm-Sized Physical Mobile Imaging Device, 2008, Readymade Version (掌中型物理性活動影像裝置2008現成物版), replaces the pot with a cassette tape player. Pressing the play button moves the frames to the sound of music.
What: Watch Time Watching (看時間看)
Where: Tina Keng Gallery (大未來耿畫廊), B1, 15, Ln 548, Ruiguang Rd, Taipei City
When: Until Sunday. Open Tuesdays to Sundays from 10am to 7pm. Tel: (02) 2659-0798
On the Net: www.tinakenggallery.com
The amateur pictorial style employed by Kao — a horse jumping over a hurdle, for example, or a skull shifting at the feet of a human body — underscores the illusive nature of moving pictures. The sluggish speed in which the images move, and the fact that the viewer is not bombarded by sound, draw our attention to their manufactured unreality.
This is re-affirmed with Camera Lucida Cinema’s Long Winding Road (明箱電影院之路漫漫). Three 8mm projectors are mounted on to a wooden box and project silent images — animation, home videos — on to a plank below. The films look rather quaint, the color saturated and dulled, as though a rekindled memory from three decades ago, when it appears the films were shot. As with the amateur animation devices, the images projected aren’t as important as the technology that does the projecting, the medium rather than the message.
I recalled the first time I watched an 8mm film. At the time, I felt the realism to be uncanny, the details so lifelike that I became completely lost in the action I was witnessing. But this is no longer the case: They just look like old films — a message that Kao brings into focus with 10 Digital Short Films.