Wed, Aug 07, 2019 - Page 13 News List

God, gold and glory

A new art exhibition offers fresh perspectives on the nation’s brush with Spanish colonialism

By Davina Tham  /  Staff reporter

Kao Chun-hung (高俊宏), a more established artist, has two art videos from Sister Ding — But We Never Preach in Spain (丁修女 — 但是我們從來不會去西班牙傳教), which originally showed at last year’s Keelung Harbor Biennale. The work melds ethnographic, historical and paranormal inquiry of two interweaving strands: the ruins of a Spanish abbey on Keelung’s Peace Island (和平島) and its history as told by present-day residents; and the life of Sister Elvira Valentin Martin, a Spanish missionary who served patients with Hansen’s disease, or leprosy, at Losheng (Happy Life) Sanatorium for more than 60 years.

Filipino artist Henrielle Baltazar Pagkaliwangan sheds light on the history of another Asian colony in Beyond the Boxer Codex, an illustrated inventory of artifacts still in use in the Philippines, which the Spaniards introduced during its more than 300 years of settlement. There is no mention of Taiwan in this work, but the objects drawn — from farming tools and furniture, to swords and gilded Catholic figurines — show how colonial violence took on a range of guises and evokes ambivalence toward the colonial legacy, and in fact prompts thinking about local nostalgia for the Japanese colonial era.

Spanish-Welsh artist Rafael Perez Evan rounds out the exhibition with The Devil’s Bird, Ornithomancy, which deploys virtual reality (VR) technology to recreate the lost Truku art of divination from the behaviors of birds in the wild. The VR experience, which suspends the viewer in a rainforest with only a bird for company, respects the beauty and majesty of that setting.

As a coda to the exhibition, the work strikes a crucial ending note, eerily straddling a past in which the future of Taiwan’s people — as settlers, colonial subjects and diplomatic pariahs — had yet to unfold, and a present in which technology and knowledge are more widely available than ever before, but are still not enough to reconcile the violence inflicted on personal and national identities.

EXHIBITION NOTES

What: Why did you come to Taiwan?

When: Until Sep. 29. Open Tuesdays to Sundays from 10am to 6pm

Where: Museum of Contemporary Art Taipei (台北當代藝術館), 39, Changan W Rd, Taipei City (台北市長安西路39號)

Admission: NT$50

On the Net: mocataipei.org.tw

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