Replacement culture redux

By Noah Buchan  /  Staff reporter

Sun, Jul 28, 2013 - Page 12

Wu Tien-Chang’s (吳天章) portraits have evolved in both medium and content over the years to reflect the changes in Taiwanese society. In the liberalizing and heady 1980s, this took the form of acerbic paintings of political figures such as Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國), a sign of new-found political freedoms following the lifting of martial law. Over the past decade he switched to monumental collage digital prints, where limbless characters dressed in clothing from different countries serve as emblems of what Wu calls Taiwan’s replacement culture (替代文化), his take on the commonly-held notion that Taiwan has difficulty forming a coherent identity because of the various cultural influences — European, Chinese, Japanese and Western — that make it up.

With Studio of Pseudo Photography (偽青春顯相館), he shifts to video. However, though visually appealing and aesthetically rich (Wu crafts the sculptures, staging, costumes and set design), they are really just a pastiche of his earlier work; the medium may have changed, but the message of cultural hybridity creating contemporary confusion remains essentially the same. Take Beloved (2013, screen grab pictured), for example. The campily-clad sculptures transform as the camera pans in and out, their changing clothing signifying a different, yet constricting (open mouth gag), identity in an endless loop controlled by the viewer. The production values are, like all Wu’s work, well wrought. But there is little sense of resolution to themes that have been examined for over a decade.

■ Tina Keng Gallery (耿畫廊), 15, Ln 548, Ruiguang Rd, Taipei City (台北市瑞光路548巷15號), tel: (02) 2659-0798. Open Tuesdays to Sundays from 10am to 7pm

■ Until Aug. 4