Tue, Mar 26, 2002 - Page 1 News List

Artists' action saves `taiwan'

CNA , TAIPEI

Taiwan's protest over the issue of its name at the 25th Sao Paulo Biennial Art Exhibit in Brazil took a dramatic twist on Sunday, as six countries donated an English letter each to form the word "taiwan" for the nation's exhibit hall.

A Chinese-language newspaper reported yesterday that the innovative protest action was the brainchild of an Austrian artist, George Thomann, who took the initiative in urging other participants to take an English letter from each of their respective exhibition name plates to donate to Taiwan.

Thomann took the letter "t" from Austria's name plate and artists from five other countries followed his lead.

The report said Canada donated the letter "a," Croatia donated the letter "i," Puerto Rico donated an "o" -- which was cut into two pieces to form the letter "w," Singapore donated another "a" and Panama donated the "n."

The cooperative effort was then attached to the name plate on Taiwan display's shortly before biennial opened. The Sao Paulo biennial is one of the world's three most important exhibits of contemporary art.

The Taiwan display was originally labeled as "Chien-Chi Chang (張乾琦), Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taiwan." Chang, a renowned photo journalist, is the only Taiwan artist whose works are being exhibited at the biennial.

Three days before the opening of the show, Brazilian organizers abruptly removed the "Taiwan" from the name plate without giving any explanation.

Chang protested by closing the Taiwan display and sending a protest letter in English to the organizers. Copies of the letter were given to the 190 participating artists from around the world to solicit their support.

Thomann responded by plastering a bulletin on the closed door of the Taiwan display on the eve of the opening of the art show calling for donations of English letters.

"The generous donation made by the six countries has enabled us to reopen our exhibition hall in time to meet the raising of the curtain on the biennial show," Chang was quoted in the newspaper report as saying.

"The unprecedented move has left the name plates of each of the donor nations with one letter missing from their respective national titles," Chang said. "But their missing letters have helped add an `artwork of protest' to the dazzling array of exhibits on display here."

Huang Tzai-lang (黃才郎), director of the Taipei Fine Arts Museum, who is also in Sao Paulo, said that the new word "taiwan" on the name plate is a creative work of art.

"We admire the artists from the six donor countries for their courage in standing up to support our protest," he said.

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