Fri, Nov 29, 2002 - Page 2 News List

Cross-strait rivalry infringes on artists' gathering

BRAZIL BROUHAHA A dispute over the display of Taiwan's name in Sao Paolo is being rehashed because of a Chinese artist who is taking part in the 2002 Taipei Biennial

By David Frazier  /  STAFF REPORTER

A visitor walks past a digital creation by Taiwanese artist Yuan Goang-ming at the 2002 Taipei Biennial yesterday. Yuan took out the people and cars from a photo of Taipei's Hsimenting area.


If the Taipei Biennial ever had a political goal, it was the amicable diplomacy of art.

But this year the brand of cross-strait bickering usually reserved for government officials has intruded on an exhibition that since 1998 has put the Taipei Fine Arts Museum on contemporary art's international map.

The 2002 Taipei Biennial, curated by Bartomeu Mari of Spain and Taiwan's Jason Wang (王嘉驥), opens today as an international showcase for the works of 31 artists from all over the world, including six from Taiwan and three from China.

The opening, held last night, attracted critics and curators from Lyons to Beijing, who had all come to see an exhibition conscientiously designed around artifice, spectacle and the spaces in which people live and act. Its theme is "Great Theater of the World."

The behind-the-scenes intrigue comes from the dark world of politics.

The drama began in March at Brazil's Sao Paulo Biennial, where the Chinese government put pressure on organizers to remove the word "Taiwan" from Taiwan's national pavilion, making it the only one of around 70 national pavilions not designated by a country. The pavilion's entrance merely read "Taipei Fine Arts Museum."

In response, Taiwan's representative artist, Chang Chien-chi (張乾琦), mounted a protest in which artists representing other countries donated letters from their pavilion titles, enabling Chang to spell out "Taiwan" at the pavilion entrance.

Chang, a photographer devoted to social issues that are more or less borderless, is not part of this year's biennial, but Wang Gong-hsin (王功新), one of five Chinese artists in Sao Paulo, is.

Word of Wang's presence broke yesterday in a Chinese-language newspaper, which raised the question of his involvement in the Sao Paulo incident.

Museum officials, Wang and the art world in general, denounced the allegation as ridiculous.

Wang, in fact, called the article "amusing," but refused to enter into any debate, saying that as an artist it was more suitable to remain in the province of art.

Taiwanese sources also defended Wang.

The co-curator of the 2000 Taipei Biennial, Manray Hsu (許文瑞), who was also in Sao Paulo, said of the censorship incident, "It had more to do with the [Chinese] government. They were the source of the pressure."

Museum director Huang Tsai-lang (黃才郎) said that there was no proof of Wang's involvement in the incident and that "this exhibition is about art, not politics, and that's one of the reasons it has become successful."

Even the beleaguered Chang said, "There's no proof of Wang's involvement."

Though the buzz of controversy was still building at last night's opening ceremony, but visiting artists were not impressed.

"The reason we have these exhibitions is to move away from these stupid boundaries and limitations," said Edwin Zwakman, an artist from the Netherlands.

"This is not a propaganda game for governments," he said.

For more information on the art work in the 2002 Biennial, see tomorrow's features page.

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