Peter Nelson’s video Extensions of a No-Place (Wen Zhengming) contains traces of T. S. Eliot’s epic 1921 poem, The Waste Land: It is a barren and black-and-white landscape, where the most redeeming features are the dry stone of mountains, dotted with dead trees, juxtaposed with broken fragments of poetry and song.
It is disarming in such a way that you want to get inside this bleak, futuristic landscape (recalling the movie Tron Legacy in many ways) and stand beside the isolated characters.
But in this sense his exhibition, Extensions of a No-Place, which is part of the National Palace Museum’s New Waves Show in Tainan — comprising video, drawings and sculpture — achieves an aim of Chinese painting: to make the viewer want to swap places with the figures therein.
Photo courtesy of Peter Nelson
While it shares with The Waste Land alienation and fragmentation, high-intellectualism and broad allusion, Nelson takes artistic inspiration from Song Dynasty landscape paintings, such as Wen Zhengming’s (文徵明) Imitating Zhao Bosu’s Illustration of the Latter Red Cliff (仿趙伯驌后赤壁圖) and Qiu Ying’s (仇英) Spring Morning in the Han Palace (漢宮春曉).
Nelson, who is Australian, is searching for something: perhaps the redemption that is a core part of The Waste Land; perhaps self-identity. Australia has arguably turned away from its mainly European roots to become part of the Asian continent it inhabits, rendering it the unintentional cultural heir of East and West.
Photo courtesy of Peter Nelson
Nelson’s search has taken him through Chinese landscapes, the 18th century British picturesque (Thomas Gainsborough and George Stubbs) and the 1970s utopian visions of the future. Physically, it has taken him to Paris, Chongqing, Beijing and Taipei, where he is doing a six-month residency at Treasure Hill Artists Village.
Wherever he goes, he is an outsider, alienated by language, culture and location, condemned to never really forming the bonds of community that allow for sustainable growth. This fracturing is reflected in the subject of his art, and also in the assorted media he uses, and within them the juxtaposition of cultural references and samples, forming a collage of recycled motifs. They combine to depict a pluralistic modern world of East and West.
Extensions of a No-Place (Wen Zhengming) takes the soft curves and colors of the mountains in Wen’s Imitating Zhao Bosu’s Illustration of the Latter Red Cliff, and replaces them with monotone mountains draped in patterns reminiscent of Taipei’s ubiquitous street tiles. The grid this creates, and which can be projected across five screens, brings it into line with the utopian architectural motif of squares. Taking landscape as coded self-portraiture further, Nelson places himself within it, appropriately, as the “lost man.”
Photo courtesy of Peter Nelson
Video games and chinese painting
Human instinct is to exert control — over ourselves, over others — in the quest for order, perfection or happiness. That we will create entire worlds to achieve this is exploited by the realms of fantasy and video games.
In Nelson’s second video, Extensions of a No-Place (Qiu Ying’s Spring Morning in the Han Palace), he draws parallels between the video game Starcraft and the Han Court, despite the 500-year-gap, through their use of isometric angles and oblique parallel perspective, which ensures the scenes have no vanishing points and objects are the same size no matter whether they appear in the foreground or background.
The effect, referred to as “moving perspective” in Chinese painting, is an endlessly extendable scene where no single point on the landscape has hierarchy over another (which is good for both ambulatory Chinese scrolls and large-scale sci-fi battles), and in terms of time, past and present are conflated, making the concept of time irrelevant.
In Nelson’s Qiu Ying the court buildings are replaced with a Sonyshop and Taipei apartments, and the female courtesans with versions of Nelson in drag, while the soundtrack plays in Mandarin and English lyrics from US rapper Eminem’s Without Me.
It all started in the soaring, sublime mountains of China’s Zhangjiajie National Park, Hunan Province. The title of Mountain Drawing (The First Time I felt at Home), a 2.6m by 4.2m perspex sculpture, indicates that Nelson felt a connection.
But could this also be where it ends? In Qiu Ying, there is a devilish figure crouched down, creating smoke. This is in fact a silhouette of Nelson destroying First Time.
Shorn of The Waste Land’s spirituality, or any other redeeming feature, perhaps the title’s No-Place can only rely on Nelson’s Jade-like mountain sculptures — his final medium made from celadon ceramic through a 3D printer — to bear the burden of beauty and hope, where Jade represents purity, nobility and perfection.
Still, Nelson says he destroyed the sculpture in order to recycle it, which again recalls The Waste Land’s cycle of birth and death. In the poem’s very last stanza, many read hope in the Fisher King’s final words: “These fragments I have shored against my ruins.” Perhaps Nelson’s message is, with these fragments, that we can build our worlds.
Last week, the huge news broke that the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) would not host an open primary for its presidential nominee, but instead pick a candidate through a committee process. KMT Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫) sent forth a few polite meaningless words about party unity in making the announcement. There’s great commentary on this momentous move, so I will say only that for those of you who think the KMT will “never be that dumb,” I have three words for you: Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱), the unelectable candidate the party chose for the 2016 presidential race. Criticism of the Democratic Progressive
Anyone who has been stung by a black-tailed tiger hornet (Vespa basalis) would understand my immediate trepidation at stumbling on them while hiking Kaohsiung’s Weiliao Mountain (尾寮山). I’ve been stung a few times by these flying hypodermic needles, and the shock of pain lives up to their “murder hornet” moniker. Should I try to navigate around them, or get the hell off the mountain? NO 47 OF THE SMALL 100 PEAKS Weiliao Mountain (1,427m) is No 49 of the xiaobaibue (小百岳, “small 100 peaks”). I’d come here late last year to achieve a two-pronged ascent of the peak, breaching the trail on
The opportunity that brought Ming Turner (陳明惠) back to Taiwan a decade ago had an environmental theme, but since then, she admits, paying attention to environmental issues “hasn’t really been my thing.” Turner, who attended graduate school in the UK, initially returned to curate an event in Kaohsiung’s Cijin District (旗津), not far from where she grew up. Some years after she and her husband decided they’d stay in Taiwan, they moved to Tainan’s Annan District (安南) with their two young children. Turner is now an associate professor in the Institute of Creative Industries Design and director of visual and performance
Among the many atrocities committed by the Japanese during World War II, the Sook Ching massacre was notable for the involvement of Taiwanese. Having captured Singapore in February 1942, the Japanese army and its accomplices killed at least 25,000 Chinese. Prominent among the invaders’ henchmen was Wee Twee Kim (Huang Duijin, 黃堆金), an interpreter-turned-enforcer who — as this riveting new book reveals — was one of many Taiwanese participants in abuses against overseas Chinese, Allied POWS and local civilians. As an employee of the Japanese Southern Asian Company, Wee had been posted to Singapore in 1917. He started out managing Chinese