TAIWANESE VIDEO ART ARTIST INTERVIEW
Taiwanese video artist Chen Chieh Jen has been interviewed by Studio Banana TV. In the short clip, Chen discusses his desire to document Taiwanese society, creating videos that present the viewpoint of the subjects rather than his own.
Propaganda film and social movements inspire
While in primary school, Taiwanese video artist Chen Chieh Jen was shown a government film on China’s Cultural Revolution; it was one of the first movies he ever watched. Why, he asked himself at the time, was his class being shown such images?
Later, when Chen was in his early 20s, Taiwan – where he was born in 1960 and continues to live and work – was still operating under martial law. He took part in some of the rising social movements, which led him to think about how society could be represented accurately in art.
In the history of photography, the subject is most often presented from the photographer’s viewpoint. I wanted to find a way to present the viewpoint of the ‘photographed’.
“I started to collect images of torture by colonial rulers and the nationalistic machine”, he explains in the interview. He then used a digitally altered the images in a way that “set them free from a controlled singular viewpoint … and [provided a space for] other possible readings.”
Creating a diary of Taiwanese society
Documenting and portraying the everyday lives of Taiwanese people has become a focal point for Chen’s work and he focusses particularly on the jobless or the disadvantaged, who he sees as real people with real life experiences. He is, he says, attempting to create a “diary” of Taiwanese society, one that is free of the control of both political and consumerist influences.
I wish my work can be a communication tool. Although art cannot change reality immediately, but in the process of social progress, it should still play its role in pushing for social change and improvement.
The earliest film Chen made was shot in factory and the workers in it did not want to speak, they wanted their plight, their ideas, to be portrayed through silence. It was then, he says, that he realised the power silence can have in film.
In the interview, Chen explains that he only makes one video per year, which allows him the necessary time to study and contemplate both the subject and the structure of the film.
About Chen Chieh Jen
Born in 1960 in Taoyuan, Taiwan, Chen Chieh Jen currently lives and works in Taipei. Chen’s works have been exhibited at numerous contemporary art events around the world and has held solo exhibitions and won art prizes for his work. A selection of biennale showings includes: Istanbul Biennale (2007); Sydney Biennale (2006); Liverpool Biennale (2006); Gwangju Biennale (2006/2000); Venice Biennale (2005/1999); Guangzhou Triennial (2005); Shanghai Biennale (2004).
Click here to watch a video (3m:32s) by the Asia Society and Museum in which Chen narrates over selected images and clips of his works.
Chen’s early series of digitally altered images “Revolt in the Soul & Body 1900-1999” used historical photographs of punishment to discuss the relationships between the images, power and memory. In 2002, Chen began to focus on images in presented in narrative form through video installation.
(Biographical information taken from Art Island: An Archive of Taiwan Contemporary Artists.)
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