“Towards Mysterious Realities” features the work of 13 artists that reflect on Asia’s relationship to the world.
The exhibition focuses on postwar experience and provides a lens through which to see the world from Asia’s perspective.
Curated by Amy Cheng, “Towards Mysterious Realities” at TKG+ in Taipei (until 26 January 2017) is sponsored by the 2015 Production Grants to Independent Curators in Visual Arts of National Culture and Arts Foundation of Taiwan, co-organized by TheCube Project Space and TKG Foundation for Arts & Culture.
The exhibition “allows for a closer investigation of quotidian experiences and social spaces, thereby constructing different angles to approach the realities of today’s global landscape”, through the perspectives of 13 art practitioners, including artists from Malaysia, Singapore, Korea, China, Taiwan, India and Colombia.
According to TKG+, the artists
not only add multiple intersected or parallel dimensions to this exhibition through their concerns over specific pieces of history and life experiences, but also attempt to construct or discover the relationships between historical contexts and our day-to-day survival from different perspectives. Both personal experiences and collective consciousness are linked with different historical trajectories charted by the vicissitudinary political and social forces.
The exhibition explores historical experience in order to map out alternative routes to “grasp and re-narrate realities” revolving around Asia. Asia has emerged as an important geopolitical region, and has become the propelling power behind the capitalist market as well as “served as a wrestling ring for different forces in international politics”. By considering all of these aspects, the show seeks to
re-explore the hidden networks of consciousness in addition to the images outlined and reinforced by states’ power, politico-economic interests and ideological wars; and the ultimate quest of this exhibition is to address the question as to how individuals can garner insights about their future options from these subtle yet discernible messages.
Malaysian artist Au Sow-Yee‘s The Kris Project I: The Never Ending Tale of Maria, Tin Mine, Spices and the Harimau re-imagines history by departing from Megkerang and its film studio, an imagined place, and gradually re–examining and re–imagining the transformation of culture in Malaysia and its nearby region. The work also considers the alienation of the “Others”, and presents a collection of photos, documents, sketches and objects by Ravi (the imagined film director) for the pre-production of the film. The dislocating “pseudo film” tries to imitate Bollywood, and Motion Picture and General Investment Ltd. musical filmmaking styles, while also deconstructing the Indian epic Ramayana and other folklores.
The Asian Father Interview Project by Taiwanese artist Hou Chun-Ming started in 2008, when his father was 86 years old. By interviewing other individuals about their fathers and their relationship to them, Hou hoped to better understand his own relationship to his father, who was getting older and older as time passed, making it more difficult to get closer to him. Some of the questions he asked his interviewees included: What do others’ fathers look like and tend to do? Do their fathers have particular significance to them? What are the influences of their fathers on them?
Hou discovered that most of his interviewees found it difficult to talk about their fathers, as most of them had no close relationship nor understanding of them. Therefore, the artist decided that representing fathers with pictures of animals was the best way to interpret them and understand them, with the symbolic descriptions as expressions of the interviewees’ feelings and memories about their fathers.
Taiwanese-American artist James T. Hong presents two works in the exhibition, the dual-channel video A Chinaman’s Chance and the multimedia installation Taiwan WMD. The video was shot in the two locations of Dokdo and Senkaku, two disputed locations for Japan. Japan contests South Korea’s sovereignty over and administration of Dokdo, while China and Taiwan both claim the Senkaku Islands (Diaoyu in Chinese), which are under Japanese control. Both disputes have been going on for decades, but they have become more urgent as China has started to forcibly lay claim over islands across the East China Sea and the United States have spiked up their involvement.
Taiwan WMD (Taiwan Weapons of Mass Destruction) was originally presented as the centerpiece of The Museum of the Monster that is History, a mini museum within the 2012 Taipei Biennial, which took the form of an archive with historical objects and documents in vitrines. Each object in the collection represents a milestone in Taiwan’s chemical, biological or nuclear weapons programmes.
Taiwanese artist Chin Cheng-Te’s American Pie is an installation comprising historical objects and documents collected by the artist that attest to the American-Chinese relationships during the Cold War. Chin roamed around the American Military Housing in the Yangming Mountains where he lived, as if he was directing and starring in a TV drama, as he writes in a statement in the catalogue, “immersing myself in the atmosphere of cold–war Taiwan charged with excitement and tension”.
Seoul-based artist Im Heung-Soon‘s Factory Complex gives a glimpse into the lives of factory female workers in the 1960s, as well as those of today’s flight attendants, cashiers and non-regular workers. Im reveals the oppression that these labourers suffer, leading us towards the end of the film to Cambodia, where we encounter a repetition of the history of labour that first took place in Korea.
In his performative video Spring Breeze, Chinese artist Li Liao sat downstairs an office building in Wuhan, asking workers to ‘lock’ him up on site, and ‘unlock’ him after they came off duty. The multimedia installation Consumption documents Li Liao’s employment at the Longhua Plant of Foxconn in Shenzhen in 2012. After completing the recruitment process on 9 October 2012, he took up the position of Pre–welding AOI in the SMT Manufacturing Division of the Innovation Digital System Business Group. He worked for the company for 45 days, and resigned from that position on 23 November. With the salary he earned and saved, he was able to afford an iPad mini (Wi–fi 16GB) produced by that factory.
Bani Haykal from Singapore presents a multimedia installation entitled Necropolis For Those Without Sleep, which reflects on systems of power and the desire to project (protect) it, examining the complex network and relationships of the political, economic and social landscapes. Haykal explains in his statement that the work asks questions pertaining to the role of the public in the present neoliberal climate, “where control mechanisms such as fear, entertainment and boredom are calibrated to orchestrate supply without demand”.
Taiwanese artist Hsu Chia-Wei‘s Huai Mo Village relates the story of remnant troops on the border regions of Thailand and Myanmar, who face multiple cultural identities and the embarrassment of being of an unrecognised identity. These soldiers were part of the Nationalist army of China, Chiang Kai-Shek’s KMT, who were ordered to retreat to Myanmar from Yunnan Province in Southern China in 1949. Only 2000 solldiers out of 200,000 reached their destination. Subsequently, Chiang Kai-Shek instructed the troops to retreat to Taiwan, but they did not and remained in the Thai village secretly ready for a counterattack.
This never happened and the soldiers remained to this day in the village, without any national identification. In the 1970s, they became mercenaries for the Thai military and fought against the Thai communists. Still living in the village after that, they turned to drug trafficking and dubious activities for sustenance. Huai Mo Village focuses on the Huai Mo Tzu Chiang House in Chiang Rai, Thailand, founded by a priest who, during the Cold War period, served as a secret informer for the CIA for 39 years. The house hosts orphaned children of those who have been killed or jailed due to drugs trafficking or smuggling.
In Countless Changes of a Greenhouse, Taiwan’s Huang Da-Wang reconstructs a story about the happenings in the 72nd Year of the Republic. The Taiwanese are accustomed to using the Republic of China calendar (with 1912 as the first year). Various speakers conduct soliloquies about their own personal story, at a time when Taiwan found itself in a kind of ‘greenhouse’ state. The greenhouse was a sort of oasis, where the events of the wider world were not felt and the country was experiencing peace and development. The installation functions as a ‘box’ of memories for different generations.
Korean artist duo Haejun Jo & KyeongSoo Lee present the multimedia installation A Ship Believing the Sea is the Land (2014) and the video Bear and Father. The first takes the boat as a motive, presenting a situation in which a boat is anchored on land through a structure (plinth) that supports it. Writings, drawings and edited footage of Scenes of Between (2013) are presented as part of an attempt to produce stories, sculptures and a film about Dokkaebi, a mythical being that appears in Korean folktales.
Most of the duo’s work comes from Jo’s conversations with his father, Donghwan Jo. Bear and Father is a film cinematised in a story–telling style, featuring “the first and the last dialogue” between Jo’s grandfather, who was drafted to Hokkaido in Japan during the period of Japanese occupation, and his father. This dialogue held 70 years ago functions as a review of the realities during the period of Japanese occupation, such as the Pacific War, the draft, the forced labour, accidents, assaults, death, historically unsettled obligation and official apology, the issue of compensation, and other issues. Jo writes in a statement about the work:
All these unsolved issues have not only prevented the perished victims from resting in peace but also trapped them in a loop of disorientation and tragic history. In addition to lamentation, this film is dedicated to applying the viewers’ ears to the old and feeble voice that our parents’ generation muttered under their breath for over seven decades, which sounds like the echo from the great gate of history, a gate as completely sealed and forgotten as an abandoned pit.
C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia
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