Through moving image, Wu Chi-Yu reimagines narratives of history and time.
Concerned with connections between history, politics, the individual and the collective in contemporary society, the Taiwanese artist creates moving image works that resurface lost memories and reproduce oral history and myth.
The medium of moving image allows for a representation of time and space through a narrative that results from imagination, real history or another, parallel universe. Whether a depiction of the fantastic and an invention of the human mind or a documentation of reality, a moving image work presents a singular spatial and temporal narrative that can also shift and acquire new or additional meaning from the space within which it is seen. Its narrative can therefore become part of the space as the space can become part of the artwork.
In Wu Chi-Yu’s work, different layers of time and narratives of space and history gain even more relevance within the space in which they are shown. Trained in new media art at Taipei National University of the Arts, Wu Chi-Yu is concerned with the varied connections between history, politics, the individual and the collective in contemporary society. With a practice revolving around the medium of moving image, he searches for contemporary narratives in lost memories through the reproduction of oral history and myths. He also collaborates in projects of installation, video installation and performance art, in an attempt to bridge postmodern history and contemporary life.
The Taiwanese artist’s distinctive world view can be experienced in his latest solo exhibition entitled “Wu Chi-Yu: 91 Square Meters of Time”, running at Taipei-based TKG+ Projects until 25 June 2017. The show stands as a narrative comprising three series of works that examine the concepts of time, space and velocity in the moving image.
In his recent Four Centuries in An Afternoon (2017), Wu transforms the narrative of moving image into tangible form. The timeline experienced on the screen takes the shape of a long table with books, photographs and fossils, constructing a temporal scenario that is otherwise elusive and impalpable on video. This work crystallises metaphor and imagination through reality and a reflection of history, like an antiquarian library in a museum, where from the first to the last book in the shelves is a condensed recount of history, written, edited and printed.
Refraction (2015) “incarnates” the perception of Lanyu’s elders of the inception of the island off the southeastern coast of Taiwan. Lanyu (‘Orchid Island’) is a volcanic island that is separated from the Philippine archipelago by the Strait of Luzon, and is home to the Tao minority, an aboriginal people of Taiwan who originated from the Philippines’ Batanes islands. Lanyu appeared for the first time on maps in the 17th century, apparently thanks to the Japanese. The title of the work refers to the fracturing of light which transforms an image, in the same way as the work itself reflects the perspectives of Lanyu’s elders and the fictional elements added by the artist.
Wu’s collection of stories about the location is mixed with documentary material including 17th-century maritime maps that reveal the Dutch as the first to chart the region. The work brings to the fore a reflection on how we view each other when belonging to a same political reality, but are separated geographically by an ocean. Wu reflects on the current situation that sees nations build artificial islands in order to expand their territory or to claim neighbouring islands and waters.
This disruption perceived between space and local history is also present in his 2017 work entitled Nosedive. The backdrop of the piece is the Third Taiwan Strait Crisis of 1996, which involved the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and Taiwan (Republic of China). The 1996 Crisis was the effect of a series of missile “tests” conducted by the PRC in the waters surrounding Taiwan, including the Taiwan Strait, from 21 July 1995 to 23 March 1996. The last round of missile launches in early 1996 were intended to intimidate the Taiwanese electorate in the run-up to the 1996 presidential election.
Every family in Taiwan was in front of the TV watching as the flames crashed into the ocean. In the work, the vision of the missile crashing is instantly compressed in the speed of the footage, “breaking the historical impasse and creating a surreal imagination” of an island that could have been wiped out in the impact.
This vision might also stand as a metaphor for Wu Chi-Yu’s work as a whole: anything represented in an image can be reality or fiction, and anything can, as in an image, be there and in a moment disappear.
C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia
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