“An Art Arena for Taiwanese and Korean Contemporary Art” questions the distinction between ritual and installation, performance and exhibition.
“An Art Arena for Taiwanese and Korean Contemporary Art” is an exhibition of 12 Korean and 12 Taiwanese artists, and is on at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum until 17 September 2017.
“Arena” brings together dance, the human body, theatre, music, sound, image and text, exploring the tensions arising from a considered clash between exhibition and performance formats of presentation. The exhibition includes 12 Taiwanese and 12 Korean artists.
Many of the works explore the performative construction of the art object within the institutional framing, while others seek to take advantage of the gravitas of the museum space to enact rituals. The performances included in the programme often make use of an installation or props, which remain in the museum after the event has come to an end. In this way, the exhibition destabilises the relationships between finished and unfinished event, prop and stage of enunciation – with each work testing the limits of completion and process.
The permanent works on display have been gathered through a collaboration between Taipei Fine Arts Museum and the Gwangju Museum of Art. While the Taiwanese artists seek to “interpose the viewer” through performance (where the emphasis is on engendering an engaging or even disruptive viewer experience), the Korean artists sponsored by the Gwangju Museum of Art exhibited a range of painting, installation and video works.
It is through the tension between the temporary performance programme and the permanent installation works that the Taiwanese and Korean artists activate each other’s work, offering a unique experience of the present. By bringing together a consciousness of form, the exhibition aims, as the press release states,
to stir up visitors who have long been in the habit of leisurely viewing exhibitions, jangling their nerves and their spirits, and placing them in a state of unease, excitation, suspension and bemusement. It aims to pose questions regarding the media and materials of contemporary art, the relationship between viewer and artist, and the social and public nature of art environments.
Art Radar picks a few highlights from the exhibition.
1. Against-Again Troupe
Against-Again Troupe was founded in 2002 in Taiwan by a group of theatre practitioners coming from diverse artistic backgrounds. Many of their early works departed from Agosto Boal’s “Theatre of the Oppressed” techniques. Concert of Performance Review (2017) is a work that explores the diverse meanings that “performance” or “performance review” have across the contemporary art and corporate worlds: from critiques of works of art to corporate employee assessment.
The work is a large-scale installation that offers an insight into the scoring of the musical performance: on a table is a music score/dance score integrating a business organisation chart and statistical analysis. The performance itself hints at an office environment: human bodies in an office are transcribed as sound events, and motion symbols are engraved on the table and in the surrounding space. As stated in the press release,
This work uses alienated bodies as archeological materials, examining the capitalist framework of social relations between “producer” and “object.” Through musical composiion, different notation methods, and performance, it expresses the distancing (verfremdung) of daily life from labor.
2. Sang-hwa Park
Mudeung Fantasia 2 (2017) is a video installation consisting of images of people hiking in the Mudeung Mountains, projected on translucent mesh screens in the gallery space. The work explores notions of routine, boredom, existential stasis and standardisation. A disparate collection of anonymous characters is depicted hiking in the mountains, suggesting a nature walk as well as an allegorical reference to general challenges presented by our urban or rural environments. The Mudeung forest has been reproduced and reconstituted as a virtual landscape by the artist, with the aim of creating the space for cogitation and reaction.
3. River Lin
Taipei-born artist and curator River Lin’s work includes site-specific performance, live art, theatre, dance and installation. Lin often departs from moments of ritual that he locates in a specific cultural context and is particularly interested in the relationship between body and the spatial-temporal. For his new work 8 Days, 2 Nights and 10 Artists (2017) River Lin has invited nine artists (Yu-ju Lin,Yu-jun Wang, Daniel Wang, Sun-teck Yao, Shai Tamir, Demian Cheng, Ni-ni Yu, Tien Tan and Hui-chun Hsieh) to perform a series of unpredictable happenings and events conceived as a conversation between bodies, time and the works present in the art museum institutional space. The performance seeks to draw out unexpected reflections on the relationship between time and labour, spectacle and survival, physical strength and immaterial work by blurring the lines between the everyday and performance.
4. Cheng-ta Yu
The work TAI is a collaboration between the Taiwanese artist Cheng-ta Yu and TAI, a model of mixed French and Thai ancestry. Androgynously dressed, TAI poses before an audience, proffering and proposing his body as both subject and object, in a work that explores the production of art works and practices. The performance includes a constant engagement with social media sites such as Instagram or Tumblr, where viewers are encouraged to view, tag and follow the images posted of the performance, as a kind of live feed. The work TAI seeks to probe the ambiguous zone between the performer’s true identity and the performer’s constructed or false identity, drawing connections between the parallel construction of gender identity, body politics and body language. As stated in the press release, the artist asks:
When self-identity and the public gaze are magnified and extended to another level, can art become a life experience?
5. Riverbed Theatre
The experience of viewing the work of the Taipei-based Riverbed Theatre (founded in 1998) has been likened to watching the absurdist theatre of Samuel Beckett or the nightmarish filmic visions of David Lynch. An image-based theatre company whose sets appear as sculpture works in themselves, Riverbed Theatre productions blur the boundaries between visual and performing arts with critics praising their organic, sculpture “subconscious” theatre. In their new work, We’re All in This Together (2017), the company probes the conditions of production of subjectivity and art together. Big, bright red words “BE ART” have been inscribed across the exhibition walls. This is the company’s invitation to their audience to step inside their set, put on their masks, use their props and enter the installation to “be art”. The playful work intends to irritate the distinction between artist and art, viewer and viewing, “seeing art”, “being art” and “being seen”.
6. Lee Lee Nam
South Korean artist Lee Lee Nam (b.1969) creates amalgamations of today’s high-tech environment and traditional culture. For his work Earth in Hybridization (2016) he departs from the Pak-yeon-pok-po Waterfall painting – Korea’s most famous jinkyung (realistic depiction) landscape painted during the late Joseon era. Lee worked on the project in a close collaboration with the Lab at the Google Cultural Institute. This piece involves Google’s virtual reality programme, Tilt Brush. Tilt Brush invites viewers’ participation through the use of headsets and controllers allowing viewers to create three-dimensional images in virtual space. Viewers may choose to use different colours and also special effects like falling stars or snow, and may print their creations. In an intriguing new media digital work, the artist offers his own interpretation of Jeong Seon’s original painting.
7. Te-yu Wang
Taiwanese artist Wang Te-Yu creates installations aimed at intensifying the viewer’s sense of scale, surface and texture. The artist was a member of the Shin Leh Yuan ‘New Paradise’ Art Space in Taipei, an artist-cooperative gallery founded in 1995. Her recent work has taken the form of inflatable balloon-like installations that invade the viewer’s space and force the audience to readjust their bodies as well as their perception of their own body in the space in relation to her interventions. In her 2017 work No. 90, the artist creates a space within another space, like a set of Russian matryoshka dolls. The work – a huge enveloping PVC bubble-like structure that viewers enter – is designed to be encountered by the viewer, as opposed to merely seen. Like many works in “An Art Arena for Taiwanese and Korean Contemporary Art” it seeks to exercise the boundaries of control and engagement of the art museum space by amplifying the act of beholding or ‘seeing’ rather as an experience or even a mode of being in the world.
- “91 Square Meters of Time”: Taiwanese video artist Wu Chi-Yu at TKG+ Projects, Taipei – May 2017 – through moving image, Wu Chi-Yu reimagines narratives of history and time
- “Line of Vision”: Taiwanese photographer Wang Hsin at Taipei Fine Arts Museum – March 2017 – Wang Hsin has dedicated her career to exploring the capacity of photography to forge deeper understanding between people
- “Gestures and Archives of the Present, Genealogies of the Future”: highlights from the Taipei Biennial 2016 – January 2017 – the Taipei Biennial 2016 engages in historical critique
- Taiwanese artist Yin-Ju Chen’s “Extrastellar Evaluations II – A Dialogue Concerning Two Chief World Systems” at CFCCA, Manchester – in pictures – December 2016 – multimedia artist encourages audiences to question the categories of art, science, superstition, history and ritual
- A “Universe of Possibilities”: Taiwanese artist Charwei Tsai – interview – November 2016 – Art Radar speaks with the unconventional multimedia artist who embellishes the realms of human perception with literary mantras
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