The Museum of Contemporary Art Taipei (MOCA Taipei) considers the aesthetic of the LGBTQ community through the work of 22 artists.

With the first LGBTQ exhibition in Asia, Taiwan makes history by considering these key issues surrounding the post-war Chinese LGBTQ community. 

Wu Tsang, Duilian (production still), 2016. Photo by Ringo Tang. Image courtesy the artist, Galerie Isabella Bortolozzi, Berlin.

Wu Tsang, ‘Duilian’, 2016, production still. Photo: Ringo Tang. Image courtesy the artist and Galerie Isabella Bortolozzi, Berlin.

Launched in early September and running until 5 November 2017, the ground-breaking exhibition “Spectrosynthesis – Asian LGBTQ Issues and Art Now” is co-hosted by Sunpride Foundation and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Taipei (MOCA), with around 50 works on display. Artists include Hou Chun-Ming (Taiwan), Jimmy Ong (Singapore), Shiy De Jinn (Taiwan), Wu Tsang (USA) and Yan Xing (Mainland China), artists grouped through their shared culture, language and ethnicity.

Shiy De-Jinn, 'Young Girl', 1960, 91 x 65cm. Image courtesy MOCA Taipei.

Shiy De-Jinn, ‘Young Girl’, 1960, 91 x 65 cm. Image courtesy MOCA Taipei.

Curated by Sean Hu from Taiwan, issues considered through the range of works include identity, equality, stigmatisation and exploitation by mass media, providing a comprehensive view of the history and life of the LGBTQ community in contemporary Asia. There is also a hopeful tone here, as the exhibition’s press release states,

the works focus not only on the real predicaments that LGBTQ people may be caught in on a daily basis, but also provide a comment on the evolving social structure which is very likely to change in the foreseeable future.

Hsi Shih-Pin_'Buck of Freedom', Stainless Steel, Titanium Plating, Ceramic, Cutting Crystal, 195 x 230 x100 cm, 2015. Courtesy of MOCA Taipei.

Hsi Shih-Pin, ‘Buck of Freedom’, 2915, stainless steel, titanium plating, ceramic, cutting crystal, 195 x 230 x 100 cm. Image courtesy of MoCA Taipei.

Taiwan tends to see itself as the most progressive centre of LGBTQ rights, on the brink of legalising same-sex marriage – after a groundbreaking court rulling was made in May 2017 – and therefore the first Asian country to do so. “Spectrosynthesis” undoubtedly reflects this attitude, serving as a timely presentation and reminder of the progressive nature of its geographical context.

Tseng Kuong Chi, "Spectrosynthesis", 9 September - 5 November 2017, installation view at MoCA Taipei. Image courtesy MoCA Taipei. 

Tseng Kwong Chi, “Spectrosynthesis”, 9 September – 5 November 2017, installation view at MoCA Taipei. Image courtesy MoCA Taipei.

Through this presentation, the MoCA hopes to reverse the historical submission of LGBTQ culture, highlighting the strong sense of self portrait by the artists. As the museum explains,

Through the ages, the heterosexuals’ worldview and value system have dominated the human social structure, in which people’s social or cultural identities are fixed in a universally accepted manner. Viewing these artworks, it is visible that heteronormativity often prohibits or suppresses LGBTQ individuals from expressing their sexuality and emotions openly, rendering LGBTQ art rather subtle, ambiguous and often represented through a symbolic and metaphoric approach. However, the strong sense of self and will of these artists could not be contained.

Tzeng Yi-Hsin, 'Olympia', 2014. 110x152cm. Image courtesy MOCA Taipei.

Tzeng Yi-Hsin, ‘Olympia’, 2014, 110 x 152 cm. Image courtesy MOCA Taipei.

By combining the two words “spectrum” and “photosynthesis” in its title, “Spectrosynthesis” explores the “spectrum of light” as its central theme – in the sense that the exhibition shines a light on the complex and diverse history of the LGBTQ community. The idea of a spectrum, or rainbow – the symbol of the LGBTQ community – alludes to the exhibition’s aim to address the diversity and breadth of LGBTQ history:

Light is a fundamental source of energy for life on Earth, nurturing all living species fairly and equally, and offering them life, hope and a future. Such qualities are synonymous with the principle purpose of the exhibition’s co-organizer Sunpride Foundation, which supports artistic practice and promotes equal rights for LGBTQ individuals through meticulous research and discourse on contemporary art.

Chen Chien-Pei, "Spectrosynthesis", 9 September - 5 November 2017, installation view at MoCA Taipei. Image courtesy MoCA Taipei.

Chen Chien-Pei, “Spectrosynthesis”, 9 September – 5 November 2017, installation view at MoCA Taipei. Image courtesy MoCA Taipei.

楊嘉輝Samson Young_消音狀況#5 消音合唱Muted Situations #5:Muted Chorus_Single Channel Video, Colored, Sound 6min. 45 sec._2014. Image courtesy of MoCA Taipei.

Samson Young, ‘Muted Situations #5:Muted Chorus’, 2014, single channel video, colour, sound, 6:45 min. Image courtesy of MoCA Taipei.

One particular highlight is the work of the ingenious sound artist Samson Young. Hailing from Hong Kong, his Muted Situation #5: Muted Chorus comprises of a video work that shows a performance of a choral composition without playing the actual music. Themes of repression and suppression are at play here, as well as a sense of revealing. Rather than hearing the actual music, we hear the inhalation of the singers, the sound of their shuffling bodies, and the rustling of music scores. A similar work by Samson Young is currently on view at the Venice Biennale.

Hou Chun-Ming, 'Man Hole', Oil Pastel on Paper, 55 x 237 cm, set of two, 2014 - 2016. Image courtesy MOCA Taipei.

Hou Chun-Ming, ‘Man Hole’, 2014 – 2016, oil pastel on paper, 55 x 237 cm, set of two. Image courtesy MOCA Taipei.

Also on show is Man Hole from Taiwanese artist Hou Chun-Ming, which presents a selection of 13 sets of paintings, the result of a series of interviews taking place since 2014. Documentary in nature, the work features portraits of gay men drawn by the artist, juxtaposed with self-portraits completed by the individual’s being interviewed themselves. The response are works which tackle themes of desire, secret, memory and loss, dialogical in the way that they enact conversations between the artist and the subject.

王文清Jimmy Ong_藏愛於子Heart Sons_2004_Charcoal on paper_216 x 126 cm_3876 x 2520 pixels_Image Courtesy of FOST Gallery

Jimmy Ong, ‘Heart Sons’, 2004, charcoal on paper, 216 x 126 cm. Image courtesy FOST Gallery.

Other highlights include the work of renowned Singaporean artist Jimmy Ong, who creates large-scale charcoal drawings, depicting gay couples with their children, and exploring themes of gender and sexual identity. In an interview with CNN, he explains:

I wanted to grant a pictorial vocabulary for gay people to view their marital statuses, which are absent in regular Asian artworks. And they’re definitely absent in family portraits.
王俊傑Jun-Jieh Wang_激情Passion_2017_ Video Installation3

Jun-Jieh Wang, ‘Passion’, 2017, video installation. Image courtesy MoCA Taipei.

Jun-Jieh Wang, "Spectrosynthesis", 9 September - 5 November 2017, installation view at MoCA Taipei. Image courtesy MoCA Taipei. 

Jun-Jieh Wang, “Spectrosynthesis”, 9 September – 5 November 2017, installation view at MoCA Taipei. Image courtesy MoCA Taipei.

顧福生Ku Fu-sheng _秘密房間The Room at the Top of the Stairs_1983_91 x 127 cm.jpg

Ku Fu-sheng, ‘The Room at the Top of the Stairs’, 1983, 91 x 127 cm. Image courtesy Eslite Gallery.

The exhibition organisers hope that the presentation will prove dialogical, generating discussions about gender issues and therefore improving the condition of human rights in Taiwan:

This exhibition attempts to liberate people’s thoughts and value systems from the rigid and deep-rooted biases against LGBTQ people by providing a space for mutual-gazing and understanding between both sides.

Anna Jamieson


Related topics: Taiwanese artistsevents in Taipeivideo  artsexuality, activism, identity art, political artinstallation, museum shows

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By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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