Tao Hui’s imaginative, site-specific project is a peek into the political and the personal.
Art Radar takes a look at the recent exhibition at Chi-Wen Gallery, Taipei.
In Tao Hui’s video work, there is an old, slight woman named Leng Shuihua, recounting her time spent authoring a book, The History of Southern Drama. The book, it is revealed, is her only literary work ever. Viewers of Tao Hui’s work are silent participants in an interview with Leng Shuihua, privy to her recollections as she recounts her personal background, story and experiences.
The History of Southern Drama, Scene A is a site-specific project, recently shown as part of Tao Hui’s latest solo exhibition in Chi-Wen Gallery, Taipei. It was conceptualised two years ago, and finally executed in an artist residency in Taipei hosted by Chi-Wen Gallery. “Scene A” was the first installation in this project by Tao Hui, over a series of yet-undisclosed number of installations.
The History of Southern Drama builds on the long, complicated and often fractured relationship between the two states, asking its visitors to reflect on the effect that this political tension has had on generations that grew up under the shadow of this conflict. The elderly Leng Shuihua reflects on her life during the time spent authoring the book; history begins to blend with fiction, revealing deeper truths about life during the post-civil war years. As with Tao Hui’s video works, the lens of the camera remains trained on the actress who plays Leng Shuihua. Intense focus is placed on minute movements, expressions, and almost imperceptible changes in delivery.
Slow and even-paced, the interview with Leng Shuihua takes place as she sits on the porch chair, plays the piano, and reposes in the garden of her house. Part of the premise of the interview is centred around the fact that six chapters of her book are being realised as a film and television project, which will be revealed in “Scene B”. Tao Hui’s fictional character is persuasive; there is a sense that Leng Shuihua grapples with the weight of history, unpacking dense notions of what the conflict between China and Taiwan meant, the geo-political schism between the two entities, and how these matters are transmitted through the tales of their time.
For viewers, The History of Southern Drama: Scene A comes as a welcome introduction to what appears to be a long and engaging conversation. It feels very much as a means of “setting the stage” – of preparing the background in the minds of the audience, ready to usher in pithier plots in the upcoming installments.
“The History of Southern Drama, Scene A” by Tao Hui was on view from 7 July to 18 August 2018 at Chi-Wen Gallery, 1F, No. 32, Ln 2, Sec. 6, Zhongshan N. Rd. Shilin Dist., Taipei 11155, Taiwan.
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