“Jie (Boudaries): Contemporary Art from Taiwan” focuses not only on the art of both Taiwanese nationals and ex-patriots, but on the conceptual grounding of jie as both a spatio-temporal limit as well as the delineation of a certain scope. As curator An-Yi Pan writes in his catalog of the exhibition, “The boundary can be as concrete as a division between nations, or shapeless but clearly indicated in treaties between two economic blocs. It could even be as vast as what mankind has observed and imagined-the distinctions between galaxies in the universe.”
A few notable artists whose works are shown in the exhibition space:
Born in Hsinchu, Taiwan in 1982, Wan-Jen graduated from the National Taiwan University of Arts and is currently studying for his Master of New Media at the Taipei National University of the Arts. His digital media work focuses on the metaphysical uses of the media to articulate technological dislocation, and the piece shown in the basement of the Johnson entitled “The Unconscious Voyage” (2008) is no exception.
Wan-Jen’s work specifically creates a tension between the thoughtless moments and motions of the individual and the public sphere — which, in the case of his works, can be translated into the digital sphere. “These are the pieces of time that silently slip through our fingers,” Wan-Jen writes. “I attempt to extract meaning from these endless voids and repetitions. I try to erase past memories and withhold anticipation for the future, for they are mere distorted versions of life attitude.
Digital media seems particularly important to Wan-Jen’s oeuvre because of the ethereal and non-materiality of the moving image on a screen. When the figure is placed within this digital realm, the artificial appearance of their motions and their desolation (that still retains urban intimations) reveals the emptiness that seems to trouble Wan-Jen’s world view. “The Unconscious Voyage” in particular achieves this by splitting the frame into three channels, deliberately creating spatial limitations for the moving figures themselves. “I try to find a way towards self-reconciliation. What lies within those seemingly weightless spaces?” he writes. “What absence of greatness could have led people to willingly subject themselves to such ordinary routines? The seemingly abstract and remote experiences are every bit as real as the ghosts that haunt us day and night… My work is a mere acceptance of emptiness and void. My wish, perhaps, is simply to reenact a common scene that happens to spark our imagination, just so we could retain those transient moments.”
Su Hui Yu:
Su Hui-Yu was born in Taipei, and he received his BA in Fine Art from the National Taiwan Normal University in Taipei as well as an MFA from Taipei National University of the Arts in 2003. He has been exploring the effect of media and technology on human behavior with a particular interest in performance art. His staged video productions and still images illuminate his sophisticated capacities for the use of technology, as in the piece “Stilnox Home Video: The Midnight Hours” (2010), shown at the current exhibition.
“As always, I enjoy finding inspiration in watching TV,” writes Su, who also noted in his plaque in the exhibition that watching television was a distinctive activity in his early childhood development, because of both his parents’ busy work schedules. “Nevertheless, drugs were unexpectedly involved in the process in a certain period of my life… What is changing is the speed and means of visual communication; be it digital television, interactive television or even YouTube, movies channels, sports channels, MTV or adult channels, the moving image will not leave us. On the contrary, it is embedded in our life in more ways. Under the effects of Stilnox, the moving image worked its charm on me in an obscure and fascinating way.”
Su’s work enhances a viewer’s sense of falling between reality and fantasy in the dream-like yet “not asleep” state that Su achieved when he took Stilnox without sleeping. Reality can be perceived in the real-time focus on the individuals — when you can perceive very slight but stifled movements in the figures who are trying to hold still — while fantasy can be achieved through the imagined narrative behind the scenes he creates as well as the mystical aesthetic he employs.
Hsu Wei Hui
Hsu Wei-Hui was born in 1979 in Chungli, Taiwan. She majored in Fine Arts at the National Hsinchu University of Education in Taiwan; in 2004 she traveled to the United States to receive her MA degree in Painting from the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Georgia, and she continued her studies in the US with an MFA from the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.
Hsu’s work shown at the Johnson Museum when you enter the first floor of the exhibition space is unapologetically direct. In her “Guerrilla Girl-Girl War Era” piece, hundreds of stiff pink sculptures of girls in skirts manning weapons invade the space with such site specificity. “On one hand, their height indicates how females are regarded in traditional society as secondary, and on the other, by using the mass to indicate their formidable power that cannot be ignored,” says Hsu.
Pan notes in his catalog that this work reflects some of Hsu’s feminist anxieties surrounding her identity as a dark-skinned Taiwanese girl who had been pressured to bleach her skin for the purposes of beautifying herself. From these early experiences, Hsu was inspired to create art that challenged the confining delineations of standards of beauty defined by different cultural expectations.
Hsu takes into careful consideration the implications of the media she uses in order to articulate her feminist anxieties. “The stiffened material expresses a kind of pain and anxiety under the appearance of beauty,” Hsu writes. “By bringing sculpture, photography, and performance into my work, I transform my consciousness into a visible self-examination.”