USA - WILL KERR
Will was born in Boston, USA. He graduated from the philosophy department at Washington University in Saint Louis. Very few people like him majored in philosophy and grew then so obsessed by art. He does not take a regular way to paint and make art. For him, painting is the expression of soul and not the definition of painting itself. Will seems to go back into the primitive art cave, refusing the common definition and the object of comparison. He creates his own art in his ego world. From his paintings we see him, a lone sole dancer.
On the other hand, the philosopher Will has been living a drifting life. He sought his cultural roots in Portugal, his mother’s birthplace and in Scotland, his father’s homeland. Now he is my neighbour in China, an artist, living a very simple life, eating rice and broccoli, and creating artworks based on his hard work. Due to his uncompromising manner. Will’s dignity reminds me of Mr. Gustave Courbet’s saying, “I hope my art can support my life, but I cannot deviate from my principals and against my conscience. I never paint any artworks for pleasing someone’s commercial need”. To Will, art is the faith of religion which let him see the light during his hard trekking.
Text by He Gong
Taiwan R.O.C. - YAO JUI-CHUNG
Over the past two decades, Yao Jui-Chung has been actively involved with political and historical criticism, using a wide range of media such as performance, installation, photography, video, drawing and painting. A prolific writer, curator, activist and art critic, Yao has published numerous books on contemporary Taiwanese art, including Installation art in Taiwan 1991 - 2001, A condition report on performances in Taiwan 1978 - 2004, and New trends of Taiwanese contemporary photography since 1999.
Around 1995, while doing his military services, Yao created one of his major works, a series of performance-based installation works entitled Territory Takeover (1994) and the Recovery of Mainland China - Preface & Actions (1997), where the country’s military past was commented on and caricatured. Adopting the animal habit of marking territory by urinating, Yao made gloomy black and white photographs of himself at historical spots of foreign invasions around the island, from the 16th century to the WW II period, a parallelism to Chiang Kai-shek’s national propaganda of the recovery of mainland China, idiosyncratically postulating a world that is of both real and unreal, absurd, grotesque and uncanny.
In recent years, Yao recruits images and resources from masterpieces of Chinese traditional art and crafts into in his multimedia pieces, a body of works that is less a re-interpretation of the past than an interactive dialogue between the mindset of China’s ancient literati and that of the artist’s own state of mind.
Golden Baby, an infant with bright staring eyes covered in gold leaf that is both angel and demo, is Yao Jui-Chung’s design for the OPEN flags project. This personification of virtue and vice is merged into one is presented in a frontal and straightforward way so that on the one side, the dualism of human nature as well as his materialistic desires are rendered in both bitter-sweet irony and plain seriousness, and on the other side a new baby icon is born whose iconographical features reminiscent of the new-born Buddha.
Currently, Yao continues his project of uncovering abandoned public spaces and facilities. In a joint collaboration with art students starting two years ago, he is now preparing his third book on this theme, documenting 340 of those building across the island.
Text by Yang Wen-I
Taiwan R.O.C. - CHOU YU-CHENG
Chou Yu-Cheng’s major body of artworks during last decade has been post-conceptual with features of post-minimalism. Beside the repetition of appropriated segments of symbolic images, there are also projects concentrating on recollections from his childhood and an immaterialistic rendering of the art system in its broadest sense, e.i. the interdependent symbiosis of its different agencies and its operating circuit within the ecosystem of art. Sharing some common features with the relational art of Nicolas Bourriaud, the latter two artistic practices, despite their seemingly heterogeneous nature, reveal an extremely complicated, sensitive, and unsettled relationship between the respective participants.
A Working History - Lu Chieh-Te of 2012 is dedicated to a previously unknown part-time worker, Mr. Lu, randomly recruited via a newspaper advertisement submitted by the artist himself. In the exhibition the life story of Lu was presented as a book, written down by a writer friend of Chou’s after the close collaboration with Mr. Lu. Other elements for the final realization of the exhibition included a huge flat platform covered with abstract patterns taken from Mr. Lu’s T-shirt and Lu’s own presence as attending personnel.
Chou Yu-Cheng’s next work, In the Outskirts by Huang Tu-Shui, is an exhibit in the Rhapsody in Green exhibition, a Collateral Event at the Venice Biennale 2013. It best exemplifies the artist’s potential to explore deeper meanings in a complex chain of interactivity within the art system. Simply by showing a caption reiterating the exhibition concept, Chou evokes a space which is both visible and invisible, parodying affirmation and denial of a now-lost artwork by a distinguished Taiwanese artist.
The subjectivity of the artist in both works is elusive and difficult to pinpoint. While working with various materials such as video, painting, objects, architectural elements and photographs, Chou provides an open system of reading, or meaning, a différance in Derrida’s sense, oscillating between affirmation and mimicry within the power structure of various participatory parties.
The Quilt, Chou Yu-Cheng’s exhibit for OPEN, is an appropriation of the artist’s own childhood bed sheet, an act which is less exhibitionistic than a gesture of sharing, a transfer between the inside and the outside, the personal and the collective, the private and the public, thus provoking further thoughts about the nature, definition and function of that banner, and of media as such.
Text by Yang Wen-I
Taiwan R.O.C. - MEI DEAN-E
In the past two decades, Mei Dean-E has been one of the most critical observers of Taiwan’s rapidly changing society. Mei’s research-based body of work that ranges from objects, ready-mades, paintings, drawings, photography and installation to video, is discursive as well as argumentative. It is sometimes humorous and often sarcastic. It possesses a subversive energy and touches upon issues such as memory, history, cultural identities, and the political ideology of Taiwan.
As a cultural and political analyst, Mei has established himself as a key figure dealing with the sensitive issue of Taiwan’s relations with China. Numerous collages and dadaistic objects often offer plain facts, such as the geographical disproportion of the two political bodies by means of symbols, including maps, flags, cultural icons, historical signs, and even a combined portrait of Mao and Sun Yat-sen, the “national father” of the ROC.
His projects Silk Roadof 1994 and Book of Xuang Zang of 1996 are exceptional in his ouvre in the sense that they both deal with a historical period that is considered the apogee of Chinese civilization. They also belong to his more contemplative pieces, especially the latter where imagination and realism subtly meet with an essayistic and poetic handling.
In recent years, Mei works on computer-generated digital artworks that appropriate received images from photographs, toys, uniforms, utensils, postcards, and objects from the early postwar period, things in fact from his childhood, or, as Mei calls them, they are endangered cultural objects threatened with extinction.
For the OPEN exhibition, Mei has submitted two works, Purgatory Democracy and Happy Festival. Both contain images of skeletons, symbols of death that reveal a prophetic and apocalyptical vision of his living environment. As he once said, he views the absurd displacements that occur within the confusion of politics and culture as characteristic of the dialectics of Taiwanese identity. He accordingly uses this to explain why in Taiwan issues of identity involve the inseparability of cultural and political reality.
Text by Yang Wen-I
Taiwan R.O.C. - CHEN CHUN-HAO
Since 1997, Chen Chun-Hao has launched and intensified a project that consists of several series of “nail pieces”. From early abstract shapes, involving light effects, to his “writing” pieces representing Chinese characters and to his current reproduction of traditional Chinese masterpieces, Chen Chun-Hao has persistently and exclusively used the nail gun as his working tool, ramming countless tiny stainless nails, called “mosquito nails”, into the two-dimensional surface of the canvas.
His reproductions of Chinese landscape paintings from the Taipei Palace Museum carry both postcolonial mimicry and phenomenologically subversive power. By re-creating and copying the masterpieces in their original dimension and in every detail, such as shades, density, light and texture, Chen Chung-hao not only consolidates the intrinsic status of the “traditional masterpiece”, but, more importantly, replaces and challenges those orthodox working tools, brush and ink, the very insignia of the artist as well as the writer up to the present time. This formidable undertaking of literally, riddling the canvas with gunshots requires one half to one million mosquito nails for each work.
In an earlier series, Chen developed his “nail pieces” via Chinese characters by reproducing famous calligraphies. His current reproductions of landscape paintings include those of three iconic works of tenth and eleventh century painting from the National Palace Museum: Guo Xi’s Early Spring (158,3 x 108,1 cm), Fan Kuan’s Travellers Among Mountains And Streams (206,3 x 103,3 cm) and Li Tang’s Wind in the Pines Among a Myriad Valleys (188,7 x 139,8 cm).
Interestingly enough, however, his present piece for the OPEN exhibition shows a huge black figure in silhouette standing in front of a traditional landscape painting. With raised arms, making a “no entry” traffic sign, the gesture of this ghost-like person could well be a statement on Taiwan’s relationship with China, either in a historical, cultural, or political sense. Yet the title of the work, Non-nuclear Landscape, points to quite another dimension of meaning, one that reinstates, quite interestingly, the idealistic connotations of traditional landscape painting while putting its imagery into the service of an urgent contemporary issue.
Text by Yang Wen-I