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