The Space that Remains: Yao Jui-Chung’s “Ruins” Series

Collateral Event of the 14th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia

Organization: National Taiwan University of Arts
Exhibitor: YAO Jui-Chung
Curator: YANG Wen-I
Coordinator: PDG Arte Communications
Sede: Istituto Santa Maria della Pietà, Castello 3701
Preview: 5th, 6th June 2014
Open to the public7th June – 30th August 2014
Opening times: 10 am – 6 pm
Extra Opening times: 10 am – 8 pm on Fridays and Saturdays until 30th August; closed on Mondays (except 9th June 2014)
Media enquiry: PDG Arte Communications
Yang Wen-I, curator, National Taiwan University of Arts

“Architecture” is not just about construction. Every man-made structure bears the germ of its own destruction, of its becoming a ruin. Ruins are architecture’s “other” that is waiting within, bound to become “The Space that Remains”. It is in reference to Giorgio Agamben’s essay “The Time that Remains” that this exhibition title has been chosen, a text discussing the “Letter to the Romans” and St. Paul’s role in early Christianity’s critical period of transition. Could there be something in that residual time, charged with messianic expectation, as Agamben suggests, that might contrapuntally be applicable to that what remains of buildings in our current, global post-capitalistic society?

The exhibition, The Space that Remains: Yao Jui-Chung’s ‘Ruins’ Series, touches upon the afterlife of building not from the position of its makers, users, or providers, but from the act of a reader. In his passionate and idiosyncratic manner, Yao Jui-Chung (1969 - ) has been in search of discarded, unused, and abandoned buildings all over his home country since the early 1990s. As a result, he has gathered a significant documentary archive of black and white photographs of Taiwanese ruins.

A prolific art writer, critic, photographer, painter and video artist, Yao deals with the objects of his photographic explorations by negating any systematic order and assuming perspectives and camera angles seemingly chosen at random, with no regard for completeness. All ruins are viewed from a personal point of view that is neither journalistic, nor documentary nor voyeuristic. Yet paradoxically, it is exactly from this random perspective that we experience a sense of closeness to these structures, becoming a reader ourselves, reflecting, intersubjectively, on the fate of the ruins and their past and future.

While Giorgio Agamben’s The Time that Remains provided for the inspiration for the exhibition title, it is, however, Michel Serres’ Natural Contract that deserves more attention. Though circumscribed by nature, ruins are unequivocally man-made, yet have drifted out of the orbit of human awareness. Would a newfound responsibility for them, a “ruins contract”, not be appropriate to deal with these testimonies of former human activities?

One of the general themes of this year’s Architecture Biennale is the concept of historical reflection, and it is a look back into the past – albeit an emotional, almost mystical one – that also informs this exhibition. Out of an impressive corpus of images, thirty intense and poetic black and white photographs grouped in several series and one video have been selected, that show remnants of aboriginal structures, unique Han Chinese residential buildings on the Pescadores Islands, erratic examples of 20th century Western-style architecture, iconic industrial ruins, and the somber postwar architecture on a prison island for political dissidents.

National Taiwan University of Arts is very pleased to announce its second participation in La Biennale di Venezia. After the successful exhibition Rhapsody in Green, a Collateral Event of the 55th International Art Exhibition last year, NTUA is proud to be part of this year’s Biennale Architecture, presenting Yao Jui-Chung, one of the most engaged and prolific artists of Taiwan, with his photographic Ruins series created since 1991. It is our belief thatthis concise show, arranged in seven groups that pinpoint major themes in Taiwan’s history, will contribute to a new awareness of a question that is in fact a global one, namely the question how to deal with man-made structures that have ceased to be man-used.

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