The project, “SOAP”, is an online exhibition organised by the artist Ting -Tong Chang. It is his response to the current pandemic period in which events have been forced to be cancelled and where exhibitions and shows can only be found on the Internet.
In this project, Ting-tong Chang utilises an instance of fake news that circulated during World War I, “Kadaververwertungsanstalt” (literally, Carcass-Utilisation Factory). This was a rumour deliberately spread by the British Intelligence agencies. By way of mass media, they fabricated and circulated a story about the Germans having built a secret factory in the heart of a German forest where they dissolved corpses into soap for army use when resources were scarce. Along with illustrations, fabricated reports combined conspiracy theory and already existent prejudice towards Germany in order to facilitate a shift in British public opinion in support for the war.
Using this story as his base, Chang constructed his own fictional soap-making factory, which also serves as a centre of information production, turning soap into a tangible metaphor for information.
Chang has invited actors to play various roles on the production line. Some workers mechanically examine the newly-made soaps on the conveyor belt and long worktables. Some act as victims that float in large-scale mixing tanks while others play indifferent managers that stand aside aloof, just watching the production process. Be it the factory setting itself or the performances, they both signify how information is systematically manufactured and how it is unrestrainedly circulated on various social media and forum platforms.
Moreover, with the project “Soap”, the artist is also trying to explore possible future exhibition forms, as the boundary between the virtual and the real starts to blur.
Different from many online exhibitions that duplicate physical space through digital technology, Chang has created a fictional factory that never existed before or only existed in fake news on the Internet so to speak. He videotaped every action that took place, and then completely dismantled the real-life factory instalment. Subsequently, the information production centre was encoded and constructed by a software engineer and then transformed into an on-site artwork that only exists in the digital world.
This project benefits from the fluidity and fragmentation of the digital network, and its non-linear logic. It invites the audience to operate this interactive website and explore this reproduced soap/information factory. As the viewers freely travel between time and space, re-assembling the narrative, they also construct their own pathways of viewing. This way, the exploration of the relationship between the virtual and reality is made possible.
project link: https://www.thesoapfactory.com.tw