Performance Duration: 3-4 hours /session (Total of 5)
Site: Lobby of Taipei Fine Arts Museum
As Taipei Fine Arts Museum is faced with an unprecedented scandal in Taiwan’s history of art, this performance, held on five weekends (on 5/22, 5/29, 6/6, 6/12, 6/19 of 2011）on the outdoor plaza of the museum’s front gate, is inspired by the book, The World is Flat, which has in the recent years gained popularity for its discussions on globalization and neo-liberalism, with the performance used to directly criticize the unhealthy state that Taiwan’s current art institution and cultural governance are in. Because the project involves a wide network of politics, political and business interests, the series of performance was interfered by various means conducted byTFAM under the control of the Department of Cultural Affairs.
On May 4th, along with the approval for using the plaza granted (prior to the actual performance), various incidents that had happened during this period (press conference, getting physically attacked, public opinions, media control, getting followed and watched, feedbacks from the art circle and other responses), TFAM plaza was in a period of temporary martial governance (the museum had no right to cancel my already approved permission to use the plaza, and even used various measures to expel me from the premise), with neo-liberal interference tactics carried out in an anarchistic manner, etc… The Department of Cultural Affairs and its co-organizer also involved in the scam have both engaged in Taipei Flat Arts Museum through their different actions. Through the planning of this series of performances and reflections prompted by it, it is anticipated for the motivational force and dynamic power of contemporary art to be transformed into possible ways to face with threats and counterattacks from big interest groups.
This project is organized and executed under an urgent condition, and in the short run, it is intended as a tangible action to confront this cultural scandal (the TFAM fraud that the then Department of Cultural Affairs Commissioner Hsieh Hsiao-Yun was involved in along with Universal Exhibition Company). In the long run, it exposes the art museum’s corrupt ways of using the veneer of art and culture to conduct abusive manipulation of power, as politics and business are mixed together under the framework of neo-liberalism, with problems arising due to the capitalization of public domains. This project series can be regarded as the first blow of culture action carried out by the art circle, while the bureaucratic cultural officials in Taiwan are busy celebrating the nation’s centennial festivities.
The museum is being trampled by villains in the system, and we can say that it has completely been flattened. The cultural dominator arising from this is emerging in a victorious stance, and referencing to Thomas Friedman’s popular neo-liberalism book, The World is Flat, that came out a few years ago and touted as the holy grail for post-globalized world economy, a contrasting phenomenon is taking place in the museum, as seen with Commissioner Hsieh, despite knowing criticisms are being voiced for the museum’s themed exhibition scam, she was still able to proudly present and share her experience for organizing TFAM’s themed exhibitions. This is the forming of a new type of authoritative domination, as she crowns herself with the support of lucrative box office sales operated in a commercialized manner. This is a game of violence that is prevalent in democratic nations.
Recently, issues with “art’s interjection in society”, “interdisciplinary/cross-disciplinary art” or “performance art’s effectiveness” have been avidly discussed in the art circle, prior to assessing or reviewing the TFAM scam and also seeing my Taipei Flat Arts Museum series, I would like to first clarify the following three fundamental concepts:
1. “Art does not need to proclaim its interjection”, as art occurs on location in life, it is also happening in a social domain.
2. There is no need to declare the notion of “interdisciplinary”, as art, like the media applied, is already combined and used unrestrictedly, with the boarders long blurred.
3. In accordance to the aforementioned two points, art action’s effectiveness is built upon its social, political, economic qualities, as it results in segregation from governance through the cultural subjectivity that it deals with. Faced with today’s barbaric bureaucratic cultural authority system in Taiwan, through liberation from the restrictions imposed upon them from the dominating party, artists could then proof the existence and the possibilities with “life’s micro-governance”.
TFAM: Taipei Flat Arts Museum exposes that the TFAM scam is a form of “State of Exception” ungoverned by law (referencing Giorgio Agamben’s 2003 publication). Themed exhibitions presented by TFAM are a part of the State of Exception outside of the normal system. Therefore, when our action was initiated, those in power (such as Hsieh Hsiao-Yun and her chain of commanders) went out of their way to establish the legitimacy of her ways of being suspended beyond the law.
Note: Since early 2012, former Commissioner Hsieh and co-organizer, Universal Exhibition Company, have exercised cultural violence and filed defamation lawsuit against Sun Yi-Jou (the artist) and Wu Mu-Ching (then ArtCo Monthly editor and member of the press).
Artwork Organization (Abstracts for each performance presented in those 5 weeks)：
【1】Cubic AD on Taipei Flat Art Museum
Performance Duration: 2011.5.22 14:00~18:00
Actions taken by the Taipei Fine Arts Museum:
Led by the deputy directory, a big group consisting of people from TFAM, the Department of Cultural Affairs, Universal Exhibition Company was on location supervising the performance.
Prior to the press conference, police advised us to move the event to the pedestrian path by Zhongshan North Road.
I wore a sandwich board, with the front showing the image that TFAM shows in public, mimicking the style of real-estate advertisement. The back of the board ironically listed the psychology and motives of Hsieh Hsiao-Yun and people of the Universal Exhibition Company. With a sign “Monet Garden” in my hand that has a pointing arrow, I looked like a worker showcasing a real-estate ad. My mouth was covered by a sign in red fonts that read “Trade Secret”, and I blew a balloon periodically (while blowing the balloon, the seal over my mouth would rip). I tried hard to blow the balloon, and because of the force I exerted from my mouth, the balloon flew away or burst uncontrollably.
【2】 Confession Room/ Informer Terroristic Box
Performance Duration: 2011.5.29 14:00~17:00
Actions taken by the Taipei Fine Arts Museum:
The museum had officially canceled the permits I’ve obtained for the 2nd and 5th performances, and even informed the chief of the local police precinct, Liang Rui-Sheng, to detain us for infringing the Assembly and Parade Act. After further investigation on site, Liang commented that no arrest will be made.
A big piece of black fabric was placed on a hole inside the confession room. The black fabric and the wooden boards of the confession room were nailed together and wrapped around me. I was trapped and became one with the black fabric and the confession room. The reason for this was in case the museum or the police were to come and evict me; they couldn’t easily move me because of the confession room attached to me. They can’t interfere with my right to dress in such a bizarre manner. In addition to the black fabric wrapped around me, my face was covered in black gauze during the entire performance of 3.5 hours, and I was not in a shape of a human, as I had become a part of the black confession room. I held a hidden camera by the hole of the confession room and recorded what I saw outside of the hole and also anyone that came up to speak into the hole. Confession Room/ Informer Terroristic Box started off as an enclosed triangular space, and towards the second half of the performance, the confession room was turned, shifting the two sides of the originally congruent triangle outwards, with the outside turned in. Me (aka the confession room) had shifted my former shape into an outlet for an amplifier for speaking to the outside world. The confessions made by the public in the previous two hours were rearranged and expressed through the hole. This turning from the inside to the outside signified the exposure of secrets.
【3】Impressionism Before The Hall
Performance Duration: 2011. 6.6（Dragon Boat Festival Day）14:00~18:00
Actions taken by the Taipei Fine Arts Museum:
Manicurists and bands known for covering lousy songs were hired by Universal Exhibition Company to perform on the plaza. Although those people were supposed to be “street ::::performers”, they were borrowing electrical power from the coffee shop next door to have fans blowing in their faces. Then, people from the museum and security came to ask me to leave, and moved my props before my performance concluded, without permission.
On the last day of the exhibition, Monet Garden, I dressed up as Hsieh Hsiao-Yun on the museum’s plaza and painted a self-portrait. My face was covered in many white sticker labels (with key words on each piece). I painted my face and also pasted the stickers to my face simultaneously. The day happened to be Dragon Boat Festival Day, and after the painting was done, I carried out a traditional ritual with herbs and liquor to ward off evil. I then peeled away the portrait of Hsieh on the back of the chair, revealing the ghost in the back, Lee Yong-ping, (the Commissioner of Taipei City's Department of Cultural Affairs preceding Hsieh and the then deputy mayor of Taipei). After the self-portrait was completed, I walked into the museum in an authoritative manner mimicking Hsieh to survey the museum. I then clapped loudly in front of the sign for Monet Garden at the first floor lobby. The clapping sounds echoed in the lobby, making an irony of Hsieh’s love for themed exhibitions.
【4】Bureau Chief Hsieh’s Memorial Song
Performance Duration: 2011. 6.12 14:00~17:30
Actions taken by the Taipei Fine Arts Museum:
Yellow warning tapes were placed around the fences outside of the museum plaza, with warnings of “Construction in Progress, Danger, Keep Away”. However, there was no construction in sight, with only workers spraying water on the plaza. Museum security and large police force (including chief of Zhongshan precinct and about a dozen policemen) used forced to damage my props, trampling on my right to make art and my freedom of expression.
Black fences were used in front of the gate of the museum to separate the museum from the plaza. The fences were actually barricades, creating a second line of defense. I wanted to add to the height of the barricades, and created 32 pieces of Chinese Fate Divination signs written on white paper with black characters, and posted them all over the two ends outside of the museum’s front gate (fixtures were already installed on the signs in advance). Another 5 signs were written in red characters and placed in an incense censer, with a stack of money also thrown in to be burned.
The Great 88 Buddhas Repentance Mantra was rewritten by me, and together with Cheng Wen and Steve Chen, improvised digital music and noises were played on location (many of the tracks were pre-produced, including speeches made by Hsieh and others, with variations created on site accordingly). I recited scriptures and tapped on a Buddhist chime towards the museum, as I held up two signs that read “Chance, Fate” and turned them while facing the museum.
【5】Taking Out Ai Weiwei from Local Production and Direct Marketing
Performance Duration: 2011. 6.19 14:00~17:30
Actions taken by the Taipei Fine Arts Museum:
The black barricades on the plaza were removed, and the head of the collection department was on duty that day and informed us, “Please proceed peacefully.” The museum was cunningly trying to act grandiose on the last day, with the agenda of creating a seemingly peaceful “ending”.
At the center of the plaza, I sat inside a transparent rectangular container with metal structure, and recited an essay written by Hsieh about Ai Weiwei that was published in newspapers; however, I did not recite it in verbatim, as I added my direct responses while reading the article. With people pouring peanuts and noises being made, it was actually quite difficult for people to hear me. This was intended to show how truth and words can be shuffled around and made ambiguous. Peanuts were chosen to echo Ai Weiwei’s ceramic sunflower seeds. With help from a friend at the Tainan National University of the Art, those peanuts were locally soured in Taiwan and directly delivered to us the day before from the source, creating an artwork-product relationship. With outsourcing, BOT, ROT, OEM, ODM, since the era of processing for export purposes, Taiwan has taken on the role of manufacture for other companies. This has extended to today’s creative culture industry and convention and exhibition industry. On the other hand, this action was not directly pointing at Ai Weiwei, but based on how desire and power are exchanged under the current of neo-liberalism, as seen with Hsieh’s nonchalant approach for packaging Ai Weiwei.
Regarding members of the art community’s Taipei Flat Arts Museum performance art series conducted at the museum’s plaza on May 22nd, 2011, the following is a statement from the museum:
1. All activities taking place on the museum’s plaza need to be authorized; it is something that has been executed carefully for years. TFAM is an iconic site for contemporary art in Taiwan; therefore, it is our mission to respect creative freedom. The proposal for Taipei Flat Arts Museum states that, “Artist, Sun Yi-Jou, will be conducting performances with the purpose of promoting a lifestyle of art, for aesthetics to be made available to the general public.” Based on trust, the museum approved the application based on the stated content. The museum was not informed in advance, nor did the museum try to interfere in any way. Should the event differ from what is stated in the application, the museum reserves the right to handle it according to law, and has the right to cancel the event permit accordingly.
2. The museum would like to remind all of those engaged in this action: art actions should not be used to physically criticize others. As a part of society, artists must be aware of the fundamental laws and orders that govern our society, and must take full responsibility for his/her actions and words.
3. Any suggestions and criticisms for the museum’s themed exhibitions are accepted humbly by the museum, as we are also reaching out for more suggestions for our operations. However, we must stress once again that any suspicions about how the museum’s themed exhibitions have been conducted have already been investigated by the Civil Service Ethics Office of the Taipei City Government, and no unlawful actions were found. Taipei City Department of Cultural Affairs and TFAM are ready to stand up to any public judgment, and our morals and innocence should be respected. The appropriateness of the words and actions by artists must also stand up to public review and legal investigations. We reserve the right to press charges for any wrongful accusations made towards Commissioner Hsieh and the museum.
【Response for TFAM’s Statement】
(Referencing to the statement from TFAM that was targeted at us, me and Wu Mu-Ching wrote the following statement on the same day.)
Taipei Flat Arts Museum Plaza Statement 2011 0528
In regards to secret agents from the political and police sectors that were conducting political surveillance and evidence collection under the name of “The Museum Belongs to the :Commissioner” on the plaza on May 29th, 2011, the following is a statement on behalf of the plaza:
1. Any themed exhibitions to be held on the plaza must go through secret processing; this under the table/black box procedure has been executed carefully for years. The plaza is an iconic plaza for contemporary art in Taiwan, and it is our mission to respect the right to buy and sell by antiquated money sucking enterprises. Regarding “Morenet” Garden, the confidential term on the contract “■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■” should not be revealed. Based on trust, in accordance to the black box application process, we have to approve their proposals based on the pointless evaluation process. However, the plaza has no prior knowledge of other agreements and secret accounts related to the event, and thus will not be held liable. If Morenet Garden is unwilling to make public its contract or secret account, the plaza, as a law-abiding citizen, will have to question the legitimacy of the event.
2. The plaza would like to remind all art museums: spaces intended for art activities should not be used as tools for political mind control. As a member of the neo-liberalism economy, art administrators must be aware that fortune and power are your biggest motivational principles, and must take full legal and historical responsibility for his/her administrative actions and hidden agendas.
3. Any suggestions and criticisms for the plaza by a certain bureau are accepted humbly, as the plaza not only accepts and is even allowing all of you to step on the plaza, and is also reaching out for more suggestions from respected art figures for our operations. However, the plaza must stress once again that in accordance to “Taipei Fine Arts Museum Plaza Leasing and Utilization Management and Execution Policy”, the Taipei Flat Arts Museum conducted on May 22nd, 2011 has not infringed the limitations defined in the aforementioned policy. However, if the Taipei Fine Arts Museum thinks that by issuing a statement, it is then permitted to cancel the performances approved for May 29th, June 6th, June 12th, June 19th, the plaza hereby believes that Taipei Fine Arts Museum has conducted itself without any legal parameters, and therefore the museum’s statement regarding that “no unlawful actions were found” in its doings is due to the lack of law and order in the museum. Since this plaza is a part of the museum, it shall follow the museum in conducting the events in a lack of law and order manner.
Sincerely, Taipei Flat Arts Museum Plaza
Prior to the five-week long Taipei Flat Arts Museum, flyers regarding the project will be distributed to bookstores, eateries, schools, and art and cultural spaces, including on the shelf inside the Taipei Fine Arts Museum.