In recent years, it has been a well-accepted fact to attribute Taiwan’s modernization and rapid economic growth to the period between 1950-1979 when the USA dominated and helped reform the political, economic, cultural structure in Taiwan. Based on such a “historical perspective,” the propaganda held by AIT (American Institute in Taiwan), the Taiwanese government, and academic research centers, the highly selected “empirical” documents/data/records, and the warm and touching stories narrated by the American “advertisers” in Taiwan are everywhere in TV programs, documentaries, newspapers, books, and exhibitions to beautify the American dominance as a nostalgic past with “sweet memories.”
Just like every empire/state apparatus, when one tries to “re-encode” and “re-embed” others’ historical memories, it is not only about to manipulate the historical interpretation and to legitimize the authority, but also the “re-transformation” of an individual’s contemporary perception, desire, and imagination.
According to the “history of Taiwan” written from the perspective of “individual memories,” Taiwan between 1950 and 1979 was not “an island of sweet memories.” After the Korean War broke out in 1950, the American government who had once given up supporting KMT by the end of the Chinese Civil War immediately ordered the Seventh Fleet to block the Taiwan Straits – to maintain its dominance in the Pacific Area as well as to prevent the Chinese Communists’ army being sent to support the Korean War. Meanwhile, CIA , under the name of a private enterprise Western Enterprises Inc., resumed the collaboration with KMT, who had just retreated from China to Taiwan, to form the Anti-Communist National Salvation Army.
Later, under the Mutual Defense Treaty between the United States of America and the Republic of China (1954─1979), the American government showed full support to KMT’s dictatorial and anti-communist Military Curfew and Wartime System (1949-1987). During this period of time, leftists and dissidents were hunted in every cruel way one could think of. Meanwhile, it combined Treaty of Peace with Japan (also known as San Francisco Peace Treaty, 1951), another treaty predominated by the USA, to decide Taiwan as a sovereignty-undecided state. Military and economic policies (1951─1965) were passed based on American Aid Diplomacy to include Taiwan in the USA’s military supply system and the capitalist cross-nation division system. Consequently, Export Processing Zones were set up for highly-polluting and labor-intensive industries. KMT’s anti-communist education and the USA’s Cultural Cold War propaganda within the Capitalist Bloc had thus successfully transformed Taiwan as a pro-American/anti-communist base with strong faith in capitalism.
Since the neoliberalism-oriented economic reform in China in 1978, the USA officially recognized PRC as the government of China and broke off diplomatic relations with Taiwan in 1979. Meanwhile, the Taiwan Relations Act was passed as Domestic Law in the USA to regulate the “undecided” relation with the pro-American/anti-communist Taiwan as if it were a dependent territory or a state of America. In 1984, under the pressure of the USA’s revenge trading, it sped up the neoliberal policies of “liberation, internationalization, and systemization.” In 1987, due to the change of situation in the Cold War, the USA’s continuous pressure on Taiwan to fully open up its market to American, and the liberation and resistance movement in Taiwan, KMT was forced to terminate the 38-year Martial Law.
In 1995, the USA-led organization WTO (World Trade Organization) was established. Taiwan, after having been dominated by the USA for a long time and almost become a dependent state of the USA, joined WTO in 2002 and continued its position in the globalized neoliberal structure. The repetitive process of “history re-encoding” and “history re-embedding” operated by the empire/state apparatus has erased any local history, social context, individual memory, and collective imagination, turning the society into a black hole.
The idea of Empire’s BordersⅡ–Western Enterprises, Inc originated from the personal experiences of Chen Chieh-Jen’s father, who used to be a member of the Anti-Communist National Salvation Army. When he passed away in the early 2006, the only things left were a half-fictional autobiography, a list of soldiers killed when the army launched an attack on Mainland China and the fleet was sunk by Chinese People's Liberation Army, a worn uniform, and an empty photo album – on its cover used to be a photo taken when the Anti-Communist National Salvation Army was trained by Western Enterprises, Inc., but the photo was burned by Chen’s father several years later.
In the video, Chen adopts a poetic dialectical form to metaphorically visualize Western Enterprises, Inc, the emblem of an empire, as a labyrinth of Taiwan’s 60-year post-war history as well as a barren land where people are deprived of any memory.
The video shows the son examines the things his father left behind on the anniversary of the father’s death – the empty photo album which fails to provide any history witness, the list of death which was so true but could no longer be validated, the half-fictional autobiography based on self-censorship, and the old uniform separating from the body deceased. In the house permeated with incense smoke, the son puts on his father’s uniform. The obscure image reveals the silhouette of the son and the father becoming one to begin a journey return to Western Enterprises, Inc.
Inside Western Enterprises, Inc., the son/father wanders around various spaces scattered with the logos of MAAG (Military Assistance Advisory Group). Again and again, on different floors, he sees the anti-communist army who returns to search for their own files, the White Terror’s undocumented victims who cannot leave the building, the contemporary unemployed and the dispatched workers trapped among the abandoned machines. The crowd and the phantoms erased from the state-written history assist each other to Western Enterprises, Inc. and gather on the dais at the assembly hall of MAAG -- we thus witness an assembly action where individuals’ memories and imagination finally confront the historical perspective dominated by the empire/state apparatus…
So far, no image of the real headquarter of Western Enterprise, Inc. has been found. The fictional building in the video is an abandoned chemical plant built in the 1950s during the American Aid period. The “scenes” which signify various historical periods are built by Chen, performers, and other participators with the existing objects left in the building.