Inspired by the scientific pioneers during the era of neo-imperialism, these two conceptual sculptures reexamine today’s economic system and cultural status quo from a perspective of research and pure aesthetics. The structure of the works resembles the form of a totem pole and is divided into three parts. A rough-edged shipping crate serves as the basis of the structure. Its middle section is a hand-dyed pedestal built with joinery. The helmet-looking mystical object at the top consists of stained glass, often seen in church windows. The rituals of transportation, assembly, and stacking hint at the inevitable collision between regional culture, aesthetics and religion as tectonic shifts occur in economy, faith, and politics.
The Color Systems of Mr. Mori Ushinosuke and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is also composed of three parts: a triangular pyramid with stained glass that is predominantly in dark blue, a triangular pedestal built with joinery and dyed white, as well as a shipping crate. Being one of the two names in the title of this work, Mori Ushinosuke previously served as the translator for Japanese army, and later came to be known for his long-term anthropological research in Taiwan; he mysteriously disappeared on the sea in 1926. The second name in the title — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe — was famous for his color theory and his final words “More Light!” (“Mehr Licht!”), which was in fact less epic or dramatic than it might later became. The phrase was rather a common usage: “Open the shutter in the bedroom so that more light comes in.” (“Mach doch den Fensterladen im Schlafgemach auf, damit mehr Licht hereinkomme.”) Later reinterpreted, his words have reincarnated into a spiritual symbol that consolidates cultural identities, a symbol that the Goethe Institut still counts on today to promote German culture around the world.
The crates, pedestals, and helmets are deliberately designed as movable objects that are easy to transport, assemble, and exhibit. This presentation not only resonates with Marcel Duchamp’s La Boîte-en-Valise — where Duchamp turned the work into a storage and exhibit unit which acts as a box for moving purposes — but also evokes the exotic world fairs held in the age of neo-imperialism imbued with neo-liberal ideology, where the behavior of collecting was manifested in fetishism. Such examples include the World’s Fair: Columbian Exposition in 1893 in Chicago, the Japan-British Exhibition in 1910 in London, and the Indochina at the Colonial Exhibition in Marseille (L’Indochine à l’Exposition Coloniale à Marseille) in 1922 in Marseille. Ensconced in expandable and collapsible shipping crates, these two sculptures become a clever manifestation of primitivism, geometric abstraction, modernism, highbrow, lowbrow, cultural colonial history, as well as the production of contemporary art.