NOWHERE WE MEET – 2017 TCAA ONLINE CURATORIAL PRACTICE
Curator: TSAI Ping-Ju
Artists: LI Kuei-Pi, WU Sih-Chin, Chen I-Hsuen
During a couple conversations with friends, a common sense of anxiety about finding a direction after school was revealed. This is a broad issue that encompasses many complicated thoughts, which also concerns the more private emotional conflicts of each individual and their respective orientations for future plans. If we follow the pattern of each conversation, it would appear that these various anxieties all result from the matter of “leaving”. “Leaving” signifies “moving”, and as one moves forward, the “past” begins to stretch endlessly behind. Further comparing with my many years of experience with leaving home, perhaps it’s possible to begin thinking about the tie between a “place” and me only after leaving the familiar environment, and only then is “reunion” possible. This “place” isn’t merely a geographical location, but also a context of becoming, or even the mental state and condition of life at a particular timeframe. If we take a further step back, we can incorporate the past into our observation as well; the purpose of the question: ”where will we go from here? ” then gradually becomes clear.
This exhibition thus aims to re-investigate, through artists, the possibilities and implications of the process of “leaving” and “returning”. Their works reveal a focus on a particular form of relation: attempting to describe certain experiences of displacement between a person and his/her surrounding environment. By responding to their respective experiences, they converse with the events that belong to particular periods of their lives. When one places these experiences in the broader context of the societal discourse, they inevitably garner a certain political dimension, or a general anxiety towards the cultural subjectivity. These originate precisely from the colonial history of Taiwan and the various interpretation thereof.
An ambiguous history joined with an uncertain subjectivity causes one’s senses to weaken when situated in a displaced-environment, while a disjointed bond leads to a feeling of distance. Chen Yi-Hsuen’s “Nowhere in Taiwan” begins with his perception of a difference in culture when he studied abroad in New York. This feeling is especially prominent when he returns home to Taiwan on short holidays. Using this conflicting sensation as the basis, Chen personally traveled to Taiwanese towns and cities, and through recording the “cracks” of the Taiwanese landscape continuity in the style of American highway photography, he responds to the irreconcilable feeling of distance when confronted with a culture of a different place. In Wu Shi-Chin’s ”Mt. Eliza” and ”Untitled”, the artist describes foreign scenes through his perspective as a traveler and simultaneously references his imagination and experience of his homeland. Taking a sentimental tone, almost akin to that of a personal diary, Wu narrates a series of events that belong to his life. The previous two artists take experiences of outward displacement as the basis of their re-investigation, through the artistic process, of the individual and culture’s form of existence. On the contrary, Li Kuei-Pi’s “Yong-Li No.1 Breeding Program” explores an inward displacement. He investigates the sense of identity through the “returning” process: when the artist returned home to take care of things after his grandmother had passed, he came across some of her clothes made from colorful floral fabric. From this, he embarked on a journey in search of the nameless flowers on the fabric; simultaneously, he retraced the industrial history closely intertwined with the past of the family, such as fabric shops, the textiles craft, and the rise and fall of the surrounding regions. By working in a lab at an Agricultural Research and Extension Station and garnering help from plant-breeding hobbyists, Lee revived the breed of flowers on his grandmother’s clothes.
The title of this exhibition is inspired by the utopia named “Wu-He-You-Zhi-Xiang” in Zhuangzi, Free and Easy Wandering, which is depicted as a place with an endless extension of empty, desolate plains. However, I prefer the literal, yet profound meaning of the Chinese words “Wu-He-You-Zhi-Xiang”, which not only implies a connection with an ideal realm, but also reflects the state that each of the works here point to, regardless of their focus on inward or outward displacement. The artists’ reflections with differing meanings ultimately converge on the “homeland”, precisely where we are located right now, even if ambiguousness is the most fitting definition of the here and now. On the other hand, “leaving” and “returning”, under the feelings of anxiety, distance, and various conflicting emotions, become ceaseless acts of re-imagination and searches for belonging. Here, I’m reminded of the words from a chat with an artist: “Sometimes, when we are in the midst of a relation, it is almost unnoticeable. Only when one withdraws from the surrounding environment do our feelings towards this relation become clearer and stronger.”