What associations does an apple bring forth – a forbidden fruit in Genesis, the story about apple peeling at midnight, or the brand logo with a bite? An apple core is a symbol commonly used for non-recyclable or food waste but it has become an analogy in this exhibition. An apple represents the fetish of technology in our world whilst the core stands for the point of origin in nature. Is it too devouring to have a mouthful of goodies but hope that nothing changes?
Over the long weekend in June, AM Post headed to a gallery in Neihu District, Taipei, also known as Technology Park. Liang Gallery is a three-storey freestanding architecture with its sun-lit and high-ceiling exhibition space surrounded by the commercial complexes. From oil painting in the very beginning to new media art in recent years, the gallery has a strong local clientele for twenty two years and an ambition to grow its global presence.
Claudia Chen, the gallery director, assures, “Liang Gallery has a solid track record in promoting Taiwanese artists. We have works by top-notch classic artists as well as award-winning up-and-coming artists. We have focused on growing Taiwan market in the past two decades and documenting the contemporary art history; it’s time for our artists to shine in Asian and international platforms.” Chen revealed her confidence in delivering this goal in two years when we were chatting in the cafeteria inside the gallery.
At the time of printing, the gallery is holding a group exhibition of nine Taiwanese artists. There are predominantly video works with a few installations, paintings and sculptures. Chen explains, “It’s our intention to introduce digital and video art to our audience. Taiwan is advanced in computing and electronic parts and we are at the technology hub. There is definitely a synergy.”
The exhibition entitled “Apple Core” was curated by Luo He-lin, a young new media artist pursuing his doctorate degree in electrical engineering and computer science at National Taiwan University. When he was incubating the theme a year ago, Taiwan was amid discussions and protests against building the country’s fourth nuclear power plant. Extending the nuke threat to safety of mankind, Luo aims to examine a fetish of technology by using an analogy of apples. Having the apple pulp eaten, would one be left with the core which is said to be poisonous? “The core is like the origin to explore the relationship of science and nature. There are two subjects in the exhibition: the idealism of science and the materialism of nature. We intend to identify the divinity in a post-technology age as we oppose to technology while try to explore the rationality of nature when we return to it,” explains Luo.
In this regard, the curator finds both sides of the forbidden fruit from the works by Hsu Chia-wei. He is no stranger to many for his participation in Venice Biennale and Hugo Boss Asia Art Award last year. Interested in digging out forgotten histories encircling Taiwan, Hsu tries to construct the discovery through his visual language.
Marshal Tie Jia (2012-ongoing) is an attempt to connect the conjunction of modernity and the mythical frog god Marshal Tie Jia who was born in Jiangxi, China but his temple was exiled on Turtle Island, an islet under Taiwan’s jurisdiction during Chiang Kai-Shek’s retreat to Taiwan. Hsu discovered Turtle Island on a family trip to Matsu Island then he decided to do something about it. He met the villagers and was told that he should inform not the county government but Marshal Tie Jia Himself. He communicated his wish to rebuild the temple on the island at the ritual of inquiry but the Marshal declined. Following His direction, the artist remade the temple in a studio and made videos at two sites – the Marshal’s favourite Min opera on Turtle Island and Nuo dance, an exorcism ritual sharing roots of the frog belief in Jiangxi. In the exhibition, the videos and their imageries are the key element of Hsu’s visual language. The documentation of correspondence between the Marshal and the artist, including an altar table with a poem written by the Marshal – you hear me alright, there are indistinct Chinese characters written on the white square table by Marshal Tie Jia during an inquiry ritual – is also on display.
When I was totally absorbed into this celestial art-making journey, Huai Mo Village (2012-ongoing) pulled me down to the ground. The village lives with a lesser-known history of Taiwan: after the defeat of the Kuomintang at the Chinese civil war, soldiers from Yunnan ended up settling at the Thai-Myanmar border. The troop being instructed to retreat to Taiwan remained undercover for a counterattack which never came. Later on, many people grew poppies and assisted in drug trafficking to sustain their living in a foreign land. The video made by Hsu was taken by the orphans whose parents were sentenced to death for the trade or had died for drug-related disputes. In the video, the artist stood back to observe and let the orphans to be the interviewer, the crew and the crowd listening to the stories from their “father”, the director of the orphanage who was once an intelligence officer. The exhibition also includes a collaborative project with the veterans – they reconstructed an architectural model of the former intelligence bureau the exact same way as they did forty years ago.
People love stories; Hsu creates intriguing visual narratives about the historical, geographical and cultural regimes in Asia that end up environing the identity of Taiwan. These two projects happen to fall along the invisible line of defense during the Cold War. To the artist, his intention is not merely to preserve, “I attempt to unfold the past but it won’t or can’t be its original form. I want to make new happenings.” Recently, Hsu has been enquired about building museums for Marshal Tie Jia and for the intelligence site at Thai-Myanmar border respectively by both communities. In Hsu’s case, art gets the community into participation and provoking new thoughts.
Chang Li-ren creates video installations concerning hyperreality between reality and its simulation. Model Community (2008-2009) simulates 5-channel news footage of a shooting rampage in a neighbourhood. Led by the shooter’s point of view in the middle channel, viewers are pulled into witnessing the killing across the road. Wide-angle views as seen on television news and surveillance cameras inside the buildings offer passive viewing yet help construct the full picture. Submerging in the adrenaline rush, the work confuses fact and fiction caused by the deadly weapon and the electronic media.
Graffiti artist Candy Bird also reminds us the dark side of technology in everyday life. On one side of the painting, a character is holding a pistol ready to get somebody killed. At the flip side, the character phubbing over his phone got stabbed at the back without noticing it. Do you see yourself in it? “I do art for a better world. It would be more interesting to graffiti in public spaces, leave them there, and to let people interact with it.” Candy Bird hopefully remarks.
Tsai Chieh-hsin has her hopes expressed through colours of nature. The rainbow on the white paper-pulp sculpture represents hopes and eureka moments brought to viewers. In the exhibition space, the fairy’s hair at one end of the arch is pointing to the birds’ tail on the other. “Such way of presentation enables imaginations of the unseen bridge. I want to leave space for viewers to interpret and associate with their experiences. I want my work to be simple and easy to approach,” explains Tsai. This bite of the apple is so sweet that I wish so much it would be real.
The exhibition also featuring video works by Chou Yu-cheng and Chen I-chun, paintings by Lin Wen-tsao and Lin Wei-hsiang as well as installation and sculptural work by Lu Chih-yun, runs till July 27.
Have you watched an online video of a person eating an apple from the bottom? In such a way you won’t have the core. The mystically poisonous core is gone! If “Apple Core” is the destination of this journey, the works of art are apple pulp – some sweet some sour. You can choose how to start biting and how to take care of the core.
塗鴉藝術家Candy Bird亦是探討科技的陰暗面。其中一幅作品，一面向畫廊外，是一個持槍人物，反過來向畫廊的一面那人持着的是手機，而他因為太專注低頭，沒留意背已受了箭。要觀眾反思自己的行為嗎？「做藝術是為了世界變好一點。我還是比較喜歡塗鴉在公共空間出現、由它們與人對話。」Candy Bird一面盼望的說。
(The edited article was published in a.m.post July edition. Photos taken by me.)