Tuesday, May 20, 2008

2003 Taiwan Pavilion at Venice

Alumni artist from the 2001 Venice exhibition, Lin Shu-min curated the Limbo Zone with four artists. Only one of the artists lives and works in Taiwan, and which made Lin’s position interesting: who best can represent Taiwan? Artists living abroad or locally?

Daniel Lee exhibited 108 Windows based on Han Shan’s Temple tolling of the bells to communicate with the Buddhist underworld. His digital composites of humans and animal faces were projected at the toll of a bell to refer to reincarnation.

Yuan Goang-ming showed digitally manipulated images of Taipei’s busy urban streets erased of humans and vehicles in his City Disqualified series.

Cheang Shu-lea imagined a futuristic world where the currency was garlic and everything could be tracked on the Internet; thus her installation included on-line computers and piles of garlic.

Lee Ming-wei presented his sleeping project in which one invited guest could spend the night with him in the space of the prigione. Two beds on rollers could be moved to enhance the closeness or distance of the intimacy that took place.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

2001 Taiwan Pavilion at Venice

For 2001, curator Kao Chien-hui’s premise of a living cell brought together 5 diverse artists. The theme was “Living Cell: Soul of Mankind.” Chicago-based curator Kao Chien-hui writes that the Taiwanese artists share the idea of “man – his life, his image, his spirit and his conceptions of himself.”

Lin Ming-hong (Michael Lin) A Taiwanese floral print mural blends as decorative image with architectural setup making the work border the space between painting (2-dimensional space) and architecture (3-dimensional space). And the pink peonies softened the rustic chambers of the prigione. Enhancing the architectural structure, the painting creates a rosy glow thus softening the gloomy nature of the space.

Wang Wen-chih
Wang’s fragrant cypress sculptural installation allowed viewers to take a rest; a work that was simple, yet elegiac , “Beyond the Site” is a cylindrical shelter composed of sweet-smelling wooden planks of Taiwan cypress, sandalwood, camphor and padauk, connected by intertwined vines rather than nails. Viewers are invited to take off their shoes and climb into the work to relax and meditate. The artwork helps one reflect on the healing aspects of nature and would have been more effective in its own room.

Liu Shih-fen
Her installation of an autopsy table with surgical images of herself and the sound of breaking glass created a theater about the body. “Deciphering the Genetic Map of Love: Eyeballs of a Lover” speculated on love and desire and shows a cyborg body. One enters a doorway that is flanked by a transparent spiky inflatable border. Inside the darkened space, surgical tables are set in a cross formation. Upon the tables, small domed cylinder lightboxes linked with a multitude of plastic tubing contain digital images of MRIs of the artist’s heart and juxtaposed with nude photos of herself. In addition, a video loop of animated bodies and the sound of breaking glass is projected onto the ceiling.

Lin Shu-min
Lin Shu-min installed holograms of people’s heads into the floor for his popular piece titled “Glass Ceiling.” The viewer steps on and looks down upon the various portraits of people from around the world. Lin said his work implies that we are all in a certain place trying to achieve a higher plateau.

Chang Chien-chi
Magnum photographer Chang Chien-Chi exhibits his photo-documentary series titled “The Chain.” The large black and white silver gelatin prints show pairs of mental patients from the infamous Lung Fa Tang asylum linked together by large metal chains attached to the waist. These moving photos intelligently installed in a claustrophobic dungeon-like chamber emit a potent emotional charge. The numb and sterile gaze of these people reflects the vast emptiness of our society.

1999 Taiwan Pavilion at Venice

For the 1999 Taiwan Pavilion, curator J.J. Shih’s “Close to Open” included three artists: Hwang Buh-Ching, Chen Chieh-Jen, and Hung Tung-Lu.

Hwang Buh-Ching’s Feast in the Wild contained ten tables with plates of herbs and drawings made of seeds stuck on netting which connected his nature walks to the rapid modernization of Taiwan.

Chen Chieh-Jen’s digital images of torture scenes relates to his street performance pre-martial law and to Buddhist sacrificial imagery. His combination of the historical with the topical makes him one of the most urgent artists.

Hung Tung-Lu’s training as a painter gives him a dynamic graphic sensibility which he applied to his digital lenticular imagery that combined Manga figures in front of traditional Asian architectural sites such as temples to show that contemporary Asian culture looks back to its roots even though it looks forward to new imagery.

1997 Taiwan Pavilion at Venice

The Selection committee for the 1997 Taiwan Pavilion was Fumio Nanjo, Hsiao Chin, Huang Hai-Ming and Lu Ching-Fu and they chose five artists for the theme “Facing Faces” to show the various faces of Taiwan society from the struggles with political identity to rapid commercialization to the deep traditions of Eastern spiritual thought.

Wu Tien-chang
Wu’s combination of painting and photography with gaudy frames spoke about Taiwan’s post-martial law identity and its repressed issues finally becoming spoken.

Yao Jui-chung
Completing his compulsory military service the previous year, Yao exhibited drawings and photos that spoke about dominance, territory and military might.

Wang Jun-jieh
Wang’s virtual travel agency which included a website, digital photos, advertisements and testimonials was an ironic commentary on the rapid commercialization of life in Taiwan.

Lee Ming-tse
Lee’s figurative paintings of Buddha faces and elements from traditional Chinese paintings linked the past with the present and created a contemplative space.

Chen Chien-pei
Chen’s lotus installation and other imagery and materials from Buddhist practice allowed a meditative place in the middle of a busy art exhibition.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

1995 Taiwan Pavilion at Venice

In 1995, Taiwan inaugurated its pavilion at the Venice Biennale. A jury which included Wolfgang Becker, Francoise Chatel, Lee Chjarng-jiunn, Lee Ming-ming, and Enrico Pedrini selected five artists who best exemplified contemporary Taiwan: Hou Chun-ming, Huang Chih-yang, Huang Chin-ho, Lien Te-ching and Wu Mali.

Hou Chun-ming: Combining traditional Chinese woodblock technique with sexually explicit images, Hou satirically commented on society’s hypocrisies and perversions.

Huang Chih-yang: Gestural ink painting on rice paper scrolls of human figures evoke primal energy and connect tradition with exploration.

Huang Chin-ho: In Ho’s brightly colored oil paintings, equal weight is given to the stream of imagery from folk culture, Buddhism, Taoism and to the gaudiness of pop culture.

Lien Te-ching: Witty Chinese phrases juxtaposed with paintings of landscapes, consumer goods, or political images reflected on the condition of openness finally available to Taiwanese artists.

Wu Mali: Wu’s cerebral installation “Library” contained shredded western canonical texts in glass jars on shelves.

The images show Wu Mali's shredded texts and one of Hou Chun-ming's woodcuts.

Taiwan Pavilion at the Venice Biennale

The Venice Biennale began in 1895 and is the granddaddy of all international art biennials. The Venice Biennale has national pavilions of various countries, while also exhibiting an international curated exhibition in the Arsenale.

Taiwan was the second Asian Pavilion after Japan. Starting in 1995, the exhibition takes place every two years in the Palazzo delle Prigioni (prison) on the Grand Canal near the famous Bridge of Sighs and is located within walking distance from the famed San Marco Plaza. The striking structure of darkened crypt-like rooms and ornate chandeliers sets the tone for introspection and contemplation of the impressive art contained within.

Since its inception, the Taiwan Pavilion is noteworthy for its consistent and well-presented exhibitions. Due to the unresolved political situation between Taiwan and China, however, Taiwan is not listed as a country but is listed under the rubric of the Taipei Fine Arts Museum. On alternative years, Taiwan exhibits for the architectural Venice Biennale.

The Venice Biennale is one of the few opportunities for Taiwan to engage in the global arena, so the one strategy the museum has been using is to use the space to showcase a handful of Taiwanese artists at one time. Since the Taiwan identity is relatively new and fragile, the showcase features ethnic Taiwanese only. Aboriginal artists and immigrant artists from Japan, Europe and North America are excluded. The Taiwan Pavilion will probably not be used as a situation to question identity/nationality as in the example of China-born artist Huang Yong-ping who represented the French Pavilion in 1999.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Taiwan, a sub-tropical island, is full of paradoxes: high-tech in some sectors, and developing in others. Vagueness and ambiguities abound. Affordable living, connection with nature and urbansity, and the availability of up-to-date technologies make Taiwan an artist’s paradise.

There are so many good contemporary artists to choose from and this list is far from inclusive. This book highlights approximately 100 Taiwanese artists. New artists appear on the scene regularly while new spaces open and others close. Because things are constantly in flux, it is impossible to have a concise overview. So this is a general overview that focuses on Taiwanese artists who were exhibiting regularly and showing up on the radar screen.

At the beginning of the 21st century, more artists from abroad including Japan, North America and Europe started calling Taiwan home. Since the Taiwan identity is somewhat fragile, the art scene is not yet as inclusive as say Berlin or New York’s. However, it will change in due time. The low cost of living and mild climate are salient features for artists.

In addition to artists and art spaces around the island, two chapters focus on the Taiwan Pavilion at the Venice Biennale and the Taipei Biennial at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum as these two particular exhibitions are Taiwan’s foray with the contemporary international art scene.


Contemporary art in Taiwan is varied, diverse, encompassing and unfortunately is not as widely known globally as it deserves. It is with this hope that this publication can be a bridge to let more people know about the dynamic art that happens in Taiwan.

Over the years I’ve met many visiting curators, museum directors, critics, artists and basically art lovers who really wanted to learn more about what Taiwan had to offer and were frustrated that reliable information just wasn’t available. These visitors would often be taken by well-meaning guides to puppet shows, Chinese opera performances or tea ceremonies, which are nice in itself, but was frustrating when the visitors really wanted to learn about the avant-garde, the experimental, and to encounter the outspoken art works of the performance and digital worlds.

There seems to be a preconception in Taiwan, by Taiwanese arts administrators, that North American and European art visitors want to see puppet shows and go to a ceramics town. I have met many of these visitors who wanted to learn about Taiwanese contemporary art. Hopefully this book can help change some of these preconceptions.

Surprisingly there were no English books available looking at Taiwanese contemporary art after the post-martial law period. Anytime I tried researching an artist on the internet, it would often be one of my articles would show up in the search. After writing about Taiwanese artists for close to 10 years, I realized that I did know a lot of information and can now share it with you, the reader. I had great difficulty in sparking interest in local publishers so decided to start posting this information on a blog.

This (un-yet published book) acts as a guidebook, as a sort of a who’s who, to get first-time visitors acquainted with Taiwan’s diverse and vibrant art scene in an easy digestible format. This book serves to whet the appetite and is by no means an art historical tome. It just captures a moment in time to give an overview of contemporary art in Taiwan.

This book focuses on artists who define themselves as Taiwanese so does not include artists of other nationalities who create art in Taiwan, such as myself. The artists included in this book have had a certain level of visibility over the years.

It is my hope that this brief introduction will serve as a cultural bridge between Taiwan’s artists with the rest of the world.

Chinese names are listed as surname first, followed by the hyphenated first name and with an English name in parenthesis if applicable. The character is printed to help identify the artist.

- Susan Kendzulak, 2008