Invisible Calls: 2018 London Design Biennale
Time: 2018.09 04-23
Venue: Somerset House
Biennial Theme: Emotional States
In response to the theme of the 2018 London Design Biennale, Emotional States, the Taiwan Pavilion has chosen a central idea for its exhibit—Invisible Calls. Many protest movements have risen in recent years amidst Asia’s regional development and drastic changes in its political and economic landscape. These “visible cries” reflect the immense dissatisfaction of the younger generation concerning the imbalanced sociopolitical and economic structures and the intervention of external political powers. These struggles have incited artist to cross over into the social arena and become part of the cultural awakening. Artists endeavor to highlight the underlying and suppressed social problems in Taiwanese society, using art as their mode of protest and transforming the unspeakable realities in the international arena and contradictions within Taiwan into “Invisible Calls.”
The theme “Invisible Calls” stems from the bio-political problems between the individual and his/her country. The concealed “vocal” sources different from social mainstream ideologies are investigated using the different expressions and contexts of artistic creation, digging into people’s collective identity with regard to geographic environment, national ideology, and also taking a bottom-up approach to examine individuals’ pursuits of self-recognition under social regulations by looking at the different conditions of their life. Through their works, artists give a “voice” to different life scenarios and translate the emotional states shared by people from different cultures. These Invisible Calls are heard, exchanged, and resonated through the exhibit and the conversations it opens.
At the 2018 London Design Biennale, curator presents “Invisible Calls” in two major contexts – “The Right to Space/Silent Occupation” and “The Right to Narration/Text Opposition.” Under these curatorial contexts, Su has analyzed the many artworks in Art Bank Taiwan’s collection to elucidate the creative ideologies, unique styles, and creative contexts of different artists. He plans to collaborate with artists Cheng-Chang Wu and Che-Yu Hsu in designing art projects to be exhibited at the biennale.
“The Right to Space/Silent Occupation”
In Taiwan’s 30-year transition into its current democratic political regime, the country has experienced the lifting of martial law and party bans, freedom of the press, political transition, and release of economic and social powers. As people of the island grow dependent on neo-liberalism and capital markets, they gradually forget the perceptual structures they once had with the land and environment. The co-dependent relationships people used to have with the land is being gradually eroded and plundered away, and the loss of links with space seems to take with it people’s existence. One of the fundamental missions of artists is to recreate certain situations through action or performance. They seek to highlight the insignificant voices marginalized by mainstream values. Cheng-Chang Wu was a photojournalist. He adopts the strategy of long-term field research in his photography project “Vison of Taiwan” to capture the realities of the petrochemical industry, driftwood beaches, areca palm forests, and private alters of worship. His lens reveals the environmental pollution and land damage caused by human development.
Different from the usual loud and exhausting campaigns for land and space, Wu injects himself into these places, erasing all features that may identify him and using silent body language to express the superfluous submission of the individual. The camera flash in his hand is like an organic tissue stemming from his body. Silent movements of his arm provide repeated exposure for his photosensitive material until the subject matter becomes overexposed and facial features are utterly erased. However, the faceless images seemingly incite more emotions, fully expressing the reflection on and awareness of the land environment. Wu uses images as the media to besiege and fight against space, silently occupying the residual traces of a diseased society. Pale contours form an alienating function that distances one from the space, and the bodily experience and deep gazes mark the begging of the recapture of spatial cognitive structures. These experiences are accompanied by the releasing of the enormous potential for change.
Creative Concepts: The Noise-Vision of Taiwan
The “Vison of Taiwan” Series captures the artificial landscapes of Taiwan through photography. Upon seeing the images, the viewers’ eyes affirm that these are “beautiful landscape photos”. However, underlying every image there are unheard voices of anger and appeal, voices about environmental destruction, muffled by mainstream values. These “modern-day noises” gradually surface, voicing the complex sentiments of beauty and sorrow in Taiwan through people of different socioeconomic status. The creator has collected the stories and voices behind each “beautiful landscape photo” and has combined videos with music, environmental sound effects, and vocals that reflect the issues behind the images. Woven together, the elements in the Noise of Taiwan’s “Beauty” present the emotional landscape of this island.
“The Right to Narration/Text Opposition”
We live in an era where social events are ever-exploited by the mass media. News reports—which were meant to help viewers understand the entirety of events—are so exaggerated that they seem like a scripted drama performance because the media have their eyes on nothing but the click-through rates. Media manipulation has dehumanized people in the stories and turned them into the media’s puppets. These victims of symbolization are dispossessed of personality and attitude, becoming the nameless in new reports. Call upon the remnant memories and souls of the nameless in deflated events and rewrite their personal stories. From the top down, use a narrative that stings the audience and meddles with their emotions, allowing them to feel the helplessness and absurdity of the individual in the grand scheme of things. Che-Yu Hsu’s “Microphone Test: A Letter to Huang Guo-Jun” retains his signature news-style presentation. He incorporates hand-drawn illustrations into real-world images, changing real people into deflated cartoon characters. Hsu tells the story of the suicide of Huang, a young author. He incorporates self-imagery, revealing the most intimate memories of himself and his artist friend. The project is presented in multi narratives, using multi-person perspectives to narrate the story. By doing so, Hsu extends the coverage of the core issue from one individual to many individuals and deconstructs the publicity of news events using the intimacy of personal narrations while at the same time recording how memories are constructed and viewed.
Creative concepts: Lacuna by Che-Yu Hsu & Wan-Yin Chen (Script writer)
This video is about my brother’s family memories in the form of animation, and extend from these memories to two criminal cases that took place in the surrounding area: one teenager was murdered, which happened at an Internet café where my brother often used to go to in his adolescent years, and this event was made into an illustration on the news. Another event also happened in my hometown; someone witnessed a dog wandering on the street, with a female’s head too rotten to be identified in its mouth. A police imagined and portrayed the female’s face before her death according to the shape of the skull. The two events were separately made into portraitures on public media—a manga illustration made with 3D software by news media, and the portrait of the victim drawn with pencil by the police. I visited the police who produced the head profile of the female, as well as the storyboard director who made the news animation. By exploring their graphic techniques, I attempt to construct the images of my brother’s memories in my work.
Cheng-Chang Wu was born in Pingtung, Taiwan, in 1965. Wu obtained a Master’s Degree in Photography from Savannah College of Art and Design in 2000 and is currently an assistant professor in the Department of Visual Communication Design, Ling Tung University. Wu was formerly a photojournalist for Business Weekly, Taiwan Daily, and Brother Magazine, as well as a full-time professional photographer for Formosa Plastics Group. Wu has won the 12th Visual Arts Prize of Li Chun-Shan Foundation in 2012, Lishui Photography Award in 2011, The Power of Self Art Award in 2011, and Taipei Arts Awards in 2009.
Che-Yu Hsu was born in Taipei, Taiwan, in 1985. Hsu has an MA from the Graduate Institute of Plastic Arts, Tainan National University of The Arts, and a BA from the Department of Art, National Chiayi University, majoring in art history and digital art. Specialized in painting, video, installation, and new media creation, Hsu received the Taoyuan Contemporary Art Award in 2010, Kaohsiung Award in 2011, Gold Medal of New Media Art in the National Art Exhibit in 2011, and Taishin Arts Award in 2016.
Advisor: Ministry of Culture
Organizer: National Taiwan Museum of Fine Art(Art Bank Taiwan)
Co-organizer: Taiwan and Taipei Representative Office in the U.K.