Contemporary Asian Photograph is an exhibition series that takes a close look at contemporary culture and art practice from Asian artists’ perspectives. The exhibitions concentrate on specific pieces of history and life experiences, but also attempt to construct or discover relationships between historical contexts from varied perspectives. Specifically, they make observations either from different geographical locations synchronously, or from the same location at different times. The personal experiences and collective consciousness are linked with multiple historical trajectories charted by the vicissitudinal political and social forces.

In “Crisis of Now” of this series we invited three Taiwanese artists—YAO Jui-Chung, YANG Che-Yi and Yunyi LIU—to present their contemporary photography through multi-cultural observations. Each of these projects demonstrates the persistent authority that photographers have always relied on—that a camera allows you to step into situations and take a look and also to step back, reflect and comment. The title of the exhibition is direct reference to the historical background, the turbulent political and social landscape of Asia in this timeframe. In recent years, Asia has not only arisen as an urgent geopolitical issue thanks to the wrestling among these historical driving forces, but has also become the gasoline and electricity by which the engine of capitalist market is powered for the process of neoliberal globalization. It has also served as a wrestling ring for different forces in international politics, which is by no means a result of historical contingency but a product in response to times of crisis.

(German version) Contemporary Asian Photograph ist eine Ausstellungsreihe, die zeitgenössische Kultur und künstlerische Praxis aus der Perspektive asiatischer Künstler beleuchtet. Die Ausstellungen konzentrieren sich auf spezifische Stücke der Geschichte und Lebenserfahrungen, aber auch der Beziehungen zu historischem Kontext aus verschiedenen Perspektiven zu konstruieren. Insbesondere machen sie Beobachtungen entweder von verschiedenen geografischen Standorten aus synchron oder von demselben Standort zu unterschiedlichen Zeitpunkten. Die persönlichen Erfahrungen und das kollektive Bewusstsein sind mit mehreren historischen Verläufen verknüpft, die von den politischen und gesellschaftlichen Kräften dargestellt werden.

In „Crisis of Now“ dieser Serie wurden drei taiwanische Künstler - YAO Jui-Chung, YANG Che-Yi und Yunyi LIU - eingeladen, ihre zeitgenössische Fotografie durch multikulturelle Beobachtungen zu präsentieren. Jedes dieser Projekte demonstriert die beharrliche Autorität, auf die sich Fotografen seit jeher verlassen haben: Eine Kamera ermöglicht es Ihnen, in Situationen zu geraten und einen Blick darauf zu werfen und auch zurückzutreten, nachzudenken und zu kommentieren. Der Titel der Ausstellung bezieht sich direkt auf den historischen Hintergrund der turbulenten politischen und sozialen Landschaft Asiens in diesem Zeitraum. In den letzten Jahren hat sich Asien nicht nur aufgrund des Wrestlings zwischen diesen historischen Triebkräften zu einem dringenden geopolitischen Problem entwickelt, sondern ist auch zum Benzin und Strom geworden, mit dem der Motor des kapitalistischen Marktes für die neoliberale Globalisierung angetrieben wird. Es diente auch als Ringkampf für verschiedene Kräfte in der internationalen Politik, die keinesfalls auf historische Ereignisse zurückzuführen ist, sondern ein Produkt, das auf Krisenzeiten reagiert.


Crisis of Now
Exhibition views
Exhibition Setup : Fabian Leukert ( Berlin )
Photos:Andreia Bickenbach
( Berlin/ Cologne )

When the new semester began in February 2010, YANG Jui-Chung, presiding over the first classes of the fine arts departments at Taipei National University of the Arts and the National Taiwan Normal University, asked the students about their expectations for this class: did they wish to follow the normal class format, where the teacher would teach relevant knowledge, or would they like to use the class to investigate “mosquito halls”? The fifty-some students at the two universities decided to make a Taiwan-wide “mosquito hall” survey as the assignment for the semester. Through half a year of investigation across the island, the students identified 147 “mosquito hall” locations, compiling the 684-page book Mirage – Disused Public Property in Taiwan , which outlines an absurd situation in Taiwanese society: “misguided policy is worse than corruption.” Meanwhile, this artistic action was included in the 2010 Taipei Biennial Movement Project. It was widely reported in the media and attracted a high level of attention from the government, even prompting a call from the Vice President and a visit from the Premier of the Executive Yuan, who advised all the relevant departments to engage in an inspection of the listed facilities, ordering them to revive all the “mosquito halls” within a year or consider demolishing them. Through eight years of work, over 330 students and six books, this art action was like a stone thrown into a pond, sending ripples outwards, shaking a presumably calm society and forcing them to face reality. The significance and value of this “participation” lay in the fact that it is both a collective action by YANG Jui-Chung and his students, and that it used artistic methods to hold a social issue up to scrutiny and engage people’s awareness.

In his professional exploration and recording based on a scientific environmental study, YANG Che-Yi endows observed landscape with a tranquil and ethereal beauty through his poetic vision. The “Shan-Shui” (2005+) series documents the limestone mines of Taiwan-funded cement enterprises in China. The artist records gradual destruction and weakening of giant mountains caused by mechanical excavation, attesting to the fading of mountain forests under progressive ruination. The quiet mountainscape without a soul is, however, filled with traces of human invasion into nature, showing clear-cut traces, paths run through by excavation vehicles and haze composed of thick dust. YANG Che-Yi’s “Shan-Shui” represents a vision beyond concrete mountain while paying a negative homage to humankind. Real pictures of modern landscape are like quiet sites of disaster. The relationship between humans and nature shall be reinterpreted.

Since her artist’s residency in Germany, Yunyi LIU has considered ruins vehicles bearing memories, historic memorials and an assemblage of past space and time. Through the process of image-making, meanings of faded spaces are elevated and their values transformed. Abandoned spaces, cities and history can thus re-enter possible dialogues; there is a quest for the rebirth of another level of meaning amidst the decay and desolation. Due to its strategic location, Kinmen Island has been a site of military contestation. It was not ceded to Japan in 1895 following the First Sino-Japanese War, as Penghu and Taiwan were, but in 1937, it was occupied by Japanese army and after World War II returned to the Republic of China. Following Battle of Kinmen in 1949, the island was taken over by the army. In 1958, the Second Taiwan Strait Crisis took place. The island remained under martial law until 1992. During the civil war between Kuomintang and Communists in China, Kinmen was Taiwan’s line of defense. It underwent more than four decades of martial law and 36 years as an administrative experimentation of a battlefield. Particular military remnants and vistas are thus completely retained, attesting to the history of past warfare. On Kinmen, there are more than one hundred western-style buildings. Due to the hardship, the difficulty of making money, residents migrated by boat to South Pacific regions colonized by great powers. They became wealthy merchants and wired money to their country to construct western buildings they saw in the regions they migrated to, while integrating the Han culture and local specificities into the architecture. Yet along with the war, many western buildings were occupied by Japanese and KMT troops successively.

This publication includes a series of texts: an essay written by LU Peiyi, “The Power of Action: YAO Jui-chong and the Sample Survey of Idle Public Facilities in Taiwan”, an essay written by KUO Li-Hsin “Photographic Metaphors of a Contemporary ‘Renaissance Man’– Humanistic Concern in ‘Shan-Shui’ by YANG Che-Yi”, and an essay written by Bo-Yi SHEN, “Call of the Ruins: The Photographic Collages”.




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