Taiwanese artist Wu Tien-Chang’s series of light box stills, interactive video projections and installation explore westernisation in post-war Taiwan, through performances by young men and women in disturbing skin membrane costumes and latex. Tien-Chang’s digital video installation forms the central focus of the exhibition, shrouded in thick velvet theatre curtains which draw back to show a Pepper’s Ghost optical illusion, before revealing a short video piece.
Here the artist’s performer marches through idyllic images of the Taiwanese landscape in a range of traditional western outfits – sailor, musician, soldier – and waves ‘goodbye’ joyfully, to a cheerful Taiwanese them tune. Although saying farewell, the character is marching on the spot, the scenery behind him only revolving, history repeating itself rather than moving forwards.
Meanwhile, Beloved, another film piece which almost appears as a still – its movement so slight – a female character is wrapped in a delicate latex skin as the ‘perfect lover,’ in fact squeaking and rustling with discomfort. This strange work can be seen to comment upon the female ideal, while bearing visual similarity to Tien-Chang’s lightbox series: Our Hearts Beat as One and Blind Men Groping Down the Lane.
Full of bright colours, like a hand-tinted postcard, these are idyllic images again – before the strange proportions and disabilities of each character is noticed upon closer reflection. Each kitsch and flamboyant piece appears as a vibrant celebration, before each tiny yet disturbing detail is noticed – symbolising the traumatised collective memory of Taiwan, its previous regimes and the effects of post-war westernisation.
Wu Tien-Chang: Never Say Goodbye, until 22 November. Presented by Taipei Fine Arts Museum of Taiwan, Collateral Event of the 56th La Biennale di Venezia, Venue Palazzo delle Prigioni, Castello 4209, San Marco, Venice.
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1. Wu Tien-Chang, Our Hearts Beat as One, reversal film, 2001-2005. Copyright of the artist.