Collateral Event of the 56th Venice Biennale
9 May–22 November 2015
Preview: 6–8 May, 10–20h
Opening: 7 May, 18:30–20h
Palazzo delle Prigioni
Castello 4209, San Marco, Venice, Italy
Hours: Tuesday–Sunday 10–18h
Wu Tien-chang: Never Say Goodbye, presented by the Taipei Fine Arts Museum as a Collateral Event of the 56th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, is scheduled for a three-day preview on May 6 to 8. The opening reception will be held on May 7 at 18:30h in the Plazzo delle Prigioni. The exhibiting works include three video installations with moving mechanisms and two lightbox installations by Taiwanese leading artist Wu Tien-chang.
In the exhibiting digital video pieces, Wu combines theatrical effects with magical tricks, handcrafted props and machine-operated scenery to surprise the viewer as the works switch from still photographs to moving images. In the newly commissioned work Farewell, Spring and Autumn Pavilions, the character chooses to wave goodbye with a springy step and a carefree manner. Along with the changing scenery and changing costumes, the character seems to say goodbye easily to the past. Actually, he is still standing in the same spot. While the external circumstances change, he himself keeps going around in circles. By shooting with a fixed camera in one take, Unforgettable Lover harks back to the handicraft era of film as the male protagonist dances to the rhythm of music while evolving into other characters by changing his clothes, sets and props in front of the audience’s eyes. In Beloved, Wu wraps the female character in a delicate latex skin to create an idealistic form of the perfect lover—amorously telling the stories of helplessness and sadness of the people coming and going from this world.
For the the Venice Biennale, Wu has converted two of his most successful two-dimensional photography works into light box installations: these are Our Hearts Beat as One and Blind Men Groping Down the Lane, where disabled characters wearing ornate costumes and pale smiles hiding behind the thick makeup are placed on the dull and gloomy stage—a metaphor for the marginal characters obscured beneath the dark shadowy bottoms of society. These images are full of bright and joyful colors, but the figures captured are marginal characters with strangely proportioned bodies or disabilities.
Behind the gleeful, dazzling visuals throughout the exhibition, Wu attempts to symbolize and reveal the hybrid nature of Taiwanese identity which constantly haunted by memories and nostalgia of regime changes over the past century in Taiwan, from the Japanese colony to the anti-PROC military base or even as a resting stop for American soldiers during the cold war. Taiwan is a transitional habitat for these foreign political powers. Various cultures and products were transplanted from the motherland of these post-war foreign powers into Taiwan. Domestic worship of these exotic goods also triggered mass but often poorly imitated production of these gaudy counterfeits. Capturing characters in mask-like artificial skin membranes and vulgar costumes, Wu deliberately tapped into the kitschy aesthetics of local plebeian cultures to dig out the unsightly ugly truth and scent of death lingering at the bottom society and throughout its immigration history—traumatic experiences that will continue to haunt Taiwan for years to come.