“Shattered Sanctity” is a concept proposed by the French anthropologist, Marc Augé, stemming from his observation of the Paris metro. The concept refers to the idea that each person’s historical reference of places, rituals, festivals, mainly the glorious sites that have once inhabited political, socio-cultural, and historical meanings, would produce a certain ideology of history and national identity. Today, such collective sanctity has become a shared historical reference or shattered fragments carried by individuals. The collective sense of history created by the shattered sanctity might not disappear very soon, but it will gradually lose the ability to interpret the collective sanctity.
Shattered Sanctity applies this concept to Taiwan’s unique historical context and situation of site, and explores historical space, memory, and identity as well as the derived “shattered sanctity” and the relationship between the individual and the collective. Artists are invited to look into their own environment, experience, and background, and use historical architecture and its spatial conversion as the theme of their creative work. Through this approach, they are encouraged to explore the historical sites and their implication and influence in terms of politics, culture, and individuals while contemplating on the reference between individuals and their shattered sanctity and how memory and identity are revised and reconstructed therein. Furthermore, the exhibition also explores how art, when dealing with history, creates a channel or expands the crevice to investigate the formation or disappearance of memory and identity while demonstrating its attitude and approach towards facing history.
The exhibition takes place at both the Museum of Contemporary Art and TAF Innovation Base. Using the two places, which are representative in terms of their exhibition characteristics and symbolic meanings, the exhibition aims to conduct thinking and dialogues on different levels regarding the “Shattered Sanctity” through questions and responses posed by the artworks. The viewing and experiencing of some of the artworks are further extended to the site of daily life, initiating an exploration of issues about the multi-layered historical sites, memory, cultural translation, and collective/individual identity.
I. Memory and Cultural Translation of Historical Space
During the Japanese rule period, the building of MOCA, Taipei was Kensei Shogakko, or Jian Cheng Elementary School, which was mainly open to Japanese children (only a handful of Taiwanese students were accepted). After Taiwan’s retrocession, the building was appointed Taipei City Government’s office building. In 2001, MOCA, Taipei was established at the site, preserving the collective meaning of the historical building while creating new connection with the community through art. In the museum, the identity of the collective consciousness and the sense of history produced in the space and architecture have been constantly renewed in the reading of history whereas memory and oblivion are continuously re-constructed. For this exhibition, archives and historical images as well as interviews regarding the museum are collected and conducted. Interviews with the architect who restored the museum architecture, Yu-Chien Hsu, the museum’s exhibition department specialist, Yi-Hsiang Hsu, and the history expert, Tzung-Kuei Lin, delineate the functions of the space as well as its relationship with the public molded by the architecture throughout different periods. Another series of interviews focuses on the Jian Cheng Elementary School Alumni, which has been founded in the same year as the museum. The space and the organization have extended the historical context, which is continued in a parallel manner in Taiwan and Japan. Through interviewing three alumni of Jian Cheng Elementary School and their descendants, the exhibition aims to put together a picture of the changing memories, encounters, and relationships between people and the elementary school.
Chris Shen’s Rastrum is a video installation that transmits live video feeds, capturing MOCA, Taipei’s outdoor environment and its indoor ebb and flow of people. The overlapping and conversion of images create much noise that gradually blurs the image, symbolizing the disappearing spatial memory and the sense of history. Chen-Hung Chiu’s work, Plants, employs a plant’s shadow relief and lighting to portray the space and situation, in which objects, memories, and life of an abandoned or converted space/architecture has been transformed into a different image reminiscent of a shadow. The work is on view at both MOCA, Taipei and TAF Innovation Base, enacting the imagination of traversing time and converting space through the shadow relief. It also connects the venues, which are both converted from historical sites, encapsulating time and history in the space.
In Scenery and Mood, Xin Shen and May Heek use excerpts of Nishikawa Mitsuru’s writing in original Japanese text function as the negative space on colour gels, to be reflected through lightings onto the surfaces of the architectural space in MOCA, Taipei. The reflection and absorption of light allude to the depictions of the blazing light or flaming colours, where they appear in Nishikawa’s writings forcefully and arbitrarily. The work is realised through the process of translation through spatial imprints of light and text. Jin-Da Lin’s A Report on the Public Aquarium is developed following a 1981 report to a public aquarium in Kaohsiung. The artist has followed this booklet and personally visited this abandoned aquarium. The work is consisted of three parts, “Shadow Wall,” “Wine,” and “Report,” recounting the life, objects, places, art, events, and authors hidden in the history. Lin also writes an article about his experiences in the aquarium, along with descriptions of the physical sensation he felt there. The article is placed in a bistro near the exhibition venue. He invites audience to sit down in the bistro and read his writing. Snow Huang and Against Again Troup present Here and Elsewhere, using a telephone to connect all the main scenes of the work. Amidst the modern transportation network and the historical streets of Taipei, the work reveals the hidden, dream-like memories as well as how they have been marked and replaced in spoken words to the point of substituting and constructing our daily life.
II. National Power and Personal Biopolitics in Political Space
The TAF Innovation Base used to be the Industrial Research Institute of Taiwan Governor-General’s Office during the Japanese rule period. After WWII, the Air Force Command Headquarter moved in; and after it was relocated in 2012, the entire site was preserved in 2015 and transformed into the innovation base for intergenerational and interdisciplinary events and exhibitions. As a national research and military facility, the TAF Innovation Base sits in the center of the city. However, it used to be severed from the city and people’s life as local residents’ historical memory of the place is mostly restricted to its overall military background. In the discussion initiated by Shattered Sanctity, the featured artworks reflect upon the question of how national politics and knowledge power have produced fragmented individual identity and the possibility of misinterpretation. It also explores the knowledge power of history, its construction, and how it is perceived, expressed and discussed. Fei-Hao Chen, Yu-Ping Kuo, and Po-Hao Tseng respectively discuss these issues from their own perspectives and in terms of their family history.
Po-Hao Tseng’s Daily Renovation is a micro-performance about his family’s market stall, Ri Ri Xin Vegetarian Shop, which has been the source of income for his family. The work is a series of writings and interviews about his parents’ life and personal history. Meanwhile, he has also written an article that compares and juxtaposes the migration of his family and the historical political and economic events in Taiwan. Finally, he creates a video response of himself standing in front of a monument that embodies the fictional national narrative, rendering the entire work an interrogation of the origin of the relationship between individual and family as well as individual and national identity. Yu-Ping Kuo’s For Whom We Fight continues her investigation into family and nation as well as the relations between the realness of the collective consciousness and society, politics, and economy. She bases this work on her brother, who is a career soldier, and uses the actor’s physical performance and the content and writing of letters to interpret in reverse the freedom and will that transcend the disciplined body, demonstrating the other side of productivity.
Fei-Hao Chen’s work The Pacific War, Kenkou Shrine and Family Documents in Translation re-contextualizes his family history within the historical context of Taiwan as part of the Pacific Ocean theater during World War II, and re-examines the discourse of Taiwanese history, which is based primarily on the Chinese race. His work addresses the issues of “personal memory as public memory” and “the disparities between personal memory and the changes of political regimes,” and discusses the “break” of Taiwan’s national identity. Begun in 2010, Li-Ren Chang’s Battle City is a project based on personal strength and imagination. As a one-man team, he has built a model of a city and created a series of animations. The depicted journeys and characters’ stories seemingly present a shadow image of this world, along with constant asymmetrical conflicts between the collective will and individuals, nation, army, media, school, etc. As viewers watch the city, they are indeed watching the biopolitics of the Taiwanese people.
About the exhibition
Curator: Yi-Hsin Nicole Lai
Venue: MOCA Studio
Exhibition Period, Venues and Artists:
｜2017/04/29-2017/06/11｜Museum of Contemporary Art, Taipei
Artists: Chris Shen, Chen-Hung Chiu, Jin-Da Lin, Xin Shen + May Heek, Snow Huang + Against Again Troupe
｜2017/04/29-2017/06/04｜TAF Innovation Base
Artists: Po-Hao Tseng, Yu Ping Kuo, Fei-Hao Chen, Li-Ren Chang, Chen-Hung Chiu
2.00pm, Museum of Contemporary Art, Taipei
4.30pm, TAF Innovation Base
Courtesy of the artists and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Taipei, for further information please visit www.mocataipei.org.tw.