Written by Fang yen-Hsiang
I was invited to a private theatre. In fact, the word “theatre” did not really do it justice. “Parade” was the more appropriate choice.
It was not just because I needed to follow it to walk around. It also demonstrated a series of objects and body manners. Similar to the experiences in parades, “waiting” was the event taking place at that moment, or we could say that “presence” was its only manifestation.
The way Chi Chien organizes this performance/exhibition, in my opinion, is like a process to theatricalize our everyday life while it also shatters every theatrical element, transforms them into a material life. The moment of “gathering for shattering” reminds me of another kind of “flash” as its opposite, a glimpse of glitter in the daily life, a crystalized moment when the immediate state of life is objectified – usually, we will not take “ordinariness” as “a theatre of life.” It is only under some exceptional circumstances that we have the chance as well as the strength to amplify and to extend our feelings and the state of mind, and the circumstances – mostly our being suddenly objectified – include an unexpected failure to keep a promise, a giant mutation, etc. However, the prearranged indoor parade to be discussed here is merely a personal encounter, while the artist employs it to create a scenario of confrontation, where a dual sense of immersion may be experienced through all the gathering, shattering, encounter, and the subject-object relations of vacillation, intersection, and reversion.
The first thing attracting my attention among all the exhibits is the use of written text in two works: one is the police’s dispersal-order sign “WARNING: YOU ARE BREAKING THE LAW” in Legal, a conceptual object reproduced from a real one as seen in assembly and parade; the other is “Do not cross the yellow line” in the installation Bamboo House, where the yellow lines are replaced by an entire space of yellow. The two belong to two different kinds of regulations in public space: the most ordinary and frequently seen “Do not cross the yellow line” functions as a protective regulation in our everyday space, while “WARNING: YOU ARE BREAKING THE LAW” is a special-occasion prohibition in which political actions are involved. According to the artistic context, they suggest a certain command formulated by the forms of painting as well as the inner formal order in the arts. The inner order thus offers an independent area which has enough strength to defend itself against the rules of Nature and social structure. Coincidentally or not, it happens to be the aesthetics celebrated by Modernists’. Take these two artworks as example: what makes them intriguing is how they open up a space for speech to take action. The artist plays with the images, transforming them into the expression between himself and paintings (a structure and relationship to produce “meanings”) in an area where the border between meaning and visuality is sometimes obscured and sometimes reversed to deal with the possibility of rearrangement.
Since we are taking about a regulation or principle inherited from painting, the “border” is meant to be significant: about how to give meanings by visualizing the appearance, about the necessity of outlining, about the presence/absence of “frame” (the supporter) to border, about how every color and light endeavors to cross the border… each one should be a key decision without an easy answer. These questions exist in the artist’s shifting the space until they become the standards of our everyday perception and observation as well as the principles of certain behaviors, no matter to follow or to violate.
The artist has once mentioned that “the reality of artmaking, the reality of the work, and the reality of viewing are mixed into a ‘body’,” and the plural “we” thus all become a part of the “body.” I do feel hesitant to be convinced by his concept, but my hesitation is probably an anticipated reaction.
Here, a naked woman moves along the border of the space, allowing us to see her back tattooed with another woman’s face in fits and starts. Following the guidance, she explores every corner of the space with her body, slowly pushing the toy vehicles and moving the paper boxes/cubes (as symbols of houses or architectures) to new places. She is the object to be gazed at while she has to make every possible effort to enter a private world where she is alone with the objects. Although the action is to explore the border (meaning the space where the body is being watched, especially the location as well as the making of the border), the last thing for us to witness is the overwhelming overflow – what “exceeds” the preexisting being of the body. The performer interact with all these objects in the space, such as candles, paper boxes, toy cars, but it points to a microscopic viewing preferably removed from the implicit references of certain culture, background, or context to maintain a prototype. The body here is more like a neutralized one in appearance and manner – although we know for sure that such a constraint or removal is impossible.
If the performer, viewers as in my case, and the artist all have respectively different body awarenesses, does the “gap” embody any kind of differences in cultural awareness and consciousness? Should we adopt such a measurement to discuss it or not? During the process of viewing, how is intimacy, or the physical or spiritual dominance, being created? How does the intrigue appear and disappear in our silent gaze?
As the artist keeps reducing everything until there is nothing left except for the naked woman’s trace throughout the space, the performance becomes the interaction between the performer and objects with no room for me to step inside, not even a request waiting to be allowed or rejected. Under the circumstances, are we violating the regulation if we request to “touch” (like how the woman touches the space and objects in her performance)? In some cases, you will have a feeling that body creates meaning by touching each other, touching oneself (like how fingers touch the palm when we make a fist, or how our organs touch each other in the digestion process), or by the touch between two or more bodies. The clear but yet obscure border of body offers more reasons than the politics standing on speech and laws. As a result, we have to adopt actions such as interaction, exploration, touch, harm, border-crossing, and violence to “exceed” the limits decided by laws (indeed, sometimes we consciously return to the laws to decide whether one’s will has been validated or not). What intrigues me is whether the artist attempts to have the performer’s body be led into a regulated motion or not. Meanwhile, as a viewer with means of speech and words, how should I react and respond? Out of my own fantasy, I cannot help but wonder if they were replaced by other objects – revolvers, sparrow’s bill, or even a vibranium stone –, would the physicality it expresses or narrates provide a more seductive, ambiguous, and unmanageable context? But come to think of it, what kind of gap and conjunction of physical vocabulary is the one it wants to propose?
If “triggering,” understood as a series of conjunctions between installations, is the key word for action in contemporary world, the assembly indeed seems out of place because of its quiet and still appearance. Its purpose is to render a possibility of self-doing — the random and spontaneous potentiality of material and body.