Text by Chi Chien
My solo show Prima Facie Exhibit: Park (2014) navigated the ambiguity between public and private spaces, and explored the existential states of “flatness-superficiality” in life. Passing Through the Post-Garden (2015) proposed an alternative end to modernism, where a debate around the nature of painting took place through pushing the boundaries of traditional genres of still life and landscape painting. World Aquarium (2017) dealt with the intertextual and perceptive relationship between site and works. Live — There and Then / Then and There (2018) utilized the gallery space as a site to practice, display, and receive reviews, experimenting with models that breaks the institutional cycle of production-exhibition-criticism. As a natural culmination of these previous investigations, I try to connect the dots that remain central to my practice from 2014 to 2018 in Landing Place.
Landing Place is organized into two areas — one smaller at the entrance of the gallery which leads to a bigger room with a row of floor-to-ceiling windows. The spaces adjacent to the bigger room that are designated as “non-exhibition area,” including a reading room and a storage space, further intrigued me to play with the idea of boundaries, and presented an opportunity to examine the “inside/outside” binary at work.
“Territory” is often considered a geopolitical terminology, with a self-evident or relatively “unproblematic” connotation. It is instinctive for animals to mark their territories by scents or other means, while children often build their secret hideouts with cardboard boxes and other objects that help demarcate a realm of play. Inspired by these behaviors, I have constructed a wall of my son’s toy bricks near the entrance, and placed a flag beside it to illustrate the defining principles in the action of wall-building to earmark boundaries and to establish a turf by territory-marking. This not only captures our intuition for play, but also seeks to represent the debates that define the changing boundaries and content of “disciplines” — be it of painting, sculpture or architecture — that can also be understood as acts of territory-marking.
In my 2018 exhibition, I invited a female model to act as a nude in the gallery, and engaged spontaneously in creative acts. For Landing Place, I have turned a photographic documentation of said happenings into an oil painting, tilted Grand Aquarium: Tabernacle (2020). The background of the painting echoes the color of the wall. With the presence of a goldfish on the canvas and gilded rocks on the exhibition floor, this installation conjures the imagery of a fish tank, which complicates what stays visually inside and what remains outside of the fish tank. Such display aims to present a multilayered territoriality that is intertwined with historical artifacts, in-the-moment reality, and perception of nowness.
But of course, the content and exactitude of each territory exceeds far beyond what is regulated and bounded. Spatial design and mechanism of intervention and control further confines and defines its reality and connotation. This makes territoriality more than a description of the physical space, but rather a representation of a power structure at play. Yellow Line (2020) marks off what lies within and what stays extraterritorial, which resonates with the adjacent work Landlord (2020) and its capitalist game. The aerial view, the airplane, and the floral prints reference to the activities of land-mapping and territory-marking.
Spatial division and boundary maps are the end product of power dynamics. Space is not an objective existence, but a constructed reality that aids the understanding of ownership and control. In the end, the real power lies in the Background (2020).