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Chen Chieh-jen, Untitled, from the series 'Star Chart' (2017). Black-and-white photograph. 14 1/4 by 20 1/2 inches. Image via Art in America.
Chen Chieh-jen's exhibition at Lin & Lin, After the Financial Crisis and Automated Production, featured a selection of his old and recent works exploring ways in which Taiwanese have been affected by neoliberal capitalism and technological developments. The show revealed how Chen's approach to these themes has changed since the 1990s.
Through his photographs, performances and video installations, Chen Chieh-jen (陈界仁) engages with Taiwan's recent history of martial law and the effects of globalisation on the lives of marginalised people.
As a young artist in the 1980s, Chen was primarily known for his guerrilla-style performances that challenged Taiwan's martial law system, which subjected civilian life to strict military control from 1949 until 1987. Staged in October 1983, the performance Dysfunction No.3 saw Chen and some of his friends don white khaki pants and pull cotton bags over their heads in a protest against the elections for Taiwan's Legislative Yuan, which the artist considered to be undemocratic. He chose the popular Ximending district to stage the performance, as it was observed closely by the police. There, Chen and his friends were joined by others, and the performance grew into a large public gathering that briefly suspended the usual activities in the street. The crowd also outnumbered the police, who became a subject of surveillance themselves and were compelled to allow the artist and his party to leave peacefully.
Following the lifting of martial law in 1987, Chen turned his attention to the impact of globalisation and consumer society on Taiwan's working class. Interspersed into his works are his own family's history as workers (his brother was a street vendor) and life in the industrial areas of Taoyuan, where he grew up. It was also during this period that Chen began experimenting with video, often combining archival and current footage and photographic images to reinterpret Chinese and Taiwanese histories. Most of his films are silent—a reflection of the lives of his subjects who were sidelined in the process of Taiwan's rapid urban development and industrialisation.
Chen's first video, presented at the 2002 Taipei Biennial and titled Lingchi—Echoes of a Historical Photograph, derives its name from a form of ancient Chinese execution known as lingchi in which the condemned is slowly put to death by marking his body with 1000 cuts. One photograph of lingchi—taken in the early 20th century by a French soldier and later disseminated by the French philosopher Georges Bataille—forms the starting-point of Chen's film, which seeks to embody the process of slow death through slow motion. At the same time, the artist intermixes the photograph with images of the ruins of historical sites, factories and workers disabled by industrial accidents to draw parallels between the historical execution and contemporary scenes of violence and mistreatment. In contrast to many of his video works, Chen included small sounds in Lingchi—produced from the electromagnetic waves emitted by the artist's skin—as a way of situating himself within the film.
Chen drew attention to a historical moment featuring workers in Taiwan again in The Route—a video installation commissioned by Tate Liverpool for the 2006 Liverpool Biennial. The film consists of footage about the Liverpool docks dispute, which began in 1995 when more than 300 dock-workers were fired by the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company for showing support for labourers sacked by another company. Gaining international attention, the incident led to dock-workers in Vancouver, Yokohama and Kobe refusing to allow the container ship Neptune Jade—which had departed from Liverpool—to unload at their ports. The Neptune Jade eventually sailed to Kaohsiung, Taiwan, where it was dismantled and sold.
Chen's interests in Taiwan's rapid industrialisation and economic reforms has taken the form of collaboration with young people as well. Happiness Building I, screened at the 2012 Taipei Biennial and Guangzhou Triennial, is a film about the occupants of a fictional rental apartment scheduled for demolition. A result of working with recent university graduates and graduate students (some of whom also appear in the video), Happiness Building I portrays the difficulty of Chen's collaborators to find jobs, despite the high level of education they have received. The sets used in the film were inspired by the cheap residential areas throughout New Taipei City and Taoyuan County that the artist encountered, while the title is derived from a common name for such establishments in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. At the Biennial, Chen transported the sets—constructed by the students from discarded materials—to the exhibition space alongside the video, to bring the site closer to the audience.
Chen has held solo exhibitions internationally, notably After the Financial Crisis and Automated Production, Lin & Lin Gallery, Taipei (2018); A Field of Non-Field, Long March Space, Beijing (2017); Factory, The Route, Empire's Borders I & II, Mudam Luxembourg (2013); and Condensation: Five Video Works by Chen Chieh-jen, Asia Society, New York (2007). He has participated regularly in the Taipei Biennial since 1996 and other international fairs such as the 20th Biennale of Sydney (2016); Venice Biennale (2009, 2005, 1999); and the 6th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (2009), among others. In 2018, Chen was awarded the 12th annual Artist of the Year award at the Award of Art China.
Chen works and lives in Taipei.
Opening reception: 4 pm, 15 December 2018
Lin & Lin Gallery is honoured to announce Chen Chieh-jen Solo Exhibition After the Financial Crisis and Automated Production. This is the 3rd solo exhibition of Chen Chieh-jen in Lin & Lin Gallery.
Since financial capitalism and technology completely joined together to create the financial-technological capitalist system, new forms of administrative technology with unprecedented power to permeate both systems and individual consciousness have developed. This has made it possible for the corporatocracy to manipulate contemporary society and the perceptions, desire, and thinking of its individuals. Is there a way for people to get out from under this situation?
Presented in two galleries, this exhibition includes Notes on the Twelve Karmas (1999-2000/re-edited 2018), Star Chart (2017), and The Field of Non-Field (2017), in which Chen considers these difficult issues.
Chen Chieh-jen believes solutions to this seemingly unsolvable problem include epistemological shifts away from technology and away from the financial-technological capitalist system that is now embedded in society and the individual. To achieve this, Chen has returned to The Middle Way associated with the Madhyamaka School of Buddhism, which was founded by the Nāgārjuna Bodhisattva. Nāgārjuna invested The Middle Way with the precepts dependent-arising, (no) self-existence, and emptiness, and also practised the multiple dialectical spirits of the Eight Negations, which are neither arising nor ceasing, neither permanence nor nullification, neither identity nor difference, neither coming nor going. Using these principles, Chen hopes to establish a new worldview and value system, and experiments with ways to expand both perception-desire constructs and modes of thinking in our world now permeated by control technologies.
In 1999, as the world entered the new millennium, Chen believed that we were facing a crisis because the collection of data on each individual and was being integrated into extant data to generate a new biopolitics under the technological control system. He therefore started to visualise this crisis in Notes on the Twelve Karmas. Some years later, Chen's brother attempted suicide after years of severe depression and unemployment following the 1997 Asian financial crisis. While witnessing his brother slowly rebuild his worldview and values, Chen created his works Star Chart and A Field of Non-Field, and realised that the Madhyamaka School's three precepts and Eight Negations not only have active significance in reshaping the individual, but also can serve as a way to qualitatively transform a world in the grips of those pervasive control technologies.
Chen Chieh-jen was born in 1960 in Taoyuan, Taiwan, and graduated from a vocational high school for the arts. Chen frequently receives overseas invitation, and enjoys high reputation worldwide. His works were collected by several significant art museums, such as Centre Georges-Pompidou, Paris; M+, Hong Kong; Mori Art Museum, Tokyo; Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Fukuoka; Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taipei; National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, Taichung; Kaohsiung Museum Fine Arts, Kaohsiung; Asia Society and Museum, New York; Williams College Museum of Art, Massachusetts; Artium Centro-Museo Vasco de Arte contemporáneo, Vitoria, Spain; Centre national des arts plastiques, Paris; UBS AG The UBS Art Collection, Zürich; COFF Photography Foundatio, Spain; DSL Collection Contemporary Chinese Art, France. Important institutions held the artist's solo exhibitions include: MUDAM Luxembourg, Luxembourg; Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taipei; REDCAT, Los Angeles; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid; Asia Society and Museum, New York; Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume, Paris. The artist's important group exhibitions include: Biennale di Venezia, Biennale de Lyon Contemporary Art, Liverpool Biennale, Göteborg International Biennial for Contemporary Art, Bienal de São Paulo, International Istanbul Biennial, Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art, Biennale of Sydney, New Orleans Biennial, Taipei Biennial, Kochi-Muziris Biennale, Shanghai Biennale, Gwangju Biennale, Aichi Triennale; and photo festivals in Spain, Lisbon, Arles. The awards Chen has won include: 2018 The 12th Annual Artist Award, Award of Art China, China; 2009 The 13th National Award for Arts, The National Culture and Arts Foundation , Taiwan; 2008 PULSE Prize, PULSE Contemporary Art Fair, Miami, USA; 2000 The Special Prize, Gwangju Biennale, Gwangju, South Korea.
On May 21, Taiwanese artist and filmmaker Chen Chieh-jen received the prestigious Artist of the Year honor at the Award of Art China (AAC) ceremony in Beijing. In its 12th year, AAC is an annual award founded by Chinese art media group Artron, recognizing the best of contemporary art within Greater China. Chen was presented with a trophy for his...
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