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Empire's Borders I & II



11.03. - 30.04.11


Curated by Malin Barth

Chen Chieh-jen is Taiwan's most internationally recognized artist. Chen's artistic practice is fueled by an ongoing examination of hidden political powers and power relationships, in order to reflect upon today's neo-liberal empire built upon the alliance of nation and capital. Through art, Chen seeks to create an action that eliminates imperial consciousness.

The video Empire's Borders I is based on Chen's The Illegal Immigrant blog, and is divided into two segments of dramatized reportage. The first segment presents eight typical cases of Taiwanese applicants enduring a consular officer's abuse at AIT (American Instiute Taiwan), and then being denied a nonimmigrant visa for inexplicable reasons. The second segment presents the stories of nine Mainland Chinese spouses immigrating to Taiwan on marriage visas, who, starting from their arrival interview at the airport, suffer all manners of discrimination and rigorous scrutiny from Taiwan's National Immigration Agency. Chen Chieh-jen compares these two situations to explore global hierarchies of border control policies, and the disciplinary tactics dominant countries deploy when dealing with people of other nations. The video also critiques the Taiwanese government's domineering attitude and use of Cold War ideologies in dealing with weaker individuals from other regions.

Empire’s Borders II – Western Enterprises Inc is based on a number of documents the artist’s late father, a member of NSA, left behind which painted an intriguing picture of a life lived in cold-war secrecy. They hinted at the politics of an era when the CIA cooperated with Taiwan and trained the Anti-Communist National Salvation Army (NSA) on its long-abandoned mission to retake the Chinese mainland. Some of these objects are included here as photographic records: a list of soldiers who lost their lives in secret raids, personal belongings, an empty photo album, fragments of an autobiography Chen’s father wrote and his old army uniform. As Chen says, his father rarely talked about his work; the only fact he acknowledged was that his autobiography was fictional, written to show his loyalty to the state.

In Factory, Chieh-jen invites former seamstresses from a closed textile factory back to the building to re-enact their work. Filmed without sound, the slow-moving images of workers exploring the abandoned space and at work constructing garments are intercut with archival footage of the factory at the height of its production. The result is at once a bittersweet portrait of the lasting personal bonds between labourers and a subtle critique of the social impact of shifting economic realities.

Chen Chieh-Jen (b.1960) currently lives and works in Taipei, Taiwan. Chen employed extra-institutional underground exhibitions and guerrilla-style art actions to challenge Taiwan’s dominant political mechanisms during a period marked by the Cold War, anti-communist propaganda and martial law (1950-1987). After martial law ended, Chen ceased art activity for eight years. Returning to art in 1996, Chen started collaborating with local residents, unemployed laborers, day workers, migrant workers, foreign spouses, unemployed youth and social activists. They occupied factories owned by capitalists, slipped into areas cordoned off by the law and utilized discarded materials to build sets for his video productions. In order to visualize contemporary reality and a people’s history that was obscured by neo-liberalism, Chen embarked on a series of video projects in which he used strategies he calls “re-imagining, re-narrating, re-writing and re-connecting.”

Chen Chieh-jen has, among others, held solo exhibitions at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum, REDCAT art center in Los Angeles, the Museo Nacional Centro De Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid, the Asia Society in New York and the Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume in Paris. Group exhibitions include: the Venice Biennale, Biennale de Lyon, São Paulo Art Biennial, Liverpool Biennial, Biennale of Sydney, Istanbul Biennial, Taipei Biennial, Gwangju Biennale, Shanghai Biennale, Fukuoka Asian Art Triennale, and the Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art in Brisbane. Chen has participated in photography festivals in Spain, Lisbon and Arles; and film festivals in London, Vancouver, Edinburgh and Rotterdam. Chen Chieh-Jen was  in 2009 the recipient of the Taiwan National Culture and Arts Foundation’s National Award for Arts, and the Korean Gwangju Biennale Special Award in 2000. In 2010 he received The 4thArtes Mundi Prize, National Museum Cardiff, Welsh, UK.

Chen Chieh-jen CV >>>

E-catalog >>>


- Et kulturelt blikk på global kunst, av Haci Akman, Etnolog >>>

01. april & 03. april

- The Route

- LINGCHI - Echoes of a Historical Photograph

- Military Court and Prison

- Bade Area

> The Route

16:45 min. silent

In The Route, Chen represents history by interspersing archive film footage with new footage of a picket line staged by Dockers at Port of Kaohsiung. A symbolic connection between workers in Liverpool and Taiwan, the artist’s home, is created, echoing the Dockers’ phrase ’The world is our picket line’.


> Military Court and Prison

62 min.

Military Court and Prison contains two videos, the first, one hour in length and the second, approximately five minutes. The longer of the two is more personally related to Chen’s memories of the prison and military court that existed nearby his family’s house in the County of Taipei. The other video represents the government’s official view of the dictatorship years and Martial Law in Taiwan. This is his first work with sound, given that his previous videos were silent, slow motion recordings, two technical features that characterize his work.


> LINGCHI - Echoes of a Historical Photograph

22:26 min.


Lingchi-Echoes of a Historical Photograph is based on a photograph (taken by a French soldier in 1905) of the last public, ritualistic execution practiced in China and known as Lingchi. The photograph became popularized when it was published by the French philosopher Georges Bataille in his book Tears of Eros in the early 1960s in the context of eroticism, religion, torture and aesthetics. Chen Chieh-Jen describes the actual shooting of the picture as an act of colonial appropriation.




> Bade Area

30 min. silent

Bade Area was inspired by an unimposing billboard saying ’The Majestic Town’ with an arrow, a phone number. All that it pointed to was some barren land where a factory had been torn down and nothing had yet been constructed. Nearby was the aftermath of protests from a motor factory. Again the workers had not been paid what they had been promised. The building had been sealed off for auctioning with every thing ready for auctions except, perhaps, the workers. Nearby were businesses that bought used furniture. When Chen went to the site, he saw nothing.
The motor workers, who had protested when the employers closed the factory and left them unpaid, were now eking out a living as temporary workers. The scenes are like collages, somehow jammed together for factories were continuously bought and sold and buildings torn down. And so Chen invited the workers to roam around inside the building just as they had roamed around outside it, looking for work. In the video, the people keep moving furniture meaninglessly; however all this action is only inside the building. Earlier, this was not a space without meaning. ’Bade’ actually means Confucius’ eight imperatives: loyalty, filial piety, humanity, love, trustworthiness, righteousness, harmony and justice.


André S. Marandon
1. april - 3. april

Andre S. Marandon lager selvstendig eksteriør verk som både viser til utstillingene inne i gallerirommet og som retter oppmerksomheten mot bygningen, og om mulig senker terskelen for å oppsøke utstillingene der inne. Inspirert av Steven Spielbergs sci-fi film har han valgt prosjekt tittelen «Close Encounters» - som «en ufo» inviterer han publikum til nærkontakt med “kunstinstitusjonen».

SAS flytrapp
Publikum kan ankomme bygningen via en flytrapp. Flytrappen kan stå som symbol på det å ankomme eller forlate eller noe - en overgang til noe annet. Den ellers så komfortable flytrappen viser seg å lede gjennom et langt mindre ergometrisk vindu - en må klatre inn. Publikum slippes altså ikke inn en dør men må nærmest smyge seg inn gjennom et vindu - på mange måter en parallell til det “nåløyet” Chen Chieh-jen beskriver i sitt verk Empire´s Borders I i utstillingen inne i salen. Flytrappen er et objekt som for de fleste er forbundet med forventning - det handler om å reise - en verden som åpner seg. Publikum vil på denne måten ikke ha noen problemer med å overstige det å bruke flytrappen for å entré bygningen - og det er jo det som er målet - mange mennesker i trengsel med tanker om en reise, en reise som for noen stoppes. Beliggende på Vågsalmenningen befinner galleriet 3.14 seg på et av byens torg men i motsetning til torgets boder synes den gamle bankbygningen å være lukket med et språk som ikke nødvendigvis inviterer til uforpliktende besøk. For store deler av offentligheten fremstår bygningen derfor som en «lukket bod». Tanken er å vekke befolkningens nysgjerrighet ved at verkene skal være synlige utenfor bygningen og arbeide med byrommets og bygningens eget språk, samtidig som verket inngår i dialog med utstillingene inne i selve gallerirommet. Slik aktualiseres både bygningen og institusjonen.

Kunstnerisk bakgrunn
Bergensbaserte Andre S. Marandon har gjennom en årrekke arbeidet med prosjekter i det offentlige rom med temporære installasjoner og kommunikasjonen mellom byrom og gallerirom. Hans interesse er hvordan en kan aktualisere kunsten mot en offentlighet som ikke har så mye erfaring med det “språket” som anvendes innenfor kunstfeltet.
Som kunstner gjøre han andre grep enn en tradisjonell byplanlegger og gjennom midlertidige endringer eller inngrep i galleri- og byrom inviterer han gjerne også med publikum som aktive medskapere.


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