La Biennale di Venezia

I enjoy getting lost in Venice. There are always surprises and hidden beauties at every corner on small alleyways in Venice. With the occurrence of the 56th Venice Biennale Arte, it was even more interesting to explore the city and discover creative arts.

This August I came across to the exhibition of the Taiwanese video artist Wu Tian-Chang at Palazzo delle Prigioni. ‘Never Say Goodbye’, curated by the Taipei Fine Arts Museum of Taiwan, showcased a range of photography and moving images by Wu Tian-Chang (and his diligent team).

The banner at the Palazzo delle Prigioni Venice Italy: Wu Tien-chang : Never say Goodbye / La Biennale di Venezia
The banner at the Palazzo delle Prigioni Venice Italy: Wu Tien-chang : Never say Goodbye / La Biennale di Venezia

As Taiwanese, Wu’s work resonates with me well, not only because the ‘Spring and Autumn Pavilions’ (春秋閣) featured in his video installation ‘Farewell, Spring and Autumn Pavillions’《再會吧!春秋閣》locates at not so far away from where I grew up in Kaohsiung, but also because the profound critiques combining humour and irony embedded in his works provide a refreshing air to the long struggling Taiwanese politics. Generations in Taiwan have experienced different ruling classes and political movements. Plus there are many different ethnicities living on the island but all have been forced to accept one identity defined by whatever ruling class. Generational gap, cultural gap, ideological gap, political gap, you name it. So many gaps yet so few bridges – that’s the problem about Taiwan.

No better way can touch the heavy and seemingly endless political struggles than critical video arts blended with theatrical techniques. Despite the curator’s attempt to tone down the political critique embedded in Wu’s work, to me, Wu’s works no doubt are more than personal life and love (separation). The life and love he aims at mocking are in fact the life and love of Taiwan, about national identity of Taiwan and Taiwanese. The masks his model wore suggest different fake identities Taiwanese people have been taking up. The magic installed in his video conveyed a playful, unreal, or even surreal feeling. The in-between yin-yang atmosphere is grotesque. The creation of the video arts are based on re-use and re-interpretation of his earlier photographic works. Such techniques (re-use and re-purposing) demonstrate a life course of art works. Indeed, time has such a significant meaning in his time-based media work: life, periods of time, the passing of time.

Dressed up, muted, the blurred image denotes the unknown identity of Taiwanese (Wu Tian-Chang)
Dressed up, muted, the blurred image denotes the unknown identity of Taiwanese (Wu Tian-Chang)
Dressed up, muted, the blurred image denotes the unknown identity of Taiwanese (Wu Tian-Chang)
Dressed up, muted, the blurred image denotes the unknown identity of Taiwanese (Wu Tian-Chang)
Who am I? Dressed up, muted, the blurred image denotes the unknown identity of Taiwanese (Wu Tian-Chang)
Who am I? Dressed up, muted, the blurred image denotes the unknown identity of Taiwanese (Wu Tian-Chang)

As Wu said in the backstage video, it’s team work, and it requires punctuality for making such time-based media works, with the cooperation of the actor. The team used automatic machines to include props in the show for the magical effect. The old ancient building, the Palazzo delle Prigioni in Venice, also adds atmosphere to these video installation arts, providing some special apocalyptic environmental elements.

Wu Tian-Chang's
Wu Tian-Chang’s “Farewell, Spring and Autumn Pavilions” at Venice Biennale 2015
A ghost-like figure being projected on a screen with floor tiles common in traditional Taiwanese architectures built in Japanese era - Wu Tian-Chang: Farewell, Spring and Autumn Pavilions
A ghost-like figure being projected on a screen with floor tiles common in traditional Taiwanese architectures built in Japanese era – Wu Tian-Chang: Farewell, Spring and Autumn Pavilions

Looking out the window, the scorching summer sun has frozen the time and the city appeared to be idling. Only arts provide a fertile ground for new thoughts to grow.

Outside the Palazzo delle Prigioni Venice Italy
Outside the Palazzo delle Prigioni Venice Italy
Venice August 2015
Venice August 2015

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