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Dwelling: YUAN Goang-Ming Solo Exhibition

Exhibition details

Opening / Event Date:
23 September, 2015
Time:
6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Closing / End Date:
17 October, 2015
Event Category:

Artist’s Reception
Wednesday, 23 September 2015, 6 to 8pm

Exhibition Period
18 September – 17 October 2015

Curatorial Statement

On the Border between a Home and a Ruin:
Yuan Goang-Ming’s Dwelling
Valerie C. Doran

Hanart TZ Gallery is honoured to present Dwelling, Yuan Goang-Ming’s first major solo exhibition in Hong Kong. Yuan Goang-Ming is recognized as a pioneer of Taiwan’s video art, and is one of the most influential and internationally renowned artists in the field of new-media art today. A powerful, total environment of video, photography and installation, Dwelling continues Yuan’s investigation of the conceptual and phenomenological nuances of our notions of ‘home’, ‘dwelling’ and ‘ruins’, but extends the frame of inquiry to the question of overall human survival, in both a political and an environmental sense. Through his unique interpolation of technology and a darkly poetic visual language, Yuan reveals the presence (or threat) of what he calls the ‘uncanny’ within our everyday lives—that sense of the unknown that hovers on the edge of conscious awareness, and that often is activated by an impending sense of dislocation, displacement or loss.

In many of his works, Yuan creates scenarios where the unthinkable invades the mundane world. In the titular video and photographic installation Dwelling, Yuan captures the sudden explosion of an IKEA-like, middle-class living room that is inexplicably underwater, while in the installation Prophecy, a dinner table carefully set with china and glass periodically emits an ear-splitting clanking sound and shakes as though impelled by an earthquake. Though the human figure is absent from these works, the human presence is viscerally embodied in the objects that inhabit these most ordinary dwelling spaces.

The dichotomy of presence and absence seen here is a key element in Yuan’s works. In some cases he films real-life events and then erases the human figures completely from certain scenes, leaving behind only the structures and objects that delineated their world. In two key works in the show, Yuan employs a linear cable cam to film both indoor and outdoor public environments in Taiwan, creating the eerie effect of a disembodied, floating presence bearing witness to the contradictions and uncertainties of the worlds we inhabit. In The 561st Hour of Occupation, Yuan Goang-Ming presents us with a bird’s-eye view of the chaotic interior of Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan chambers during the recent student occupations, but in some scenes the students themselves have been erased: only scattered items of food, furniture, clothing, hand-made posters and various kinds of detritus bear witness to their ‘invasion’. In Landscape of Energy, the camera glides above a crowded beach where families sun themselves in the shadow of a nuclear power plant—eloquently speaking to another kind of ‘uncanny’ presence. This discomfiting scene is juxtaposed with images of other sites of human engagement that have been completely abandoned: An unfinished housing project, an empty school, a broken-down carousel from an amusement park overgrown by weeds. In a chilling companion photograph from the Landscape of Energy series, we see the beach scene again, with the folding chairs and colourful umbrellas still decorating the sand—but now the people have all disappeared, leaving everything behind. And we are left with the ominous question: What has happened here?

With their eerily beautiful framing and subtexts of presence, absence and loss, Yuan Goang-Ming’s works set out to visibly shake us up, to confront us with the possibility of losing everything. Yet at the same time, Yuan speaks more with the voice of a poet, than of a prophet. Despite their unnerving narratives, Yuan’s visions leave us with a sense of awakening, and even of empowerment: He reminds us that the human narrative is still unfolding and that, even now, on the borders of the uncanny, we have the creative power to envision different ways of inhabiting our world, of dwelling in a more humane future. In other words, Yuan creates the metaphors that might unexpectedly lead us home.

Artist’s Statement  

Dwelling: Yuan Goang-Ming Solo Exhibition

My creative work has always drawn directly from my personal life experience and from the imagery of the everyday world. But while on the one hand my art reflects reality, on the other it also seeks to create a kind of reversal or subversion of real-world imagery, as a means of challenging the typical take-it-for-granted attitude of people today. The appearance of these ‘subverted’ images opens up an alternative space of speculation, causing the audience to experience the uncanny sensation of existing between something familiar and something strange and unknown, and giving them an entirely new ‘view’ of reality.

Beginning in 2001, I began to expand my narrative focus from my purely autobiographical experience to a wider gaze that encompasses the contemporary state of urbanization and globalization, as a means of exposing typical thinking patterns in Taiwan today: ‘The ideal place exists somewhere else’; the subconscious tendency to ‘do away with localized places’ in favour of a kind of typical hybrid city that can change its appearance and identity at any time; and a kind of indefinable feeling of self-alienation and displacement, of not quite recognizing where one is. Under our current conditions of time and space, both our ‘sense of place and our idea of ‘home’ have become weakened and tenuous, and our memories of the cities in which we live are becoming increasingly blurred.

The present exhibition can be described as a conceptual extension of the themes of ‘home’ and ‘ruins’ that I began exploring in 2007, expanding the scope to the overall state of contemporary existence, in particular that everyday sense of anxiety and unease that arises from the feelings of uncertainty, ambiguity, and floating that permeate the realms of politics, society and home in our island nation of Taiwan.

The exhibition title was inspired by a 1951 essay by the German philosopher Martin Heidegger (1889-1976), called “…Poetically Man Dwells…”. The title of Heidegger’s essay was in turn borrowed from a poem by the German Romantic poet Friedrich Hölderlin (1770-1843). In his discussion, Heidegger points out that humans exist together with heaven, earth, and god, and that it is only when there is a symbiotic harmony among the four that the state of dwelling/settling can be actualized in reality. But given the conditions of contemporary reality, what kind of possibility exists for us to ‘dwell poetically’ in our world? Our only option is to strive together towards a state of true poetic dwelling: otherwise, we will surely fall together.

Yuan Goang-Ming
September 2015
(Translated by Valerie C. Doran)

Artist Biography

YUAN Goang-Ming (b.1965)

Yuan Goang-Ming is an internationally renowned new-media artist and a pioneer of Taiwan video art—a medium he has been experimenting with since 1986. Combining symbolic metaphor with the language of technology, his work eloquently expresses the state of contemporary existence. Yuan holds an MFA in Media art from the Academy of Design, Karlsruhe, Germany (1997), and is an assistant professor in the New Media Art program at Taipei National University of the Arts. His works, ranging from photographs to video to multiple-media installations, have been exhibited at museums and galleries worldwide, and are in private and public collections both at home and abroad. In 2003 he represented Taiwan at the 50th Venice Biennale, and in 2015 he is a featured solo artist in the 13th Biennale de Lyon, La Vie Moderne, in Lyon, France. Yuan has also served as a juror and board member of the Collections Committee of Taipei Fine Arts Museum, the Taipei Arts Award, the Venice Biennale (Taiwan Pavilion), and the Asia Society Arts Award.

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