Pushing Toward The Center—A Memorial Programming
Written by WU Chieh-Hsiang
3D複製的物件突顯了藝術的虛構性的能動性，持續的將歷史從文獻和史料的存記模式拖引到眼前，翻攪被疊壓而消失的記憶。插破玻璃櫃的船，讓我聯想到印卡修尼巴爾(Yinka Shonibare)在倫敦大英藝廊前的特拉法加廣場(Trafalgar Square)上的第四柱（因為沒有經費而空著的柱子，每年徵選藝術家作品）上的瓶子中的納爾遜海軍中將旗艦(Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle)，利用瓶子和戰役接近的發音，呈現皇家海軍勝利號戰艦，這艘英國皇家海軍的一級風帆戰艦在1778年美國獨立戰爭爆發時參與阿申特島戰役(Battle of Ushant) ，並於1797年法國大革命時，參與聖文生角之役(Battle of Cape St Vincent)，大勝西班牙海軍。此後又在1805年參與特拉法加之役(Battle of Trafalgar)大破法國與西班牙聯合艦隊而聞名。勝利號戰艦現在停放於英國樸次茅斯海軍基地(Her Majesty's Naval Base, Portsmouth)。
大自然代表，和純然的施予的原住民生命態度；二是以地理上的特色和資源來對照人的作為。有史以來，人類總是在區劃邊陲，做為懲處、監視和囚禁的所在，特別是製造各種形式的消失、邊陲便是製造牲人(Homer Sacer) 的一種模式。政治犯必須自己撿拾和打磨咕咾石構築自己的監禁，和去年高俊宏在這裡的作品《須彌：挖洞即造山》和施昀佑北美獎入圍《築牆練習》同調，也都以不同的方式表達政治剝削權的虛妄和荒謬。張恩滿的《眺島》除了對於政治力的評論，也點出了權力導向對自然的輕蔑。而捲起的大浪和捲入的人形，和夕陽下變換斑斕的彩色玻璃，形成極大的對比。原住民被迫在這裡築牆的屈辱，和像教堂花窗的對照，是藝術在大自然裡尋找洗滌和救贖的建議吧。
The second year of Green Island Human Rights Art Festival was curated by Sandy Lou, the same curator of the first year. More projects were included this year, sufficiently supporting the very heavy curatorial discourse. All invited Taiwanese artists created new works for the Festival, and foreign artists presented their earlier projects echoing the themes. Setting out from theories regarding marginality and the Other, the curator engaged artists to derive their thoughts in art forms. The first artwork responding to marginality, I think, was the Two Archaeological Scenes by Hsu Chia-Wei. It made Green Island a starting point on a navigation map and connected our stereotypical impression of Green Island as a diving paradise with the salvage of historic relics conducted by the Academia Sinica. The pieces shown as excavated objects were Hsu’s replicas of archaeologist Wang Hung-Po’s handmade ceramic works. Representing the works of Wang Hung-Po, a White Terror victim, we couldn’t help but associate surfaced truth that had been underwater for a long time. The boat breaking the glass and stretching out from the display case suggested the questionable preservability and presentability of the history.
The 3-dimensional replicas outlined the dynamics of the fictionality of art and brought historical archives among other materials to our attention with different memorial forms, stirring the buried or fading memories again. The boat breaking the case reminded me of British-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare’s work presented on the Fourth Plinth on Trafalgar Square in front of the National Gallery in London (The Fourth Plinth had been bare due to insufficient funding and each year an artwork is selected to be displayed on it). Shonibare’s work was Nelson’s Ship In A Bottle, making use of the pronunciation of “bottle” sounding similar to “battle”. Nelson’s Ship was one of the ships named HMS Victory, a first-rate flagship that fought in the Battle of Ushant against French fleet in 1778, during the American Revolutionary War. And in 1797, during the French Revolution, it defeated Spanish Navy in the Battle of Cape St Vincent. In 1805, Nelson’s Ship conquered the joint Franco-Spanish fleet in the Battle of Trafalgar. Currently Nelson’s Ship is harbored at Her Majesty’s Naval Base in Portsmouth.
Yinka Shonibare is an African-British artist, he replaced the sailcloth with African flower patterned fabric (the artist’s signature style) and put the ship into a bottle that was how ship models usually are presented. It was to look into the history of Britain becoming a powerful colonialist through battles all over the waters. At the same time, it reflected the invaried rule that the “historical display” and “trophy collection” are the privilege of victors. Hsu Chia-Wei is very good at reconstructing history by making use of legends, oral history, discovered objects, and unusual visual angles (photography from above, by drone, or through diving) that surely would impact our memories. From a person’s wronged past to an island’s history, the Two Archaeological Scenes reversed the obscurity of the hardship one had endured in the historic archives, meanwhile, giving ideas regarding the victim’s memory more than just a single form. The model ship’s breaking out of the display case also questioned the musealization of the White Terror Memorial Park.
Another project breaking through the marginality of Green Island was Chang En-Man’s Milky Way. One of the victims Ouyang Wen remembered he was amazed and awed when seeing indigenous women’s bare breasts in Green Island. Chang En-Man therefore adopted the Greek myth of Heracles getting divinity from Hera. Greek myths had much to do with geography, for the country had been under threats of earthquakes, ocean tides, and volcanic explosions (Mount Olympus, home of gods, is a volcano). On the other hand, it impregnated diverse beings with abundant natural resources because of its unusual geographical conditions. And relocating or sailing needed celestial navigation that human beings had learned from the cycles of nature before restyling them, according to astronomic and geographic knowledge, into stories of deities and humans. Green Island had been inhabited by Tao, Taroko and Puyuma peoples, although it had stunning landscapes, it was used to isolate prisoners by the regime. In her art project, Chang developed two narrative lines, one told the stories of rich lives nourished by Green Island and the indigenous peoples’ attitude toward life. Another was human’s intervention of Green Island’s geographic features and resources. Since the known history, marginalized places are used to incarcerate and punish people who are to be eradicated, or to be disqualified as humans. Political prisoners here were ordered to pick and carve rocks to construct walls to confine themselves. In the 2019 Festival, artist Kao Jun-Honn’s Sumeru: Caving Is Orogeny and Shih Yun-You’s Mending Wall, A Practice also accentuated the absurdity and groundlessness in political exploitation at that time. In 2020, the Milky Way criticised the politics and the power holders’ contempt for nature. In this work, the ideas regarding the human figures devoured by tides constituted a stark contrast to the brilliantly changing light of the stained glass. Isn’t it the artist’s suggestion that, in the church-like ambiance and art in nature, we might find redemption for the humiliation the victims had to endure when forced to build walls and the deprivation the indigenous people had to suffer when forced to relocate?
In Eleng Luluan’s The Forgotten Vanishing, big waves were represented by hand weaving of fine fishing threads, which lively expressed the threatening power of the sea. The weaving was a landscape as well as a map; pure white waves have strong sucking forces, luring spectators by the gigantic black rocks with witchcraft. It’s a gaze of the Green Island from seashore, also resembling two saddened faces leaning against one another. Were they speechless and in despair, fading into their own unkempt hair and the blue night?
In Eric Chen’s Coordinate Being, sticks wrapped by red threads gave an impression of bandaged wounds. The vaguely visible red wraps constituted a profile of the Green Island from the sea. It could be a hurrued glance when approaching or leaving. This artwork obscurely implied the existence of walls that failed to block outward views and desire for freedom. The site was where Chen Meng-He, a prisoner decades ago, had developed films of the photos he took. Chen Meng-He’s later photographs of Green Island from a boat had been displayed at the gate of exhibition “Huge Waves Attack — Revealing the truths and redressing the case of ‘re-rebellion’ at the New Life Correction Center on Green Island”. The two works from the same angle remind us that in this gorgeous island, many lives had been consumed or wasted, but not their dignity, thanks to their admirable resistance and creativity.
Lin Yi-Chi’s Group Portrait of The Echoers also regarded the geographic features of Green Island. Five screens played the performance of a tour guide, a lighthouse guard, a cleaner of wax statues in the museum, a house painter of the memorial park, and the new coming young freshman and freshwoman. In the videos, they sang “Waiting for Nothing” (composed and written by Simario and Lin Yi-Chi) in Chinese, Japanese, Taiwanese and English, like singing a love song. It was on-site performance, spectators outside of the windows or through the screens could see the inscription of Chiang Kei-Shek’s word: “Forget Not The Days of Displacement From Our Motherland”. The period of White Terror, the time when the prison was transformed into a museum, and when the artist was recording her work were presented in synchrony. Lin Yi-Chi said it was “going across the boundary of time and space in animated images with a manner of being possessed by the ghosts of history”. From the artless performance, I see the aesthetics from the spontaneity of interpreting the past, although not without young generations’ ambivalent feelings to the stories of the victims. They decided not to repeat what they were told, but through their own angles and diverse narratives to cover the spatial memories with their own bodies and the images of the bodies to produce echoes of the history. It was the younger generations self-empowered interpretation of the past White Terror and the historical sites of injustice.
The aforementioned projects responded to the theme of marginality, not only its past role as a place confining rebellion intellectuals because of its geographic isolation, but also the new significance under the trends in tourism, ecological studies, archaeological discovery and museological development today. Might it suggest the marginality manipulated politically, memories of White Terror diluted by consumerism, or historical specimens carefully preserved, or consecrated stories that are no longer discussed?
How can we avoid the consecration or embalmment of the victimhood? How can we internalize the memories of the aging victims and pass on their life stories to coming generations? The Libera Work-Gang established a system to present national specimens. In the cells, The Print Studio and Specimen Room Did Exist in the 20th Century represented the punitive power of the state apparatus as well as the strategies of passing on stories of state injustice. In the Specimen Room, maps of victims being searched and charts of their relationship were presented with framed portraits of the executed, straw men, and fragments of letters, among other symbolizing objects. The straw men were reminiscent of those executed publicly during the monarchy, implying that human lives were treated no better than strawgrass. In the White Terror period, although all the trials were proceeded in the courts and decided by judges, President Chiang Kai-Shek still had the power to change the sentences to capital punishment. Human lives and the rule of law were completely disregarded. In the Print Studio were the visualized White Terror. The woodcut prints covering up the walls were made during the workshops of the Libera Work-Gang. The original woodcut inspiring the fights for freedom as well as this project was also found in this room—The Terrible Inspection by Huang Yung-Tsan, also a victim of White Terror. These woodcut prints are dedicated to Taiwan’s democratization and human rights restoration. The printable woodcuts or etching had been applied during the religious revolutions, enlightenment, and democratization in Europe, for they were easy to print in mass quantities at any place and any time. Woodcutting was passed to China in the 20th century, becoming perfect tools to spread ideals of socialism with its unique aesthetics. And during the later half of the 20th century, similar works were passed around through Taiwan Shing Sheng Daily News, China Daily News, and Taiwan Tribune, among other publications. They became the pain in the neck of the regime, thus social issues regarding minorities among other political comments were repressed. According to Chen Shu-Sheng’s “Lu Xun and Woodcut Art in the 1940s in China and the Rising Left-wing Art in Taiwan”, woodcut artists were excluded from art competitions in Taiwan since 1946 (Journal of National Museum of Fine Arts, 2001). With the print workshops, the Libera Work-Gang has rediscovered the magnetism of the wild style of woodcutting and the outreach effect of their prints. Through the participation of more and more people, these stories have regained their lives and are renarrated, and the political nature of woodcutting is no longer a taboo.
K’s Room—the Creation and Destruction of the World by Hung Wei-Ling and Hsin Pei-Yi was about Ke Qi-Hua, a victim and an author of English dictionary and grammar books that helped numerous students. “From creation to destruction” was compared to “From A to Z”, an arrangement not unlike a dictionary that starts from the beginning to the last in alphabet order. In his cell, Mr. Ke demonstrated each vocabulary and sentence, from simple ones to more complicated examples. Through the switching scenes between the park and the teaching, the audience could feel Mr. Ke’s desires to fly away, to study overseas, and to be united with his family. The calmness contained in the extraordinary aesthetics of this art project was heartbreaking. Ke Qi-Hua had been incarcerated for 17 years and had attempted to take his own life. K’s Room subtly expressed his despair through the example sentences. I was reminded of the Nobel Literature Laureate Herta Müller, a German speaking Romanian and was oppressed by the Communist regime as the descendant of Nazi Germany. In Romania, she couldn’t speak her own language, thus her writing must endlessly break the rules of languages, like destroying them before rearranging them as a strategy to express the traumas of enduring double erosion of her parentage and identity. Müller’s best known novel Atemschaukel used a word that did not really exist, it was her way of whipping the words in order to mirror the pain beyond one’s body could tolerate. Represented by subjunctive sentences, the most truthful life of Ke Qi-Hua in K’s Room saddened everyone who ever learned English from his books.
The powerfulness or powerlessness of words also could be seen in Wang Ting-Yeh’s My Dear, Kiss Me And Goodbye. The words in Taiwanese manufactured by neon light tubes were an intimate farewell, whose speaker gave out the last comfort he could offer with warmth. Wang Ting-Yeh is the third generation of a victim, but the materials he could find were fragmental, what he could only rely on were the incomplete memories of the other members of his family. So the artist was dealing with the speechlessness of the victimhood. Whether the obscurity was because the evidence had been hidden, or because the memories had been buried is unknown. The artist was left with very limited elements to investigate the invisible pain in his family. Compared to his Confronting Memories in 2017, an artwork made with ash, these hand-writing Taiwanese words spelled by Roman phonetics and hung at the entrance of the Bagua Building was a message the artist made for those who had needed to say goodbye to their beloved. “My dear, kiss me and goodbye”, tenderly, these words trembled slightly in the air, like fugitives afraid to reveal their traces had to save their words of farewell.
Lin Tzu-Ning’s _______What We Cannot Say included one’s body in identity politics. The artist read a brief history of Taiwan, but whenever Taiwan was pronounced, performance participants would make noises to disturb it. At the same time the artist used her own body to demonstrate the cause of harm whenever a declaration was made. The roles of the oppressors, the oppressed, perpetrators and victims were carefully assigned to demonstrate how traumas were formed physically. As the performance was repeated, the pieces of gauze cut from the wrap the artist was wearing piled up. And in the brief history of Taiwan, Lin Tzu-Ning crossed over the word Taiwan with red thread. Like the red lines over her white clothes, they were cuts still oozing blood. Each cut was shallow, but the damages added up. In her artwork, Lin Tzu-Ning kept Taiwan’s position ambiguous in terms of nation, political system, culture and geography. Is Taiwan a place, a country, or an entity other than China? Why would pledging “I am a Taiwanese” certainly would provoke the statement “I am not a XXX”? Collective actions of repression allowed us to see the history of persecution; it was not easy to tell, and it was not easy to break away, either.