Features / Review

Discordant Harmony

posted 19 Sep 2016

As a collaborative project between four curators from China, Korea, Japan and Taiwan, “Discordant Harmony” discusses the various phenomena and issues that confront Asia today. Following the two exhibitions in Seoul and Hiroshima in 2015, the third exhibition takes place in the Taipei’s Kuandu Museum of Fine Arts in 2016(Jul 22~Sep 18). This focuses on individual subjectivity and systemic relationships to examine social conditions in the contemporary Asian city through the perspectives of 19 artists.

“Discordant Harmony” is a contemplation and creation of experience. It is a collaborative project combining arts production and knowledge production, initiated by the German Goethe Institute with the aim to establish a new cultural platform. The project explores the ways in which institutions, curators and artists from four different regions collaborate on, delve into and discuss the various phenomena and issues that confront Asia today. As such, we re-approach the “Asia” issue through artistic practice and exhibition production. From political, economic and linguistic perspectives, the problems of human society that occur in Asia are in fact global issues rather than region specific.

Above) exhibition view of KIAF 2015 Left) Koki Tanaka, ‘A Piano Played by 5 Pianists at Once’ (First Attempt), 2012, Collaboration, video documentation (57mins), Photo courtesy of the artist, Vitamin Creative Space, Guangzhou and Aoyama Meguro, Tokyo. Commissioned by the University Art Galleries, University of California, Irvine. © Tanaka Koki
Right) Chiba Masaya, ‘Self Portrait #3’, 2015, Performed at “Discordant Harmony”, Art Sonje Center, Seoul, DVD face paint printed on paper & DVD, 27×35cm&11mins 13secs

Image of the World

We create the show with 19 artists, focusing on four key ideas: image of the world, “survivors” of history, dual identity and resistance to biopolitics. The exhibition title “Discordant Harmony” first points to the splitting and mixing of individuality and coordination. Tanaka Koki, in his nearly four years of creating projects, has focused on issues regarding collective engagements. He invites different participants to temporarily collaborate with him and even starts experimental conversations about historical issues. In other words, cooperation becomes something that must be realized today, but it is impossible to know what forms they might take. On the other hand, Chiba Masaya engages directly with his subjects through the process of painting in his studio and making wooden models and installations. He uses realistic painting techniques to perform identities, all of which attempt to present how internalization generates a wide field of vision. No matter how these two methods differ in their basic direction, both are about how to create proximity with the world by using painting or concepts.

The world is a perfect example of the evolution of a system, as people in different regions have undergone change over hundreds of years and generations. Because of the scale at which the concept of the world is developed, a lot of people’s fates are involved, especially with scientific and technological advancements, the industrial revolution and capitalism, which have accelerated various democratic revolutions. But it is never balanced or even; on the contrary, it is always uneven with regard to the acquisition of resources and generation of profits. We find that normalcy, steadiness or unevenness cannot satisfy the people’s imagination of an equal world. The real situation is one in which dynamic equilibrium is needed.

Above) exhibition view of KIAF 2015 Left) Teng Chao Min, ‘Game of Wills’, 2016, drawing on photo paper, 210×297mm (each), Courtesy of the artist
Right) Koo Jeong A, ‘Why do you do what you do’, 2015, 324 ring magnets. Dimension variable, Courtesy of the artist

Koo Jeong A composes her installations using magnetism. A seemingly stable structure actually harbors persistent, dynamic and polarizing forces. Koo arranges industrial magnets to present a metaphor about world relations. The forces of attraction, balance and looming instability seem to point to the fact that the language of reason and rule of law are masking the underlying truth of power. They disguise a much more mixed state, where mutual infiltration and exclusion take place. Kim Sora uses sound to occupy space and create interactive relations with space. Different sounds are used at either end of the installation to create the experience of learning how to understand perceptual balance between two poles by choosing different positions.

Using a piano featured in previous collaborations, Kwon Byung Jun creates a live performance that is recorded. He then broadcasts the recordings in the venue at different times. These three artists use objects to shape our perceptions and configure different metaphors for our world.

In contrast to these constructed metaphors, Teng Chao-Ming presents a variety of promotional and research images related to the Olympics. In this way, he pushes a picture of world political, social and economic archaeology to the forefront. As we know, to imagine the Olympics is to imagine the world. Another example is Pak Sheung Chuen, who uses the world’s coding systems to rediscover the relationship between individuals outside of the system, and to see how individuals in Hong Kong have changed over ten years by revisiting them. The artist believes individuals are a microcosm of the world and elements that transcend the world system.

Above) exhibition view of KIAF 2015 Ham Yang Ah, ‘The Sleep’, 2015, Video, 10 mins. Courtesy of the artist. © Yangah Ham

Survivor from History

History is neither real nor a basic record, but rather is written some distance from an empirical and material reality. And the creator of any kind of fiction is a survivor of a “history–world,” the image of a world formed by histories, and what is created is a relationship between the individual and the world. Since the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis and the financial turmoil in Southeast Asia, South Korea has achieved a global economic miracle with a completely new societal composition. But the MV Sewol accident has forced many Koreans into survivorship, as well as into confusion and doubt. Ham Yang Ah, just like many South Koreans, was shocked by the sinking of MV Sewol, and she responded by setting up a gymnasium as a temporary shelter and a survivors’ collective. Through interactive viewing, her work illustrates extremely complicated, intertwined and profound relationships. Since the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Takamine Tadasu has organized a series of events for reflection. In addition to the analysis of the historical context of nuclear test explosions and the social situation in Japan, he is also concerned about the psychological state of Japanese persons as survivors. Leung Chi Wo conducts a genealogical survey starting from his birth year 1967 and interweaves in it ideas about the relationship between the individual and the world. Having experienced the historical storms triggered by various events, we are all survivors of our history–world. By rewriting “Hiroshima Mon Amour,” Yang Jun invites reconsideration of the relationship between memory and historical environment. Memory or memories of an event enable individuals to think about their respective history–world.

Above) exhibition view of KIAF 2015 Left) Liu Ding, ‘1988(Language as the Issue)’, 2016, Installation (brass sticks, documents, oil painting), dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artist and Antenna Space
Right) Yoneda Tomoko, from the series ‘Jingliao’, 2013, chromogenic print, 650×830mm

Double Identity

In the complex history of East Asia in the nineteenth century, the individual was always required to choose sides within the political spectrum with respect to identity. Societies also split under this pressure. In the search for a livelihood, drifting individuals often had double or even multiple identities. Yoneda Tomoko follows the traces of the spy Hotsumi Ozaki. She documents the Japanese houses in Taipei in which the Chief of Staff under Chiang Kai-Shek resided. She also finds traces of the Chiang regime in Jingliao Village in the Houbi District of Tainan, which has declined due to globalization. In her photos, everyone seems to have a double life, whether a Japanese, Chinese or Taiwanese person. Liu Ding, by creating a dialogue between an art event of 1985 and another of 1988 , based on phenomena in the Chinese art scene, presents a dual identity, with one side recognizing the paradigm of European-American ideas and another side questioning these external influences, pointing to an East–West split in artistic knowledge. Liu also tries to reconfigure the art canon in his work. Hao Jingban revisits a group of dancers who traversed China during different periods. They used the power of community to avoid ideological checks. Passion for art allowed the dancers to create double lives accommodating the times. Tsang Wu expands on previous concerns dealing with duality or multiple identities. Based on a survey of the life of the Chinese revolutionary and feminist Qiu Jin, Tsang creates a video in which she splits her gender identity and highlights the dual identity of martyrdom in a suicide note. Lee Kit does not directly touch on identity issues, but he continues to focus on the contemporary split personality in everyday life. Both the spatial split and inside/outside split are presented as something normal in his works.

Above) exhibition view of KIAF 2015 Top) Wu Tsang, ‘Duilian’, 2016, HD video, 25 mins, Courtesy of Galerie Isabella bortolozzi
below) siren eun young jung, ‘I am Not going to Sing’, 2015, performance documentation, 15mins 41secs, Courtesy of the artist.

Resistance to Bio-politics

Since its integration into international structures following World War II, Asia has participated in the construction of the world and world dynamics. In Asia, structural factors are not only the result of rational governance as in European development but also a more profound mechanism in the operation and distribution of social power. They also have been mixed into the inside and outside links of domination, or what is often called “latent colonialism.” However, how this domination is resisted is closely related to innovation and self-cultivation in production methods. The artist siren eun young jung expresses a liberated consciousness and an idiosyncratic and unavoidable duality by portraying a performer from the Korean women’s musical theater group Yeoseong Gukgeuk. She revisits the history of individual life to understand Korean society’s internal gender domination as expressed through art, and reconstructs the history of women to resist the structure of biopolitics.

Chen Chieh-Jen, in ‘Empire’s Borders — Western Enterprises, Inc.,’ thoroughly and concisely presents different ideologies of domination. These domination structures continually produce victims lacking subjective agency under biopolitical operations. In ‘Bianwen Book,’ he reorganizes his own creative and life contexts with a confrontational attitude and puts forth his own methodology based on personal experience. Chang Wen-Hsuan sets “survivors of the history–world” as the premise of her narrative project, and uses it to create depth in her fabrications. Through investigation, the artist creates fictions in place of missing memories and reorganizes narrative mise en abyme to restore life stories. By linking different times and spaces to “complete” history, her work resists a biopolitics that operates and manages memory.

The exhibition “Discordant Harmony” in Taipei seeks to accurately answer the following questions: How does the concept of “world” operate in its geographic sense in Asia? How should artists in Asia use their experiences of history to respond to the concept of “world” developed in Asia? If the individual under long-term exposure to latent colonialism must deconstruct biopolitical governance using his or her own understanding and criticism, then the methods or methodologies of these different personal explorations can be regarded as the art practices most worthy of our observation.

Chien-Hung Huang / Associate Professor at Kaohsiung National Normal University

Huang Chien-hung studied in France and have the doctorate degree in Philosophy at Paris 8. He has translated books by G. Deleuze, J. Baudrillard and J. Ranciere. Huang is a film critic and a critic of contemporary art and the spectacle. Since 2007, he has been also working as a curator. He is currently associate professor of Kaohsiung National Normal University, in the Institute of Interdisciplinary Arts. 

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