Contemporaneity of Revisiting Historical Paths 

Jun 24, 2011-Jul 31, 2011

Yu Peng, Lee Ming-Tse,  Zhou Chun-Ya, Hong Lei,
Hsu Yu-Jen
Curator - Hu Yung-Fen


Text/ Hu Yung-Fen

Contemporaneity of Revisiting Historical Paths--- Revisiting historical path is like reuniting with old acquaintances

I believe that I am one of those driven to go back to Walter Benjamin’s anthology Illuminations when learning the title of the Biennale di Venezia 2011 is Illumination. In an age shaped by globalization and as debates regarding the impacts of globalization have deepened and diverged, artists from non-western world, on one hand, long to have barrier-free dialogs with the mainstream, and on the other, are eager to confront art context understood by existing viewpoint in order to rediscover the autonomy rooted in their own cultures. Such clashes have become common and self-evident experience among all non-western artists. Benjamin pointed out that communities of different identities or shared bonds could have straightforward understanding and mutual inspiration through their activities that reflect local customs as well as people’s mindset and thinking patterns. He commended: “In the long stream of history, the perception of human being has been modified as survival patterns changed. Human being’s perception is organic, it is decided by natural as well as historical circumstances.” In other words, the subjective perception of an individual, culturally and historically, is inseparable from the current conditions of being. Over the past three decades, discourses on related issues have been chewed and digested many times in both Taiwan and China. To me, these issues have converged to the debates of West and East, tradition and contemporary since the 1970s. I am more and more convinced that, traditions and cultures are living things, like the DNA we inherit from our ancestors, they are identifiable in our souls and in our bodies. But the DNA codes don’t duplicate exactly same lives, every being has its own unique traits, thus our conservation of heritage doesn’t need to copy the old things, instead, it is a new life thriving through the nourishment of old soil. It took me many years to realize such a simple idea: As a person from non-western and non-mainstream culture, I am supposed to be proud of my honorable DNA and live with self-confidence and easiness. And because of the spontaneity of art and the subjectivity of art creators, art interpretation should focus on cultural connotation and historical implication carried in art activities instead of explaining the content of artworks. From this perspective, so far, among all the Chinese artists who represent Chinese tradition, only a few are able to transform their culture through inherited DNA with confidence. In other words, not many contemporary Chinese artworks are produced through autonomous motivation. While organizing this exhibition, I thought of the words of Chang Dai, a literature critic dated back to the end of the Ming Dynasty and the beginning of the Ch’ing Dynasty: “Revisiting historical path is like reuniting with old acquaintances.” Historical path and old acquaintance as keywords insinuate many of my intuitive ideas of this event, and “revisiting” and “reuniting” are the attempt to respond to one’s affection and memories of the past. When one arrives at the historical path, it’s no longer historical, it is the encounter of the author and her ideas about the path. Chang Dai’s terse words brought out a montage image of a winding, secluded passage that can be used to examine how contemporary artists cope with their own DNA in their work and their interpretation of their time. This exhibition invited five artists, they are Yu Peng, Lee Ming-Tse, Zhou Chun-Ya, Hung Lei and Hsu Yu-Jen. Their art demonstrates different passages toward the tradition and local culture through their outstanding art style and unique art vocabularies. I believe these artists can best present the contemporary context of revisiting the past with independent thinking about historical heritage. Among these five artists, Zhou Chun-Ya and Hung Lei travel frequently between Chengdu, Changzhou and Shanghai and other Chinese cities. The other three are Taiwanese artists, Yu Peng lives in Taipei City, Hsu Yu-Jen works at his studios in suburban Taipei and Beijing, and Lee Ming-Tze bases in Zhouyin, Kaohsiung, his soul never can leave southern Taiwan for too long. Shared interconnected cultural background, these five artists brilliantly represent personal and local experience through their art, and they stand out with their remarkable approaches in interpreting their inheritance with unique art style.

  • Installation View
  • Works