Jump to the content zone at the center

Taipei Biennial 2012: Modern Monsters / Death and Life of Fiction

By Gobby Wang
Staff Writer

The Museum of Gourd is one of three mini museums on the third floor. (Photo courtesy of  Taipei Fine Arts Museum)Ideas behind Taipei Biennial 2012

The construct of Taipei Biennial 2012 comes from the ancient Chinese monster known as "Taowu." This beast is famous for its ability to see both the future and the past, a phenomenon studied by literary historian David Der-Wei Wang in his book "The Monster That is History." Wang finds that the ferocious Taowu is like a symbol that humans cannot dominate history and reveals the blind spots of various historical rationales. Taowu is a fictional representation and symptomatic expression of that which notoriously escapes human reasoning and historical accounts. 

Taipei Biennial 2012 aims to explore the possibility of adapting into a common experience all modernity, including dialectic strategies that address, expose, and disarm the anonymous, systemic monstrosity of modernity. It speaks of the way that normative matrices strangle the imagination of the present and our horizons of possibility.

The death and life of fiction appears in this exhibition in the form of Taowu's address to the fundamental underside – the systemic terror that lurks behind modernity's emancipatory promises. We can see how the new image of the monster "Taowu" is encountered as permanently shape-shifting inversions which situate us at the tilting point occupied by the Taowu, and speak of the life and death of fiction within the conditions and mythologies called modernity.

In addition to forty-seven contributions being shown in the Taipei Biennial 2012, there are also six mini museums located on different floors, with all works and projects demonstrating interrelations to the core thesis of Taipei Biennial 2012.

This is “The Waiting Wall” by German artist Hannah Hurtzig. (Photo courtesy of Taipei Fine Arts Museum)Introduction of the six mini museums

"The Museum of the Monster That Is History" is the main mini museum on the first floor. This grouping discusses the Monstrosity which in modern times is surely present in plentiful forms. Its most poignant face, however, is not modern fiction, but actual violence enacted in the name of rationality. There is a video show at the entry in which the leaders of several countries apologize publicly to their citizens.

"The Museum of Crossings" is located on the second floor and all works and projects are related to the crossing of borders such as how to make garbage become an art work and what animals have the ability to change colors in order to adapt to their environment.

There are three mini museums on the third floor: "The Museum of Gourd", "The Museum of Ante-Memorials" and "The Museum of Rhythm". These three sections refer to wars and the riots, devastation and wounds, as well as the inspiration that wars have brought throughout history.

"The Museum of the Infrastructural Unconscious" inserts itself amidst shifting relations between the forms of contemporary politics and sovereignties, and the forms of their material operating spaces. The exhibition sets out an inquiry into the models to be governed, their order and effects and structural change, through measuring, surveying, quantifying, evaluating, connecting and linking these various elements.

Ginger Glacier

What will people do when worldwide climate becomes too terrible for anyone to survive? Artist Adam Avikainen suggests that the only way people might survive is to become the incarnation of the sun or its shadows. Strong adaptive powers will be needed In order to accommodate climate change,. Thus Avikainen creates a special substance called the "Ginger Glacier" which he presents through the medium of drawings and combined materials.

"Ginger Glacier" was shown for the first time by Avikainen in New Zealand in 2012. To develop "Ginger Glacier" for Taipei Biennial 2012, he stayed in Taiwan to observe the environment for three months.

This work is presented on a linen canvas 7 meters high and 18 meters wide, and the artist uses local sources as pigments, including ginger tree sap, betel nut juice and soil of chicken coop dirt samples.

Ginger Glacier is a name for what will become of our human bodies as well as all other elemental and spiritual life: it is a collective body composed of anarchic cellular life living and growing in symbiotic relationships, a "frozen heat wave" that "dances with the sun."

Taipei Biennial 2012 curator: Anselm Franke

Anselm Franke, 34, was born in Heiligenberg in southern Germany. He currently curator of the 2012 Taipei Biennial, and will take a post as the head of the Visual Art and Film Department of House of World Cultures in Berlin beginning in January 2013.

Franke has a wealth of experience in curating art exhibitions. Major projects he has carried out are Territories, Islands, Camps and Other States of Utopia(2003)and Animism(2010). The former was co-curated with Eyal Weizman and Stefano Boeri in conjunction with Multiplicity. The show has toured the Konsthal Malmoe in Sweden, the Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam, the Index in Stockholm, Bezalel Academy in Tel Aviv and the Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem.

"Many people expect artists to be active in joining the community of society and politics to resolve issues, and try to improve problems. However, I worry that exhibitions over-emphasize political standpoints, resulting in misunderstandings of fine art," says Franke.

As artists, if we emphasize decision-making powers and reject outside opinions, this may result in the loss of functionality, thus endangering the status of fine art, he said.

Franke also noted that Taipei Biennial 2012 can act as a mechanism to transit the main points from politics to history, as viewing the art acknowledges the standards and processes of developing history.

My Mini Museum - Mimic Project

Date:2012/10/10(Wed) 9:30~17:00
Venue:Gallery 2A Space 209
Participants:Senior high school students and above

This activity is divided into three areas. The first is a reading area in the entry space, where books related to archives of the Taipei Biennial exhibition are offered. The second is the exhibition project room, which is organized like a mini studio where selected participants can carry out an exhibition project. After the participants finish their projects, they will show their work in a display room to share their innovative ideas with others.

"My Mini Museum - Mimic project" is intended to inspire modern people to enhance their lives and history by taking part in an art activity. 

Please visit the official website www.taipeibiennial.org for more information. There is a guide service in English, and the public is invited to call or e-mail to ask for further details. 2012 Taipei Biennial also provides free bilingual software apps for ios and Android smart phones.