The Artist-in-Residence Exhibition “Global Imprisonment, Local Exile: Chen Chieh-jen Solo Exhibit”
By: Naomi Kojen
In 2016, National Chengchi University selected contemporary visual artist, Chen Chieh-jen (陳界仁) for its Artist-in-Residence program. Chen Chieh-jen, one of the most prominent names in Taiwanese contemporary art is best known for his video installations that focus on Taiwanese social issues, but also the overreaching impacts of globalization and neoliberal policies. The subjects of Chen’s installations are the marginalized and weakest members of society: female factory workers, unemployed laborers, sanatorium patients’ and immigrant spouses from mainland China.
The program featured multiple activities, among them a powerful exhibition “Global Imprisonment, Local Exile”. The exhibition highlights the creative processes behind Chen’s video installations, which include vast research, extensive fieldwork and building relationships with local people and communities.
At the center of the exhibition is an installation “People Pushing”, a black structure in which a sequence from his previous work “Military Court and Prison” is played in a continuous loop. In the context of this exhibition the work stands on its own. The installation immediately draws your attention with noise and vibration coming from the structure. When peering inside, there is a potent visual image of people exerting all their strength to push a metal sheet. For me, the piece proves particularly effective, on the one hand showing the strain of physical labor, while on the other exposing the futility of their action. “People Pushing” is a powerful metaphor, that raises questions relating to local issues of Taiwanese society, as well as global issues, such as the consequences of globalization and how these shape the contemporary human condition.
The exhibition also featured a desk with pirated DVD’s of selected artworks by Chen Chieh-jen. This is part of Chen’s ongoing project called I Pirate my Own Work- Free Donations Project, where visitors are welcome to take copies of Chen’s work for a donation of their choice. While the pirated DVD’s are not signed by the artist, they are of same quality as limited editions sold in museums and galleries. All proceeds of the project go to local charities.
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