The Wild Eighties: Dawn of a Transdisciplinary Taiwan
2022/12/03 - 2023/02/26

This exhibition uses works, archives, audio and video documentaries recordings, and interviews to trace the development of “transdisciplinary’ across Taiwan’s art and literature history in the 1980s. Taiwan’s “transdisciplinary” was not a process of modernity, but a state of existence and a way out for society. The exhibition showcases five major sub-themes: “Avant-Garde and Experimental” presents the experimentations of creators in various fields, stimulated by the paper media and inspired by new Western forms; “Politics and Taboo” presents the unsealing of the mind, body, and creativity in an increasingly free society before and after the lifting of martial law; “Translation and Hybridity” depicts the publication of a large number of translations and the evolution of ideas due to internationalization and the increase of scholars returning to Taiwan. “Local, Global, and Identity” conveys Taiwan’s integration into the global production chain, and the collision of identity and values at different levels. “Convergence and Onward” reshapes the atmosphere of the gathering place with open space, and the planning of a series of public events to take place here.

Jun-Jieh WANG

Jun-Jieh Wang currently serves as the director of the Taipei Fine Arts Museum and is a professor in the Department of New Media Art at Taipei National University of the Arts. He received a master’s degree in art from Berlin University of the Arts. In 1984, Wang started making videos and became a pioneer of new media art in Taiwan. He is a recipient of the Hsiung-Shih New Artists Award, Berlin Television Tower Award, and the Taishin Arts Award for visual arts. He has shown work at major international exhibitions, including the Gwangju Biennale, Venice Biennale, Taipei Biennial, Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, European Media Art Festival, and Transmediale Berlin; and curated the B!AS: International Sound Art Exhibition (TFAM, 2005), Taipei Biennial: Dirty Yoga (TFAM, 2006), the Taipei Digital Art Festival (2009, 2012, 2013, 2014), and Re-Base: When Experiments Become Attitude (Taiwan Contemporary Culture Lab, 2018). Wang has also contributed to interdisciplinary digital scenic designs for productions of Richard Wagner's The Ring of the Nibelungen performed by the Taiwan Philharmonic in 2006, and Giacomo Puccini's Turandot performed at the Deutsche Oper am Rhein in 2015 and at the National Kaohsiung Center for the Arts Weiwuying in 2019. He directed Sin City, which was performed at Songshan Cultural and Creative Park in 2013, and The Night of Sodom, performed at the TFAM in 2015. 

Chien-Hung HUANG

Chien-Hung Huang was born in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. After studying Chemistry in Tung-Hai University, he received Jacques Rancière’s supervision at the University of Paris 8 Vincennes-St. Denis and obtained his PhD degree in 2004. He is currently a professor and director of Graduate Institute of Trans-disciplinary Arts and, since 2019, the director of Kuandu Museum of Fine Arts, at Taipei National University of the Arts. His research has focused on film studies, aesthetic theory, contemporary art thinking, philosophy, and curation. He has worked on the translation of works by Gilles Deleuze, Jean Baudrillard, and Jacques Rancière. He is the author of An Independent Discourse (2010), Looking through Films (2010, edit. & coll. in China), New Directions: Trans-Plex Weaving Platform Agenda (2011, edit. & coll. with Shigeo Gotō), Smile of Montage (2013), Trans-fiction: Investigation project of Asia (2017), Fragaments on Paracolonial (2018). He has collaborated with Yukie Kamiya, Sunjung Kim, and Carol Yinghua Lu on the curatorial project Discordant Harmony. Other curatorial practices include Trans-Justice (MOCA, Taipei, 2018), Co/Inspiration in Catastrophes (coll. with Pan Sheau-shei, 2019), Queering Umwelt (Tao Art Space, 2020), Demo-Art : Culture Plasticizing Movement n.0 Now (Kuandu Museum of Fine Arts, 2021). 

Selected Artworks

Avant-gardism in Taiwan was always a cultural form that mixed local conditions with experimental responses to foreign information. This was especially apparent under the protracted period of closure and cycle of oppression and agitation that was martial law. The 1980s saw the rise of the middle class, divisions induced by a torrent of Western ideas, and liberal trends in society that called for provisional alliances among different disciplines and challenges to realism. The decade was marked by many important events that shaped the emerging modern and contemporary art landscape, including the establishment of the Taipei Fine Arts Museum, the use of public places that were unauthorized and noninstitutional, and the rise of performance art and small experimental theaters that focused on bodies, space and current events. For Taiwanese intellectuals, film became an important vehicle for responding to reality, while screening room culture, the Golden Harvest Awards, and video art all opened important and progressive communication platforms. The Xirang exhibition series and October events, for which visual and performing artists came together in abandoned buildings to create improvisational happenings, arose during a time when official art spaces were also emerging in a blindly groping society. These activities created significant interdisciplinary connections, put into play a range of political expressions, and opened a field where the self, environment, and history collided—all of which resulted in terra genesis. It is precisely the co-occurrence of these many projects and events that constitute the original essence of the avant-garde in 1980s Taiwan: collision.

Before martial law was lifted in 1987, an atmosphere of political relaxation started forming in society, yet this energy was accompanied by certain dangers. This was manifest in incidents such as the Lin family massacre, Lee Shih-ke’s armed robbery of the Taiwan Land Bank, Premier Yu Kuo-hwa’s course of “internationalization, liberalization, and institutionalization,” the murder of Henry Liu, the 10th Credit Cooperative Bank scandal, the execution of Tang Ying-shen, the establishment of the Democratic Progressive Party, and others. Politics in the 1980s came to a boil due to opposition between government systems and individual freedoms—a tension triggered by information from emerging media outlets that challenged taboos and official histories spun by the authorities. This tension was manifest in social movements exposing public dissent; ambiguity in the face of historical events such as the lifting of martial law, the Tiananmen Square protests, and the rise of new China; gender rebellion, including the promotion of feminism and sexual minorities in writing and behavior; and the establishment of recording studios and rock music by artists such as Lo Ta-yu. At this time, history became a domain where sharing and dialogue were possible, and the widespread use of media technology among individuals working in different fields meant that collaboration started to appear in the recording of events and creation of documentary projects, leading to tension between coercive politics and personal biopolitics. This appeared in many realms where inner forces struggled against prevailing systems, such as in gender versus politics, music versus society, memory (or recording) versus history, actions versus political space, and theater versus political narrative. In many texts, desire and repression were interactively mapped, thus providing the spirit of this theme: entanglement.

During the 80s, a period in Taiwan still lacking a concept of copyright law, a great quantity of foreign books were translated and, along with Western movies, music, and progressive ideologies, circulated on the island. It was through scholars returning from abroad that internationalization, Western training methods, and bourgeois tastes arrived in Taiwan, and under the pursuit of a liberalized political atmosphere, the arrival of postmodern trends, and improving socioeconomic conditions, that Taiwan saw flourishing development in translation in the 1980s. Both Eileen Chang’s novels, which were introduced to Taiwan by the Crown Publishing Company and explored the plight of women in different historical contexts, and Sanmo’s writings and translations, which gave rise to a spirit of adventure and exoticism in the 1970s, focused the desire of the younger generation on distant worlds in the 1980s. Also, performances by the Hong Kong-based international experimental theater company Zuni Icosahedron and Japan’s experimental Butoh dance troupe Byakko Sha had a profound influence during this time. Foreign cultural forms, such as rock music, Hong Kong soap operas, and international films introduced by the Golden Horse Film Festival, activated thinking and creativity while intensifying the desire for exploration and expression. The art of translation not only stimulated a thirst for knowledge and became a way for Taiwan to recognize relationships between the local and international, but also generated multiple disruptions and spawned all kinds of hybridity. Experimentation, actions, and artworks born of this interpretive exchange were an expression of Taiwan’s unique era of translation and also formed the fluid basis of Taiwan’s localization: hybridity.

New local and international political situations brought by the end of martial law and break in Taiwanese-American diplomatic relations caused a need for renewed thinking about politics, history, and identity. This new awareness was especially important with regard to Chinese culture and globalization, and as local consciousness and understanding of international relations changed, layers of colonial history and geopolitics became a part of bodily, urban, cultural, and industrial development. Taiwanese photographers began taking a more nuanced look at Taiwan and closely followed events in society, art exhibitions, and the performing arts. An increase in reportage began to play a greater role in shaping Taiwan, exemplified by Chang Chao-Tang’s pioneering documentary television series Fragrant Formosa and The Journey of Images, which coincided with NHK’s documentary television series The Silk Road and its expansive scenery of China, and photojournalist Lang Jingshan’s photomontages with their romanticizing aesthetic of Chinese landscape painting. Left with an impossible to predict fate, Taiwanese individuals developed a double consciousness as they violently swung between imagining China and acknowledging Taiwan in their search for their own identities. Actually, the 1970s works of the painter Hung Tung and sculptor Ju Ming had already embodied this polarity of identity that Taiwanese people were bound to later face. In the performing arts under the banner of postmodernism, hybridity in the form of localized and sinicized Western avant-gardism began to arise, thus satisfying newly popular bourgeois tastes and perfectly portraying the psychological complex people were facing at the time: oscillation

Looking back on the 1980s in Taiwan, everything—people, events, objects, places—influenced everything else in big and small ways. As it accumulated and circulated, information served as society’s new all-encompassing transformational energy. Physical space, the media, and other platforms became congregation sites where events percolated or even unfolded. A flood of information concentrated kinetic energy to generate networks of flowing people, images, narratives, news, and capital. In this era without computers or Internet, supplements in the island’s newspapers not only published literary works, but also were responsible for presenting the ruminations of international intellectuals, which exerted cultural influence in Taiwan. The programs with in-depth topics, newly established arts and cultural awards, and experimental graphic design of the time were all embryonic versions of those that would mature in Internet society to come. Furthermore, magazines published by the Tangwai (outside the party), as well as those focusing on literature, the visual arts, and film, and even celebrity gossip magazines were established, providing valuable if not boisterous platforms for exchange. This access led artists working in various fields to common spaces for lively gatherings, which turned out to be historically significant chora where people and events collided in the energetic transdisciplinary practice representative of 1980s Taiwan. These events drew individuals together and encouraged them to consider and elevate various self-enlightenment techniques in which they continuously connected, deconstructed, and expanded ideas—and even though they were unaware of it at the time, to make history by facilitating transformative progress with the spirit of their meetings and collaborations: convergence.

*In alphabetical order
Jun ABE, Ming-Ju CHAN, Chao-Tang CHANG, Shih-Lun CHANG , Sylvia CHANG, Jui-Kuang CHAO, Chang-Fei CHEN, Fang-Ming CHEN, Li-Na CHEN, Shao-Wei CHEN, Ta-Chen CHEN, Amy CHENG, Chia-Wei CHI, CHI Lung-Zin, CHIEN Jung-Tsung, HSIAO Kuo-Nung, HUANG Li-Feng, Wei-Yao HUANG, Hung Hung, Hung-Tze JAN, JUAN I-Jong, Tien-Sheng KAO, Shih-Chieh KING, KU Meng-jen, Chen-Ti KUO, Mizuhito KURODA, Huan-Hsiung LI, LI Ang, Shang-jen LI, Yong-ping LI, LIN Bo-liang, LIN Sheng Xiang, Wood LIN, Chen-Hsiang LIU, LO Ching, Jeph LO, Shih-Fang MA, Isamu OSUKA, Hsiao-Hsia PAN, Ite SHAO, SHI Song, Angelika WANG, Chun-Yi WANG, Ming-Huang WANG, WANG Mo-lin, Edmond WONG, Jing-Jyi WU, Kwang-Tyng WU, Mali WU, WU Chun-Hui, TC YANG, YANG Mao-Lin, YIN-DI, ZHANG Hong-Jie
Awakening Foundation, Begonia Video Store, Cathay Life Insurance Company, Central Pictures Corporation, China Times literary supplement , Crown Culture Corporation, Cultural Affairs Bureau, Tainan City Government, Each Modern, Elite Books, Independence Evening Post, IT PARK, Juming Museum, Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts, Kuandu Museum of Fine Arts, LIN & LIN GALLERY, Lion Art, Lion Pencil Company, Lung Yingtai Cultural Foundation, Mercuries General Media, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, National Central Library, National Chung Hsing University, National Museum of Taiwan History, National Museum of Taiwan Literature, National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, National Tsing Hua University, Nylon Cheng Liberty Foundation, Political Warfare Bureau (MND), Red Society Films, Shih Ming-Te Foundation, Space II, Taiwan Film and Audiovisual Institute, Taiwan Television Enterprise, The Arcade , Tina Keng Gallery, TY Music Company, United Daily News Group, Wenhsun Magazine, Wistaria Tea House, Zuni Icosahedron