John Hurrell – 3 August, 2016
Various aspects of the Losheng Sanatorium in Taipei are scrutinised through the sequence of four individuals (a patient, a supervisor, a nurse, a fictitious political prisoner) who perform simple repetitive acts within the pertinent spaces - like wiping a bench or driving a motorised cart around a perimeter - while describing past events.
Realm of Reverberations
(part of Singular Pluralities ∞ Plural Singularities, curated by Misal Adnan Yildiz)
1 July - 27 August 2016
Four short videos, looking at the history of a Taiwanese sanatorium built by the Japanese for sufferers of Hansen’s Disease - more commonly known as leprosy - are here joined upto make a larger movie where four individuals enact their ‘stories’ of the building complex (now partially demolished to make way for a city (Metro) Rapid Transit System) and its role in the wider community. Sometimes initially these videos were shown separately in their own spaces.
Here at Artspace the ‘combined’ video is approximately a hundred minutes long, so if you want to concentrate on certain favourite sections you can divide Artspace’s opening hours by multiples of a hundred (or its quarters) - make some calculations, and jump in at selected stages of the sequence. There are plenty of comfortable chairs and benches.
Taiwanese artist, Chen Chieh-jen, has shown in Aotearoa New Zealand before. I remember a programme of international videos Tobias Berger organised for a shopping mall in central Christchurch twelve years ago as part of SCAPE (2004), where Chen Chieh-jen was included. His contribution was a very moving video, Factory (2003), set in an abandoned clothing factory. Various women who had worked there revisited and spoke in depth about their experiences.
Realm of Reverberations is similar. Dealing with people and buildings that are disappearing, with lots of greys and muted light; the cinematography is slow moving and claustrophobic, and focussing on memory. Various aspects of the Losheng Sanatorium in Taipei are scrutinised through the sequence of Tree Planters; Keeping Company; The Suspended Room; Tracing Forward. Each of the four stages has incorporated four individuals (a patient, a supervisor, a nurse, a fictitious political prisoner) who perform simple repetitive acts within the pertinent spaces - like wiping a bench or driving a motorised cart around a perimeter - while describing past events.
With this conceptually complicated film you compare the heard stories with the visual imagery and make connections. The lepers for example, despite many having ghastly hand injuries, often methodically planted trees on a nearby hill. In Chen Chieh-jen’s film you see the sawn off stumps of trees where the wood seems to have been later harvested for fuel. The stumps (and this may be my dubious ‘sicko’ imagination) seem to allude to disintegrating fingers. Later on we see x-rays.
Obviously the core of Chen Chieh-jen’s project is Taiwanese history, with different political subthemes, and these interviews are contextualised as part of a wider resistance movement against the eviction of the lepers and the destruction of the buildings. With Chen Chieh-jen’s immanent visit to Auckland for a workshop and lecture at Artspace, and that too of Esther Lu (Director of Taipei Contemporary Art Center) there is a suggestion that there may be parallels between this situation and some relocating housing situations in Auckland. Connections with recent AUT art projects as well.
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