Shu Lea Cheang to Represent Taiwan at 2019 Venice Biennale

The Taipei Fine Arts Museum announced that artist Shu Lea Cheang has been chosen to represent Taiwan at the Fifty-Eighth Venice Biennale, which will take place in May 2019. She is the first woman to exhibit her work in Taiwan’s pavilion since it began holding single-artist presentations.

“In recent years Taiwanese artists and art institutions have elevated their participation in the global art community, generating a more refined and complex network of connections,” Ping Lin, director of the Taipei Fine Arts Museum, said in a statement. “For this reason, the nominating committee employed a greater level of strategic thinking, coloring their artist recommendations with stronger overtones of global strategy. Shu Lea Cheang, a pioneer of net art, not only in Taiwan but around the world, emerged as the first choice.”

Best known for her net art installations, films, and art actions, which rethink the middle ground between technology and humanity, Cheang considers herself a “digital nomad.” Although she was born in Taiwan in 1954, she launched her career as an artist while living in New York in the 1980s. She has also lived and worked in Japan, Holland, the United Kingdom, and France.

A cofounder of Kingdom of Piracy, an online workspace that promotes the free sharing of digital content and ideas as an art form, Cheang often reimagines how the internet can be used in the service of art and utilizes technology to break down barriers surrounding assumptions about gender and sexuality. 

For her work Brandon, 1998–99—the first web artwork commissioned and collected by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York—Cheang developed a website and an academic and social platform that incorporated moving images and live chat rooms, as well as physical events, in order to engage people with the tragic story of Brandon Teena, who was raped and murdered in Nebraska in 1993 when he was outed as a transgender man.

Spanish philosopher Paul B. Preciado, who served as Documenta 14’s curator of public programs, has been tapped to curate the pavilion. An educator who has worked at the Université Paris VIII, Saint Denis, and at New York University, Preciado previously served as head of research at the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona and specializes in issues related to gender, identity, sexuality, and pornography. 

Commenting on Cheang’s practice, Preciado said, “Bringing together many underground traditions, from trans-feminism, queer and anti-racist politics, as well as science fiction narrative, video art, and performance, Shu Lea Cheang’s work is a reflection on what it means to be free, to act freely within contemporary society.”