the 2000 Taipei Biennial

For its fifth edition the Taipei Biennial has made itself resolutely international. After a selection of artists from East Asia presented by Fumio Nanjo two years ago, the curatorship of this new edition and the selection of the thirtyone artists exhibited was entrusted to Jerome Sans and Manray Hsu. The theme they chose, reflected in the exhibition’s subtitle, “The sky is the limit,” corresponds to the heterogeneity of the works and artists presented. The curators envisage the interweaving of different practices and the use of remixing or sampling techniques, present in most of the works here, to be seen as symptomatic of an era marked by the efficiency, impact, and speed of contemporary modes of communication and data transmission. One effect of Internet culture and globalization is supposed to be the abolition of frontiers, the world’s increasing transformation into a “global village.” The subtitle further suggests the will to push toward some cosmic infinity—and thus to shatter—the limits that formerly enclosed works within specific cultural contexts. Today, the community formed by artists the world over has access to an open and limitless register of artistic approaches, strategies, and mediums. This metaphorical formulation allows one to compare, using a common thematic, works that are distinct in meaning and scope. From the visionary urbanism of Wang Jun-jieh’s Microbiology Association: Clothing Project, 2000, through the untitled accumulation of snapshot photos by geisha turned TV star Hanayo, 2000, to Lee Mingwei’s Buddhist-inspired Shrine Project, 2000, eclecticism is indeed obligatory.

The techniques of remixing and sampling mentioned earlier are evident in a number of works and clearly emerged as the framework of the exhibition. This is true for Peephole, 2000, Henrik Plenge Jakobsen’s fictional image-logos inspired by the multinationals; the remixed video clips of pop-music icons by Candice Breitz (Four Duets, 2000); and the everyday objects for which Erwin Wurm invents new uses in his One Minute Sculpture, 2000. In the same register of image recycling, Youshen Wang’s Dark Room, 1999, invites the visitor to develop his or her own photos there and to donate a copy print to the artist’s personal collection. Finally, Kendell Geers’s very troubling work Shooting Gallery, 2000, consists of a projection of stills from The Godfather, in which the amplified noise of the slide carousel finds its kinship with the discharge of a firearm.

Still there’s something paradoxical about transcultural exhibitions like this one, in which the objective has to do with pressing back boundaries and dissolving differences. Whether or not these works can be legitimated by the nationality of the artist, all of them raise rich and diverse political or cultural issues. Even as the theme chosen reveals similarities in process, medium, or technique, it somehow loses sight of the different kinds of engagement that may also give meaning to the works. So we can still wonder where the interest in the “cultural specificity” of each of the artists leaves off and where their instrumentalization at the heart of a sort of great “cultural communion” begins.

Valérie Breuvart

Translated from French by Jeanine Herman.