taipei

Kao Chung-Li, The Taste of Human Flesh, 2010–12, image from a slide projection with sound, 15 minutes. From the Taipei Biennial 2012.

Taipei Biennial 2012

Taipei Fine Arts Museum/The Paper Mill

Kao Chung-Li, The Taste of Human Flesh, 2010–12, image from a slide projection with sound, 15 minutes. From the Taipei Biennial 2012.

In The Monster That Is History, literary scholar David Der-wei Wang considers the taowu, an ancient Chinese monster described as “like a tiger with a human face.” This fiendish beast was made all the more ominous by its divinatory ability to see both past and future. Ancients cautioned others to “remember and recount [the taowu’s] wickedness so as to take precaution,” and eventually the taowu came to be seen as the embodiment of history itself. This, Wang argues, makes it an adept metaphor for both the violence of twentieth-century Chinese history and the literature that seeks to depict it.

Anselm Franke, curator of this year’s Taipei Biennial, takes up this premise in “Modern Monsters / Death and Life of Fiction.” With Wang’s book as its point of departure, the exhibition asks: If history has always been a monster, what new monstrosities has modernity wrought? Is the modern monster

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