Charwei Tsai

10.21.16

Charwei Tsai, Multiple Truths, 2016, ink on color photograph, 57 x 57“. From the series “Universe of Possibilities”, 2016.


Charwei Tsai is an artist based in Taipei and Saigon whose works, grounded in impermanence, often use writing as a medium for meditation. In addition to her artmaking, Tsai also publishes the journal Lovely Daze. Here, she speaks about the launch of its tenth issue, her new photography series “Universe of Possibilities,” and an exhibition that shares the same title, which is on view at TKG+ Projects in Taipei through November 20, 2016.

“UNIVERSE OF POSSIBILITIES” contemplates the immense capability of one’s mind to transform perceptions of an accepted reality. These planetlike images are in actuality close-ups of small shells that are discarded in mass quantities by commercial fishing boats along the coast of central Vietnam.

I find it fascinating how, when observed closely, the little shells look like striking images of all the components in our natural environment. Some of the growth patterns reveal earthy textures found in mountains or marble, while others contain water elements like waves or body tissues; some reflect lusters present in metal, or display airiness like clouds or fog, or appear like black smoke as if burned by fire. Each image is a world in itself and is framed in a circle to symbolize that world. On the photographs I wrote simple phrases such as “unforeseen freedom,” “gentle forgiveness,” and “altruistic motivations” as reflections upon the specific imagery.

This observation on reality and mind expands to an understanding of the cycle of life and death. In the same exhibition, the video Bardo takes you on a guided journey of consciousness from the moment of your death to rebirth. Tibetans believe that it is possible to guide your consciousness, even after death, to see reality as it is and abandon all illusions carried on from life. This new work is based on the Bardo Thodol (popularly known as the Tibetan Book of the Dead) and was made in collaboration with the Tibetan filmmaker Tsering Tashi Gyalthang. The video was originally conceived for the waiting rooms of the Mortuary Station at this year’s Sydney Biennale. It was projected on the floor where coffins used to be placed. When the station was active, the rooms were used for keeping coffins while they waited for the train to go to the cemetery. At TKG+, we used ashes collected from temples as the surface for projection.

I also recently launched Travelers & Magicians, the tenth issue of Lovely Daze, a project I began while living in New York and working at Printed Matter. The title comes from a Bhutanese film. I often think of artists as travelers and magicians in a metaphoric sense: We are constantly seeking to explore beyond the limitations of our ordinary mind. The works I selected for this issue look at topics such as displacement, inequality, and environmental devastation. I see both my art and the journal as part of a lifelong process to understand the reality of interdependence. This understanding will eventually feed a deeper concern for the welfare of others, and thus will evoke a more meaningful and relevant creative practice.

— As told to Daphne Chu