This helps me to understand cultural differences and that what is called “transmitting by copying” is not and should not be regarded negatively.
I should then feel flattered by this:
1. An essay I wrote for a gallery (posted below)
2. A newspaper article that was ‘transmitted by copying’:
Shoe bombers. Tsunamis. Bird flu. High-cholesterol. Whew, these days we have a lot of things to worry about; it’s enough to make you want to stay home with your head under the pillow. Of course ignoring these troubles does not make them go away. So how do we cope in our daily lives amidst this onslaught of fear and loathing?
For artists Peng Hung-chih and Tsui Kuang-yu, who have grown up in Taiwan with the ever-pervasive scare that China’s missiles were ready to strike at any moment, their strategies are not outright neurotic, though they have internalized the feelings of uncertainty, malaise and paranoia with cynical humor which they then reflect back to the viewer.
Even though both artists work in video their approaches vastly differ. Peng’s dog becomes the obliging actor who is filmed in a controlled documentary style with the stationary camera acting as a neutral observer to capture events as they unfold, while Tsui works like the silent film cinematographers (such as Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd) letting the camera roll to catch the director/actor’s ongoing spontaneous non-verbal performance of himself.
Peng’s three videos show his dog unveiling religious texts from the Christian, Buddhist and Taoist canon. In Qingjing Jing a white dog reveals ancient Taoist truths by hungrily licking a blank white wall making reddish Chinese characters of a traditional Taoist text suddenly appear on the wall. The ancient texts tell its followers to accept the universal truths about life. So what better model is there than a dog, who is basically Taoist in temperament, to reveal the Doctrine of the Principle of Nature?Yet, things aren’t as truthful as they appear to be. To make the video, Peng applied an earth-colored paste of dog food in the shape of the Chinese characters onto the white wall, which the dog then accommodatingly laps up. The image is then speeded up and played backwards making it appear that the animal is licking the empty wall, and thus exposing the text by his magic saliva and paintbrush tongue.
In another work, starting off with the powerful statement from Genesis 1:26 “And God said, Let us make man in our image,” the dog continues to lick out biblical texts such as “for there is not a word in my tongue” and “my tongue shall speak of thy righteousness.” These texts that refer to teaching, tongue, the mouth, blood, revenge and death hint at the importance of the word while commenting on the origins of life itself: is the answer Darwinian evolution or the oxymoronic-termed intelligent design?
So Peng’s videos at first seem to be about divulging ancient spiritual secrets, but it is also a cannibalistic consumption, the self-conscious eating of one’s words. In Peng’s inverted world, words have power. The reversal in the video also puts the spiritual sense of order into upheaval, confusing artifice with reality, and thus providing us with a topsy-turvy redefinition of the world. Peng asks us if we believe in faith or terrorism as religious faith is promoted worldwide but taken too far veers into fanaticism. Peng also says this circular unceasing cycle of revenge needs to stop once and for all and suggests that these eternal truths for peace and harmony is immanent and could even be released by a dog.
Tsui Kuang-yu gained immediate recognition for his single-channel performative videos in which he, as both director and filmed subject, showed the absurdity of contemporary life humorously without the use of spoken language. These slapstick moments allude to the social misfit trying to adapt to society, much like a creature using mimicry to blend into its surroundings. Here, blending in is not a form of surrender, but a subtle form of resistance to the status quo.
In The Shortcut to the Systematic Life: City Spirits (2005), shot in London and Taipei, the artist turns the urban environment into a sports arena. Like the silent film moviemakers who cleverly used their lunchtime banana peels as movie props for pratfalls, Tsui too works spontaneously allowing form and content, and art and life to merge seamlessly together.
In one scene, a flock of pigeons gathered in a plaza really do seem arranged like a set of ninepins and the artist then gets on one knee into appropriate bowling form and swiftly rolls a ball at them making the birds instantly scatter. It is as if the city suddenly has become a Situationist-like arcade where all of its elements such as the pigeons, street lights, curbs and traffic become pieces of the bigger game.
While Peng’s work hints at a master plan, Tsui takes the absurdist approach of randomness. He is not urging one to play by the rules or to even break them, but rather to overthrow the game plan.