Living under the gun

Living under the gun

Taiwanese video artist Yuan Goang-Ming will feature at the 60th Venice Biennale to explore 'war as part of normal life'

Living under the gun
Still image from Everyday War. (Photos courtesy of Yuan Goang-Ming)

Taipei Fine Arts Museum, along with artist Yuan Goang-Ming and curator Abby Chen, recently announced "Everyday War", the new project representing Taiwan at the 60th Venice Biennale in 2024.

Combining Yuan's signature video arts, the artist will create a space with an "everyday" domestic feel, contemplating the present-day realities of life, as well as the hidden threats that underlie "the difficulty of dwelling poetically".

Yuan grew up in Taiwan and studied media art in Germany. In the 1990s he established himself as one of Taiwan's leading new-media artists. His works include single-channel video, interactive installations, installation-based video projections and digitally edited still photography. He pioneered a new form of motion picture somewhere between video art and film, with a more theatrical presentation of daily life. Today, he continues to experiment the possibilities of blending new-media art and cinematic storytelling.

The exhibition at the 60th Venice Biennale is expected to include five video artworks and a kinetic installation -- four previously released and two new works. It will continue Yuan's past audio-visual vocabulary, with such themes as home, dwelling and an uncanny tomorrow, which can be seen in Dwelling from 2014, as well as Tomorrowland and Everyday Maneuver from 2018.

Employing a view of small things with an air of warning to magnify the unanticipated outbreak of crises, these artworks project anxieties about the current political and social environment -- a state of eerie suspense due to escalating tension geopolitically surrounding the Pacific island chain, across the straits and conflicts everywhere.

"This solo exhibition will try to metaphorically explore the hidden fears and threats of Taiwan in its current state of existence, and by asking questions about the future, it will re-examine the realities of the present, considering 'war as part of normal life' and 'war becoming the new normal', " Yuan said.

Curator Abby Chen and Yuan Goang-Ming. 

The new piece, the exhibition's eponymous work Everyday War, is a single-channel video presenting before-and-after scans of a domestic space. Glass shatters loudly, then warplanes fly in one after another, destroying the objects in the room. Finally all the aircraft annihilate one another, and the whole house is left a ruin in the aftermath of battle.

As the camera keeps panning back and forth in a straight, steady line, lights and shadows gradually bathe the entire interior, and the collapsed home slowly returns to its original unscathed appearance, announcing a surreal prophecy with profound tension.

The observations and portrayals of the state of affairs in Taiwan in Yuan's art highlight that war today has evolved from the actual firing of artillery to invisible expressions -- "war as part of normal life", entailing post-capitalist unequal distribution, contagion, cyber attacks, and the discrimination and oppression of different religious and ethnic groups. War has become the "new normal" within the dwelling.

"This intertwining multitude of home encompasses host and guest, private and public spheres, physical and virtual realms, the imagined and lived experiences," curator Abby Chen noted. "It reflects an artist's competing reality of living in Taiwan, where fear coexists with courage. In an era of great uncertainty and division, Yuan's declaration of one's own vulnerability is the very fortitude and truth that transforms into empathy and shared connectedness.

"The universal human condition of conflict perpetuates, so does the persistent search for the poetic essence. It is never settled in any dwelling. It lies in the moments of bravery, by those pursuing and acting."

The Taiwan Pavilion will be at the 60th Venice Biennale in Italy from April 23 to Nov 2 next year, at the Palazzo delle Prigioni.


Everyday Maneuver. 

Getting to know Yuan Goang-Ming

Yuan Goang-Ming graduated from the Department of Fine Arts, National Taiwan Academy of Arts (now National Taiwan University of Arts) in 1989. In 1993, he was awarded the DAAD Germany Exchange Scholarship, and in the following year went to research media art at the Institute for New Media in Frankfurt. He received his master's degree in media art from the now Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design in 1997.

Yuan's active commitment to video art has made him one of the pioneering new media artists in Taiwan since the 90s. He works across various mediums, ranging from single-channel videos, computerised interactive installations and installation-based video projections to prints created with digital media. Through these forms, he has consistently explored and unfolded the possibilities of video and media art.


The 561st Hour Of Occupation. 

The Taiwan Pavilion will be at the 60th Venice Biennale in Italy from April 23 to Nov 2 next year, at the Palazzo delle Prigioni.

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