Artist Tien-Chang WU's solo exhibition "Shock ·Shot" at Main Trend Gallery from November 15 to December 13, 2008 is nominated for a 2008 Taishin Arts Award. In this interview, Wu discusses his art, aging and Taiwanese culture.
When I turned fifty, I shifted from big issues such as politics to explore my early childhood memories, as these memories appear more important than ever before. In line with my consistently long-held view, the ideas of my artworks mainly come from Taiwanese beliefs.
People living in Taiwan firmly believe that a complete life is composed of "hun' and "po." "Hun" refers to a soul, which is so spiritual that it is regarded as thought and memory. "Po" means a body, a symbol of material, and can also be defined as human organs. It is thought that each person has three souls and seven bodies. Upon the moment of death, the soul and the body will be forced apart. The living has both soul and body, while a zombie has only a body, no soul and a ghost has only a soul, no body. Existing among the living, zombies, and ghosts is a gray area that lasts seven to forty-nine days. After forty-nine days, reincarnation will begin. Over the span of reincarnation, the dead are obsessed with the mortal world. This sentimental attachment to the mortal world is also a consistent theme in my artworks.
I love watching acrobatics, magic and circus shows, as the costume and performances seem glamorous, but there are also some hidden dark, rotten, and dead elements. I like this dramatic juxtaposition and I use such striking contrasts: the superficial and hidden, the real and unreal, or fact and fiction to explore the spiritual dimensions of human life, to continue trying to translate the untranslatable, and to express weirdly ambiguous aesthetics.
I really enjoy seeing movies. In fact, my ideas are mainly influenced or inspired by some film directors, especially David Lynch, Peter Greenaway, and Shūji Terayama because their films involved the real and unreal, as well as the human nature and the subconscious.
My way of working includes set-up photography in which I am like a film director in control of the scenes, models, costumes, props, and settings. In order to make my pictures tell a story, I require that everything be matched exactly. This approach involves the combination of photography and computer. For one photographic work, I typically shoot 50-70 snapshots. Then I tried a variety of functions of the computer, and these shots were broken into small pieces, deformed, and then reshaped. I made use of the concept of painting to connect these shots seamlessly and precisely.
I rely heavily on computer manipulation of the images, and the heavy modification of my photographic works makes them almost like paintings, including the composition and all the hues. With my work, I ask if the concept of "time" that is recorded by a camcorder flows freely, can a camera capture, freeze, or seal "time" into the image? In addition, what is the real nature of photography in contemporary art?
My artworks are deeply rooted in Taiwanese hybrid culture. Accordingly, I hope to stimulate viewers to ponder a serious, important question – as the term "globalization" becomes a hot topic, making the whole world nearly homogenous, is it possible that locally developed art simultaneously produces a unique Taiwanese style?
----As told to Susan Kendzulak