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Starting from the Island (Review) Appreciation
Exhibition Banner - Starting from the Island
Exhibition Dates: 2019/08/02 ~ 2019/09/29
Place: IA&A at Hillyer 
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 Starting from the Island


we do, we live and understand the world.


The island is the hometown where we were born, the place where we live and the starting point of our mobility. The qualities of an island evolve with time: it is no longer an area bordered by the ocean as people now reach out frequently and rapidly through convenient transportation and Internet networks to territories in either the physical or the virtual world, gaining a large, constantly-changing amount of environmental experiences and information. People’s life experiences are no longer tied to a single place but sit at the intersection where experiences with various places meet. Against this context, four Taiwanese artists probe into the environment to continuously examine and compare/contrast social phenomena, all starting from the island. They make art as statements of how much they value where they are and as responses to where they are.


The perception and awareness of the external world of the Kaohsiung-based artist Hun Yun-Ting are grounded in and extend from this iconic industrial city where she grew up. The city’s industrial history could be traced back to the 1960s to 80s, when labor-intensive contract manufacturing was in full bloom in Taiwan and many export processing zones were set up in Kaohsiung. The large amount of handwork in Hung’s Untitled is like her resistance to fast, industrialized production. She uses black paper to time-consumingly make more than four hundred miniature objects including power facilities, military equipment, industrial machinery, transportation vehicles, and daily necessities. Each item is aligned with the grid pattern on the floor to illustrate homogenization in contemporary society under the influence of globalization and mass mechanical production.


When it dawned on Tsai Kuen-Lin that he knew very little about Taiwan because education in earlier days didn’t pay much attention to local cultures, he initiated a fieldwork archiving project covering wherever he goes, beginning with sounds in daily life and extending to cultural, acoustic, and image features of countries where he worked as a resident artist. Take for example the series The Sound from Far Away; a length of pipe is made into loudhailers for subtle elements such as sounds and colors that he collected from the environment of certain places; as the loudhailers deliver the daily sounds of the spots, they also deliver the artist’s memory and impression of the environment. Reversing this process, viewers of the artwork create their spatial imagination and representation of a certain other place.


Of great interest to Chou Tai-Chun is news coverage about earthquakes and other land disasters in Taiwan—something that residents on this land with more than thirty fault zones and a lot of diastrophic movements tend to follow. In the 2011 works Global Silent and Beyond the Silence and the more recent Beyond the Mountains, he moves between the real and the virtual as he merges actual space with news images of disasters in highly contrasting colors to create a vibe of optical illusion, ambiguity, and mirage. The pieces shake the viewers’ established understanding of landscapes and prompt them to rethink the meaning of real surroundings.


Taiwan, including its indigenous peoples, is not immune to the phenomenon of local traditional cultures and customs being affected by rapid media communications, generations of migration, and social changes. In the video work Prayer directed by Dondon Houmwm, the director himself appears to narrate as both the shaman of his tribe and as an artist. When presenting the tribe’s religious rituals, the piece contrasts traditional rites with day-to-day situations in the contemporary changing cultural context. The religion itself remains the same, and beginning with this the artist explores differences and hybridity in the tribal cultural transition and takes a further step to reflect upon his people’s self-identity and positioning.


Starting from the Island is an exhibition of how four Taiwan artists connect their multi-local life experiences and environmental observation in a fast-changing contemporary environment of information overload. As they compare and contrast local with global, insularity with overseas, and cities with mountains, and as their discussions stretch from where they live to phenomena in the society and in the world, they are having a conversation with their external environment and with the viewers through their art creation.

Artists/Yun-Ting Hung, Kuen-Lin Tsai, Tai-Chun Chou, Dondon Houmwm

Curator/Yan-Huei Chen

Exhibition Information:

Time: August 2 – September 29, 2019

Venue: IA&A at Hillyer, 9 Hillyer Court NW, Washington, DC 20008 (Metro: Dupont Circle, Red Line)

Opening Reception: August 2, 2019, 6-9pm

Artist Talk with Kuen-Lin Tsai: Saturday, August 3rd at 1pm

More Info: http://athillyer.org

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