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General Introduction | What’s NEXT?

LIN Mun-lee

Established in 2002, the Taishin Arts Award (referred to below as “the Award”) is the first of its kind in Taiwan to encompass visual, performing, and interdisciplinary arts. Over the past two decades, not only has the Award crafted a highly iconic laureate of art, but has more importantly combined the operation of art award mechanisms, and the writing of professional art reviews to become a continuous driving force in the development of Taiwan’s art scene. With the approach of the award’s 20th anniversary,, the Taishin Foundation for Arts and Culture and the Museum of National Taipei University of Education (MoNTUE) have collaborated to present NEXT: Taishin Arts Award 20th Anniversary Exhibition. Featuring works by previous award-winners, the exhibition moves beyond the framework and boundary of a retrospective exhibition, employing a diverse, organic approach which includes brand-new art projects, interdisciplinary co-creations, live performances, live-streamed talks, academic forums, and site-specific actions, to collectively inquire into the possibility and future of Taiwanese contemporary art.


From the outset, the Award has been committed to supporting the “here and now” and “future direction” of artists. Upholding an open attitude, the Award has no specific preference for any aesthetic stance, value orientation, and means of expression, but rather prioritizes innovation and breakthrough in concept and form as its key focus. Because of such unique position, it is essential for the Award to look forwards and evolve with the times, as well as engaging continually with artists to reflect on what art is and what it can be.


Taking “NEXT” as its title, this exhibition centers on the “present” of the previous recipients, thus resonating with the spirit of the Award.


As the chief curator of the exhibition, I first and foremost wanted the artists can be freed from working under a topic-oriented framework when participating in the exhibition: the future of Taiwanese contemporary art should be forged by artists in the first place. Moreover, it is my firm belief that artists’ creativity often sparked impressive ideas from places beyond our imagining. Meanwhile, I also decided to curate the exhibition in collaboration with other artists, and invited three Taishin Arts Award laureates, Yao Lee-Chun, Kao Jun-Honn, and Su Hui-Yu, to this end. As a theater producer, Yao has observed from his discussions with artists living in a variety of places that all these artists are invariably sensitive to daily life, and are never satisfied with unvarying normality. From this observation, he derives the curatorial concept of “The Unnamable Next Second” to respond to the fluid and interdisciplinary nature of this exhibition project, leaving endless space for imagination. An artist himself, Kao believes that, given Taiwan’s present situation, the creation of the future hinges on re-initiating dialogues, from the self-dialogues of individual artists, to dialogues between artists, to the exchange of ideas and perspectives between the new generation and those that have come before it. In this exhibition, a site of dialogues has been created between the tangible and intangible, the on-site and off-site, centering around the question, “Will You Still Be Here After Twenty Years?” as a means of probing further into the unknown future. Also an artist, Su adopts the theme of “Tokusatsu Screening Room,” and utilizes the black-box gallery space in the basement of MoNTUE to screen classic and new works by artists who have been recognized by the Award. He analyzes the “cinematic quality” and the new technologies of contemporary videos, while putting forth the question – “Where is the future audience?”, foreseeing the emergence of “a site of moving images” that will bring together yet more opinions and experiences. 


Regarding the layout of the exhibition, I define the museum’s second-floor space as “a theater in the happening,” where the “exhibition” and different “performances” are taking place in the present, thereby turning the audience into participants of the artists’ works. The third-floor space, on the other hand, is the “Literature and Archive Section,” where one can reconsider the interdisciplinary and broaden the imagination. Here, the artists’ re-interpretations and recreations of literature and archival materials are showcased, along with the books, videos and audio related to their practices. Through reading, listening and exploring the materials on display, the audience is invited to transcend time and space to reconstruct the context behind and connections between the twenty-year old Award and Taiwanese contemporary culture, art and phenomenon. The black-box gallery space in the basement is also transformed into a film studio to engender an experimental “site of moving images” to engage with more future viewers.


Whether in the past, present, or the future, the Taishin Arts Award has been and will continue challenging new ideas and forging new values, as well as generating discourses and dialectics in the process, which testifies to the vitality and unlimited potential of art in Taiwan. Not only does the Award respond to the current state of Taiwan’s art scene, but further serves as a driving force that supports artistic exploration. Since its inception, the Award included the “interdisciplinary” within its field of vision; this decision was not made for the sake of being “interdisciplinary, but rather to return to the very nature of artistic creation and allow more freedom to the choices and approaches of art-making. In the same spirit, “NEXT: Taishin Arts Award 20th Anniversary Exhibition” aspires to surpasse existing restraints and frameworks, and engender new connections and exchanges in order to step into the realm of the unknown through artistic practices.


So…What’s NEXT?

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