CHEN Chieh-Jen was born in Taoyuan, Taiwan in 1960. In 1986 he formed the art group Living Clay with KAO Chung-Li, WANG Jun-Jieh and LIN Ju, and thereafter used alternative exhibition spaces such as abandoned apartments, cellars, streets and beaches to present his experimental performance art. Using computers to alter historical pictures of torture, he created his masterpieces, series Revolt in the Soul & Body (1996~1999). This series subverts the conventional idea of the image as a kind of irrefutable evidence and uses historical genealogy to make obvious the brutality of power and ruling, and also reveals the savage and brutal side in the human subconscious.
His work after 2000 was primarily video installation. These video works interweave time and space to manifest relationships between the past, present and future. These works explore themes of historical authenticity, relationships of objectification and domination between subject and objectand the plight of human existence. The artist’s subject matter focuses on contemporary Taiwan as it is constructed on historical facts; from broad historical strokes to microscopic individual perspectives, he delves into the plight of marginalized laborers in Taiwan after traditional industries left Taiwan in the context of globalization, and explores their life experiences and connection with social changes. Through images, CHEN Chieh-Jen adopts a critical perspective to discuss the contemporary social issues in the Taiwanese society. He believes that the present social conditions, the public life, and the economic production model are based on a complicated historical and cultural cause-and-effect relationship horizontally and vertically. He is in a dialectical position to examine the political manipulation and the power play when the “meaning” has been created. Meanwhile, the visual intensity of his images also helps to present the systematic oppression hidden under the appearance.
Factory tells the story of the unemployed and a clothing factory which has not been used for years, through which it visualizes the history of Taiwan’s processing industry which is declining with the globalization of transnational capitalism as well as the doomed destiny of the disadvantaged group when the industry of the area has been deserted. CHEN Chieh-Jen invites the female unemployed to return to the factory where they used to work at but has been abandoned for seven years. Integrating the old-document style, CHEN Chieh-Jen connects the present situation with the past through their memories, events, or daily triviality. In the video, the aged faces of the female unemployed and the dusty-and-yet-collapsing space of the factory reflect a complicated psychological state, silently evoking viewers’ memory of processing factories and their own existence.
CHEN Chieh-Jen is best known for his conversation with history through images to express the inexplicable inner experience shared by all Taiwanese. The “inner experience” is closely related to the isolated history under the party-state rule in Post-war Taiwan and the marginalization of Taiwan’s political/social state in the world. Chen’s works often discuss the hidden background of Taiwan’s contemporary social issues through history, emphasizing the importance of taking an alternative perspective. He argues that realistic local life experiences are the best ways to examine how our conception of the world is dominated by the whole political, social, and economical system. For example: how Taiwan was included in the global capitalism as a colonized country supported by the USA after the breakout of the Korean War and how it was thus dominated by the USA culturally and economically. He is also concerned about how the authoritarian regime has been internalized in the hearts of the post-war generation, when the violence coming from the authoritarian state during the Martial Law period has used different ways – such as cold-war closure policy, White Terror, censorship, and etc. – to create a phobia which exists everywhere in terms of life, culture, or ideology. Even though Taiwan has already become a free democratic society now, the imprisonment caused by the rule of Martial Law still functions in an invisible way to influence how we think and how we act. Through the visual intensity, he dares to visualize the invisible “net” of ideology which has already become a daily life experience. By engraving the “real life of the anonymous in the images,” Chen encourages viewers to search for a possible way out together.
|Medium / Classification：||New Media and Video|
|Collection Unit：||Courtesy of the artist|
|Contact method for authorization：||
|Related Exhibition：||"The Pioneers" of Taiwanese Artists, 1951-1960|