MEI Dean-E was born in Taipei in 1954. He was awarded the Best New Artist of the 2nd Lion Young Artists Contest Award in 1977 and graduated from the Fine Arts Department, Chinese Culture University in the same year. Just when he was about to finish compulsory military service in 1979, he became curious about Dadaism and Pop Art. He started making three-dimensional artworks using mixed media and ready-made objects, and gradually made sure that his work would be of highly conceptual nature. While he was taking a master of fine arts program at the Pratt Institute in New York, the United States from 1983 to 1985, he engrossed himself in the studies of Dadaism and was also profoundly interested in Marcel Duchamp’s semantic reference and dialectical thinking. During this time, he was already able to express his care for society through Dadaist and conceptual techniques. He stayed on in the United States after graduation and began to notice the circumstances of Chinese immigrants in the west. He not only paid particular attention to issues related to culture and identity, but also read and examined the histories of contemporary China and Chinese immigrants.
MEI returned to Taiwan in 1992 and settled down here. The many social and political conflicts taking place on the island serves as great subject matters of his work. Through art, he discusses the differences between eastern and western cultures, as well as the challenges deriving from such cultural encounters. He also delves deep into certain historical events and their ensuing effects, as well as people’s identity crisis in the politically and culturally complicated Taiwan. Using critical vocabulary, he even explores the awkward stance of the island itself when it comes to cross-strait relations, domestic politics, foreign affairs, economy and trade, reunifying with China or declaring independence, and globalization, and reveals how politics are being manipulated under the table. Through dialectical thinking, he challenges all kinds of myths related to ideologies, power relationships, identity and cultural subjectivity.
Whenever this work is to be exhibited, some of the old national-flag cushions would be removed and new ones would be added, depending on how Taiwan is doing in foreign relations at the time. This artwork reflects the absence of Taiwan in the international community and that it can’t speak for itself. In fact, the diplomatically repressed Taiwan has only been able to make itself heard with the help of its diplomatic allies since its withdrawal from the UN in 1971. This artwork reveals the dire situation of Taiwan in a political struggle against China. It also shows how feigning and untrustworthy these “hugs” are. Whether a certain country “hugs” Taiwan through diplomatic relations has nothing to do with a genuine attempt to make friends. While this country only cares about how much financial support Taiwan will give, Taiwan also only wants to get good diplomatic deals from it. The establishment of diplomatic ties, after all, is only a strategy and a chip used in the international political and economic roulette game.
It is after the lifting of the Martial Laws that Taiwan moved into a conflicting era of rising critical thoughts and blurring identity frontiers. This was a time of ambiguity, uncertainty and anxiety. National identity, local awareness and cultural identity became the most controversial, encompassing and confrontational sources of social conflicts. The single-perspective ideologies dictated by ruling officials through the compulsory education system were all being challenged and their boundaries trespassed. Because of the complicated colonial and migrant histories of modern Taiwan and the volatile dynamics across the Taiwan Strait since the 20th Century, not only that the island residents have obtained a highly complicated and ambiguous cultural identity. When it comes to defining “identity,” disparaging stances are taken and diverse representations are made.
Of all the “fourth-grader” artists, MEI Dean-E delves into such issues most deeply while taking the most extensive perspectives. He is good at evoking the political sensitivity of the audience with wit, humor and sarcasm. The elements of his work derive from the figures, images, signs and objects that most people are familiar with, so that he can most directly reveal the complicated cultural inter-influences and social and historical contexts behind the word “identity,” at the same time deconstructing the many values and ideologies formed throughout the years.
|English title：||Give Me Hugs|
|Medium / Classification：||Mixed Media|
|Collection Unit：||Collection of the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts|
|Contact method for authorization：||
Guide to the Use of Image Files and Data from the Online Collection Database
|Related Exhibition：||"The Pioneers" of Taiwanese Artists, 1951-1960|
|Related Work：||The Three Principles (of the People) Reunite China|