Memo-Scape encapsulates over 2 years of in-depth field research and interviews conducted in Kaohsiung City’s Cijin and Yancheng Districts by Professor Huang Sun-quan and the Islands group. Other narrative experiments conducted under this project have previously been featured in the art of Inconvenient Truth: New Ideas on Environmental Art in Cijin (Islands, 2012/2013) and in the Cijin Ferry Action Plan (late 2013).
The influential sound artist, sound creation pioneer and promoter Fujui Wang will be the subject of Lurking Waves, an exhibition to be held at TheCube Project Space. The exhibition presents documentation from the early period of Wang’s career, including publications, cassette tapes and CDs produced by Wang’s experimental music label NOISE founded in 1993. Correspondence and objects exchanged between Wang and international sound artists, sound works produced in the 1990s by international artists, a 1990s recording of a sound art talk/performance produced by ETAT.
Living As Form is a research-based audio-visual documentation exhibition, curated by chief curator of Creative Time of New York, Nato Thompson. It surveys more than 100 projects in the past 20 years that blur the line between art and everyday life, and that emphasize participation, dialogue, and community engagement.
There are Part I “The Nomadic Version” and Part II “The Local Version”. The Nomadic Version presents more than 20 pieces of international works and activity documents. The Local Version consists of two projects rooted in localized contexts in Taiwan:Seventeen Years of Cultural Intervention: An Exhibition on the Black Hand Nakasi Workers’ Band and Will the Vole and the Egret Speak? created by the Taiwanese artist Hong-Kai Wang and the Huiwei-based Natural Life Studio in Yunlin County.
Living As Form
Curator | Nato Thompson
Will the vole and the Egret Speak?
Artist | Hong-Kai Wang & Natural Life Studio
Seventeen Years of Cultural Intervention
Artist | Black Hand Nakasi Worker’s Band
Women on Waves rocked the boat well before setting sail in 2001. Lead by physician Rebecca Gomperts, this women’s healthcare advocacy group aimed to provide abortion services in countries where the procedure is illegal. They built a seafaring abortion clinic registered in The Netherlands, anchored it 12 miles away from harbors in international waters, where they could operate under Dutch law, and attempted to safely bring women on board. Yet, media buzz resulted in strong resistance–such as military intervention as they approached Portugal, and pelts from fake blood and eggs in Poland. No surgical abortions were performed at sea, and only fifty women received abortions of any kind on the vessel. “But the boat created a lot of controversy, which has always been important to the campaign,” says Kinja Manders, project manager for Women on Waves. “Our goal has always been to stir public debate, and to send the message that abortion is not simply a public health issue–it’s a social justice issue.
The small team, a mix of healthcare specialists and activists, provided contraceptives, pregnancy testing, information about STDs, and prescribed the abortion pill (RU-486) aboard until 2008. While the sea voyages have ended, Women on Waves has exhibited the boat in international exhibitions, in homage to the organization’s roots in the arts: Early funding was provided by the Mondriaan Foundation, and Gomperts earned a degree in art before attending med school. “We’ve always been interested in the link between activism and art,” Manders says. “And in finding creative and conceptual solutions that are on the edge.” The organization now exists online and educates women on safe, self-induced abortions, a medically uncontroversial, but politically charged practice; how to obtain abortion pills; and where to seek accurate information and counseling before and after an abortion. The website receives two million hits a year.
In April 2010, a shocking video of an American helicopter firing upon a group of Iraqi journalists on the ground in Bagdad stunned mainstream media and the diplomatic world, and inspired a global debate about the relationship between news outlets and the governments they report on. The video, titled Collateral Murder, was released by WikiLeaks, a whistle-blowing non-profit organization that since its inception has aimed to shine light on the operations of governments and corporations around the world. Founded by former computer hacker Julian Assange, as well as a group of technologists, dissidents and activists, WikiLeaks is guided by the premise that democracy works best when citizens are aware of state and military operations, and can hold governments accountable to their actions.
Historically, large media groups consult with government sources before releasing potentially sensitive information, in order to leverage these relationships for greater access to information. WikiLeaks has challenged this process by eschewing such negotiations and releasing classified memos, diplomatic cables, videos, and other materials directly to the public via its website. “Publishing improves transparency, and this transparency creates a better society for all people,” states WikiLeaks’ mission. “Better scrutiny leads to reduced corruption and stronger democracies in all society’s institutions, including government, corporations and other organizations. A healthy, vibrant, and inquisitive journalistic media plays a vital role in achieving these goals. We are part of that media.” WikiLeaks’ critics, with the U.S. government at the helm, have countered that the organization’s practices have endangered military and intelligence personnel as well as their civilian sources.
WikiLeaks operates with a small all-volunteer staff as well as a network of 800 to 1,000 experts who advise on issues such as encryption, vetting information, and programming. Its material is housed on servers around the globe–outside of the jurisdiction of any single institution or government.
“If you really want to contribute to changes in social structures, you need time.” Jeanne van Heeswijk took this ethos to heart in Valley Vibes, her effort to gather the voices of East London’s residents, who in 1998 began witnessing gentrification–or the replacement of local culture for corporate business–in their neighborhood. As part of the project, van Heeswijk, along with curator Amy Plant, built a “Vibe Detector,” a simple aluminum storage container on wheels that functions as a mobile karaoke machine, radio station, and recording studio, equipped with a professional sound kit and DAT recorder.
At the project’s launch, van Heeswijk enlisted members of the architecture and urban-planning research group CHORA to occupy sidewalks (à la street food vendors) and ask residents to use the available equipment to record their stories, music, performances, or any other signifier of local culture that countered the regeneration taking place in the neighborhood. The Vibe Detector traveled to private parties, the local hairdresser’s salon, shops, nightclubs, poetry readings, school events, municipal meetings, and festivals–wherever residents would gather to discuss issues important to them. CHORA still operates the Vibe Detector by offering the equipment for use free of charge, as well as technical assistance and marketing advice.
Van Heeswijk is the 2011 recipient of the Leonore Annenberg Prize for Art and Social Change. Since 1993, she has created public art that mediates relationships among neighborhood residents by initiating different modes of communication around pressing issues. For one of her first projects, she organized a joint exhibition between Amsterdam’s Buers van Berlage art museum and the Red Cross that addressed notions of human dignity in an age of violence. In 2008, she revitalized the Afrikaander market in South Rotterdam by bringing artists, vendors, and consumers together to rebuild stalls, rethink the selection of wares for sale, and create a new economy within this struggling neighborhood.
The U.S. Social Forum gathers tens of thousands of activists over several days with the goal of building a unified, national social justice movement across the country. Since its inception, two forums have taken place, in Atlanta in 2007 and in Detroit in 2010. Each forum drew over 15,000 activists, and offered a multitude of programs, including workshops, arts and culture performances, activities for children and youth, direct actions, tours, and fundraising initiatives. The event has attracted organizers–a younger, ethnically diverse crowd from a range of fields–interested in developing new “solutions to economic and ecological crises.”
Inspired by the World Social Forum–which, starting in 2001 brought together international activists fighting against neoliberal globalization–the U.S. Social Forum began to take shape in 2005. The planning committee was formed by the group Grassroots Global Justice and was comprised of over forty-five organizations, including Amnesty International USA, the AFL-CIO, and the U.S. Human Rights Network. Despite the breadth of the event, and vast attendance, the USSF, has received little press coverage in the mainstream media.
Detroit was a particularly apt host city for the USSF because of its persistently declining economy, lack of jobs, and other inequitable conditions that have come into central focus in recent years. The tagline for the event, “Another U.S. Is Necessary,” marks the spirit of the USSF, and the desire to overhaul economic systems and government practices–also reflected in the recent “Occupy Wall Street” movement, as well as other protests cropping up in municipal plazas across the globe. Over 1,000 USSF workshops took place, which veered away from standard meeting formats toward more collaborative efforts.
For one month in January 2011, Cairo, Egypt, reverberated as thousands of citizens flooded Tahrir Square in mass protest of former president Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year-rule, which was marked by human rights abuses, corruption, economic depression, and food shortages across the region. The protests transpired for a mere 18 days, yet the during that time the energy of the crowd, which consisted of student coalitions, Islamic women and labor groups, as well as other historically underrepresented constituents, escalated, due in part to the sheer number of people in the Square–as well as the new media-savvy tactics they used.
Since then, the so-called “Arab Spring” has been celebrated as a political and social media revolution, with Tweets, YouTube videos, and Facebook pages garnering as much attention as the vast on-site demonstrations. While the actual impact of this technology is still under debate, these websites were inarguably an important communication tool for protest organizers, and Egyptian media outlets, who labored to disseminate images of the protests, and ensuing crackdown, into the broader public imagination. Likewise, the active commemoration of the event–the production of poetry, T-shirts, and slogans– was reflective of the new communication channels. In February, Mubarak lost the support of his military, the international community, and the United States, and was forced to step down.
Johannesburg-based artist Athi-Patra Ruga has a habit of inserting himself into challenging situations. He once sat in the middle of a basketball court, mid-game, wearing Jane Fonda-era aerobics gear. He also teetered in stiletto heels and a black sheep costume atop a hill in Switzerland, while corralled in a pen with actual, white sheep. In each case, Ruga–whose work spans performance, video, and fashion–confronts prevailing racial, sexual, and cultural stereotypes by creating characters that embody extreme manifestations of those same stereotypes.
In 2006, he conceived of Miss Congo, a character dressed in drag and born out of the racial and gender inequities the artist witnessed while in Senegal. “[Miss Congo] represented ideas of displacement, of not belonging,” he says. For one year, Ruga, in character as Miss Congo, traveled to public spaces and wove tapestries while passersby observed him. The character eventually became the subject of a three-channel video documentary, Miss Congo, in 2007. The film depicts three of Ruga’s performances–solemn and lonely, but with a distinct undercurrent of humor and sensuality–that were carried out in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. The artist stitches a tapestry while sitting or lying in anonymous locations on the outskirts of the city, performing a traditionally domestic task far outside the domestic sphere.
Ruga has called these performances “craft meditations”–interventions into public spaces that draw upon his practice of working with textiles and cross-dressing to express complex, layered notions of cultural and individual identity. The Miss Congo character also allows the artist to explore themes of place and belonging, exercising autonomy by choosing isolation and distance.
The houses of Naranjito, located outside of San Juan, Puerto Rico, follow the contour of the mountain beneath them, rising and falling along the ridges. This is the first thing Chemi Rosado-Seijo noticed from the foot of the hillside; not the boarded windows or trash-lined streets–signs of a declining economy in what was once a thriving community founded by coffee-plantation workers. And so, in an effort to draw attention to the uniquely organic shape of this small town–and to instill a sense of civic pride among residents who were increasingly disillusioned with their economic situation–he began to paint all of Naranjito’s houses green.
During the project, Rosado-Seijo asked homeowners for permission to paint their homes a shade of green of their choosing. Many declined at first, primarily because the color is associated with the independistas, a local group that sought succession from the United States. But gradually, as the color popped out of the terrain and complemented the hues of the surrounding trees, they began to agree on condition that he also repaint other parts of the property such as stoops and fences in different colors. He enlisted local youth to help him paint, and held workshops, conferences and other events that brought positive press coverage to a community inundated daily with reports of the endemic unemployment and crime that had characterized the village.
Throughout his practice, Rosado-Seijo transforms public perception by presenting new approaches to the urban experience. In 2005, he was commissioned by the New York-based Art in General to explore Manhattan on skateboard. He then created a map of the best skate sites and routes he located during his travels; his 15-foot diagram proposed an alternate transportation option as well as a new aesthetic understanding of the city. El Cerro was presented at the 2002 Whitney Biennial.