Subterranean—Taiwanese Art Collectives 1980-2000: Taipei Episode

Hamlet Machine, Ta-Da-Na Experimental Group, stage photo, 1993, photograph by Jui-Chung Yao

TheCube Project Space is going to present its curatorial experiment project Twisting theCube Series (TCS) at TheCube 7F. Taking the form of mini-exhibition, the TCS experiments on the display of “documents” and “archives” defined in a broad sense, in order to open up more possibilities for thinking, curatorial, and artistic practice. Curated by Huang Yujie, Subterranean—Taiwanese Art Collectives 1980-2000: Taipei Episode is the first exhibition of this series. By reference to associated documents, precious photographic works, publications, and audiovisual recordings, this exhibition revisits the process as to how “art collective/space” became a method that not only pushed the boundaries of art, but also formed a sui generis scene in the development of Taiwanese art between 1980 and 2000. This exhibition is scheduled to open on 4 August 2021. The date of opening reception is to be announced according to the COVID-19 containment policy.

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About the Exhibition

Text / Huang Yujie

Centering on “art collective/space” and featuring associated documents, precious photographic works, publications, and audiovisual recordings, Subterranean—Taiwanese Art Collectives 1980-2000: Taipei Episode outlines how Taiwanese artists pioneered conceptual development and multidimensional practice outside the mainstream through flexibly organized collectives and guerrilla activities between 1980 and 2000, viz., around the lifting of martial law. In retrospect, they were tantamount to the subsurface flows in the onward movement of Taiwanese art.

Soon after the lifting of martial law, in particular, these artists toppled the cultural edifice and conservativism shaped by the Cold War/martial law, giving a fresh impetus to the cause of Taiwanese modern art development. They applied guerrilla tactics to artistic practice of every stripe, and embodied a “rebellious spirit” to different extents by means of ad hoc collectives and spaces. They created a diversion with “artistic events,” and liberated the perspective of history from rigid confines, thereby fostering an alternative visual culture.

Revolving around “art collective/space,” this exhibition is chronologically and thematically divided into four major parts, and the contents are displayed on the three low tables and the temporary walls in the venue:

Part I: Focusing on the art collectives/spaces in the end of 1980s (incl. Living Clay, SOCA, NO-1 Art Space, Space II, IT PARK, and SLY Art Space,), this part shows how they blazed a trail as manifesto-like collectives and disturbed the mainstream at the turbulent, historic moment around the lifting of martial law in Taiwan.

Part II: Giving prominence to five art collectives (i.e. Ta-Da-Na Experimental Group, Bamboo Curtain Studio, Nomad Museum, Nation Oxygen, and Abnormal Temple) that flourished in the 1990s when the arts had free expression, this part illustrates how they proactively performed diverse experiments and sparked wild imagination on the front of avant-garde art.

Part III: Foregrounding the art collectives founded between 2000 and 2005 (incl. P8, Open Contemporary Art Center, NT Five, and TC 284), this part demonstrates their respective reorientation through empathy and co-creation under the impact of globalization in the post-martial law era.

Part IV: Two distinctive Taipei-based spaces of the 1990s-Sickly Sweet Café and Xi-Rang live house-are represented in the venue. The exotic charm of the two heterogeneous spaces made themselves favorite hangouts of talents in the cultural cycle, fiefdoms for ideological and emotional exchange, and even bases for incubating and promoting Taiwan’s avant-garde culture.

As a mini-archival exhibition, it attempts not so much to draw epistemic conclusions as to keep the torch of pondering and re-orientating historical material aflame. Using the archival images and texts, it guides the visitors to take a stroll down memory lane from a microscopic perspective, looking into how cultural and artistic practitioners gathered, acted, and made their voices heard, as well as how art collectives transformed or disbanded over the past two decades. To sum up, this exhibition expects to capture the humanistic spirit of that time through the presentation of associated documents.

Artworks/documents courtesy

Yao Jui-Chung

Born in 1969. Lives and works in Taipei. He graduated from The Taipei National University of the Arts. His works has been widely exhibited in numerous international exhibitions. Yao specializes in photography, installation and painting. The themes of his works are varied, but most importantly they all examine the absurdity of the human condition. Yao has assembled all the black-and-white photos of ruins he took in the past 30 years, grouped under the themes of industry, religious idols, architecture, and military bases. They reveal the enormous ideological black hole in Taiwan hidden behind the trends of globalization and Taiwan’s specific historical background as a continuation of the main theme of his work: the absurdity of the historical destiny of humanity. He has also published several books. His works have been collected by lots of public museum and many other private collectors. He is also a part-time teacher at the National Taiwan Normal University Department of Fine Arts.

Liu Chen-Hsiang

Senior photographer who held his first solo exhibition at age 20, in 1987 began shooting record performing arts, also for the film shoot stills. Held many solo and group exhibitions at home and abroad, the work has also been museum collections, and publication of Taiwan Photography Files, In between the momentsCloud Gate In a photographer’s memory, A Mouthful of Fish Bone and other works set. Worked in the media, after the creation of studio, diligently for shooting reports, performing arts, long-term cooperation with domestic troupes. In 2010, he received the Wu San Lien Awards in the photography category. The assessment affirm his photographic work “witnessed the era of Taiwan’s social and cultural change and pulsation, and successfully capture the wonderful moments dancers dance dynamics.”

About the Curator

Huang Yujie

Huang Yujie currently lives and works in Taipei. Her research interests revolve primarily around the exhibition/curatorial history of contemporary art and the development of new media art in Taiwan. She used to be the executive producer of Documentaries of Distinguished Taiwanese Artists and a coordinator for several research and museum projects and currently works as a project manager for TheCube Project Space. She was also the co-curator of the group exhibition Aerobraking (2017). Her articles are widely published among various magazines and online platforms, such as Artist, CLABO, and Museology Quarterly.


About theTwisting theCube Series

Twisting theCube Series (TCS) is the first experimental project launched by the newly founded space TheCube 7F. The guiding philosophy behind this project is to present studies on specific topics in the form of mini-exhibition, so as to reveal the dynamic thinking behind curatorial or creative practice and explore the context constructed by broadly defined “documents” and “archives.” The visitors can enjoy and read the exhibits in a cozy, relaxing environment.

The TCS employs a three-pronged display strategy:

  1.  Opening up research room: the thinking paths collated by scholars when exploring specific topics;
  2.  Discovering archive: the data or artifacts excavated by curators/creators in their fieldwork;
  3. Artistic experiment box: the experimental works created by artists with found objects.

The use of archives and documents has been a common practice in contemporary exhibitions, which not only rethinks, reinterprets and re-contextualizes the history, but also recreates and reimagines archives.

Special Thanks

This exhibition would be impossible without the enthusiastic assistance from photographer Liu Chen-Hsiang and artist Yao Jui-Chung who provide their works and exhibits. We also received relevant material and exhibits from Bamboo Curtain Studio, Open Contemporary Art Center, Chen Chieh-Jen, Kao Chong-Li, Yu Wei, Chiang Yang-Hui and Lin Guan-Ming. We owe them a deep debt of gratitude for their generous support.

Dates: 4 August – 9 October 2021 (Wed-Sat, 2-7 pm)
Venue: TheCube 7F (7F., No. 241, Sec. 3, Roosevelt Rd., Taipei City, Taiwan)
Artworks/documents courtesy of Yao Jui-Chung and Liu Chen-Hsiang
Curator: Huang Yujie

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TheCube 7F Sponsor | RC Culture and Arts Foundation
TCS Sponsor | Winsing Art Foundation



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