Kuandu Museum of Fine Arts

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Kuandu Museum of Fine Arts
Memories and Beyond / 2010 Kuandu Biennale
Not On the Front Lines of the Cold War An Analysis of Jau Tsai Chiu ’s World of Fatigue: M16&AK47 By: Tzu Jie Jian
 Not On the Front Lines of the Cold War

An Analysis of Jau Tsai Chiu ’s World of Fatigue: M16&AK47

By: Tzu Jie Jian


Jau Tsai Chiu’s World of Fatigue: M16&AK47 is the birthplace for this suspicious curatorial article.


When we wind up the springs to the mechanical statues displayed in the World of Fatigue exhibition, the metallic parts to the two dark statues become taut with tension and begin to emit a slight piercing sound.  As we release the springs, the two statues, in the shape of assault rifles and measuring about three meters high, bow courteously. Audiences participating and witnessing such an absurdity often cannot help but laugh. This laughter comes from the astonishment of having our preconceptions shattered. The two assault rifles, a M16 and an AK47, represent the two opposing sides of the Cold War. This seemingly important symbolization and political commentary it may have been attempting seemed to all but vanish in the face of laughter and absurdity.


In fact, playful art that induces laughter is quite abundant in the Taiwanese Contemporary Art scene in recent years. This trend may originate from a total sense of absurdity or from a heavy-hearted judging mentality. Most importantly, this type of art is very accessible to the public and usually well-received. Putting aside its intended purpose, the laughter it induces is exactly what avant-garde art has been trying to achieve for many years——Not by imposing any sort of art into social interactions, but by designing the work of art in a way that allows the audience to participate in the art piece—— In this age of overly serious art exhibitions, there’s no reason to exclude these playful pieces. Such avenues of audience participation are all too rare in the current contemporary art scene.


Furthermore, the interactivity of The World of Fatigue is aimed at the manipulation of certain established political and cultural icons. The preexisting concepts behind these icons make it easy for the audience to understand and participate in a way intended by the artist. In fact, the origins of The World of Fatigue can be traced back to Seven Sages and Ba Gua in a Bamboo Field (2004). This installation art piece is comprised of outdoor chairs residing in a landscape setting. Through its simple mechanical design, the audience sits with their back against a chair in the center of the Ba Gua formation with artificial bamboo chairs and sagging, fatigued fluorescent lights behind them ——Here, the icon that is being manipulated is the “Bamboo,” with its straight form representing the upstanding characteristics of literary scholars in Chinese culture. However, in the piece, Seven Sages and the Ba Gua in a Bamboo Field, those upstanding characteristics bend under the weight of the audience as they sit on it.  We can say that, in this piece, the icon is separated from its original symbolization by audience participation through manipulation.


Yet, in The World of Fatigue, the most interesting thing is its breakdown of “iconoclasm,” which is not only targeted towards the icon’s set meaning, but exposes the obscured truth behind them.  Laughter is what makes The World of Fatigue so accessible, awaking a certain liveliness without triggering controversial social debates.

The deconstruction of the established concepts behind icons gives rise to artistic manipulation of daily life in society. Perhaps, this originates from Taiwan’s non-Christian traditions of non-sanctification, or latent influences from its eras of colonization. These factors allow society to share virtually the same preconceptions when viewing certain icons. On the other hand, icons presented in The World of Fatigue, such as Taipei 101, the Eiffel Tower, Constantin Brancusi’s Infinite Column, trophies, lighthouses, statues of Mao Tse Dong and Chiang Kai Shek have all been exploited somewhat via commercial products. This pervasiveness of icons in our daily life is as though we are all living under some sort of authoritarian regime, and that we are their loyal, obedient and consuming subjects.


On the point of Conciliatory Effect, many voices of criticism are appeased by a consensus——When these seemingly indestructible structures suddenly start bending as if displaying a gesture of welcome, the result is truly an inspiring effect. The art critic, Ya Chun Tai, says that she is reminded of a well known TV commercial for an energy drink, “Are You, Tired?” Wong Shang Min’s recent article, “The Counterattack of Fatigue: On Zao Tsai Chiu’s The World of Fatigue,” provides a similar description of the exhibition.


The World of Fatigue points straight to the nature of people in their daily lives. It ceaselessly exposes how people tend to create a false front of strength, how people continue to push themselves even when they are wracked with fatigue...etc. He playfully invites the audience to face the reality of their fatigue, and to let fatigue counterattack for once.


Yet, this sense of carrying on...of persevering against the mounting fatigue has its inspirational benefits. Although, in a rather self deprecating way——The World of Fatigue gains confirmation through the audience’s laughter, not by glorifying the grand struggle against fatigue or the shining deeds of a highly spirited individual, but, by focusing on the common fallacies of the human spirit.  The success of the exhibition in creating a sense of conciliation is how it reaches out to and consoles the audiences’ depravity and sense that “We are all lacking.”  And, within the safe confines of the exhibition, we are given a break from the tiresome pursuit of “What we should have and obtain.” In the shadow of deconstructed, collapsing, and bending icons, we face and accept the realities of defeat.  As a result, those continuously changing semantic symbols provide a sense of joy even to outsiders.  The World of Fatigue expresses a fatalistic type of climate.

The 2010 Kuandu Biannual exhibition gathers young artists from all over Asia under the theme, “The Collective Memory.” Jao Tsai Chiu ’s The World of Fatigue: M16 & Ak47 points to the two opposing sides of the Cold War and the history of colonization in Asia. The two assault rifles, tall and statuesque, bend to welcome the audiences’ commands and draw laughter.  We feel close to them, but, our familiarity is not from movies where these two guns often appear.   They come from the mechanical movements that we conduct on a daily basis.