Hong-gah museum is proud to present the Dutch based artist Sheng-Wen Lo. Lo has a background in STEM and his works comprise video, photography, games, sound and installation. This exhibition Matter of Scale engages his research in marine ecosystem and ocean farming during his stay in the Netherlands, presenting an interdisciplinary dialogue between science, economics and visual arts. Matter of Scale congregates Lo’s two-year exploration on kelp and attempts to reflect on the burgeoning sustainable agriculture and circular economy from different perspectives. Seaweed, which has a long history of existence and wide application in many Asian countries – kombu, kelp, sphagnum jelly, etc. – has a variety of names and corresponding methods. Yet as an emerging food, seaweed has received a lot of attention in European countries. Some fishermen think that growing seaweed does not require land, fresh water, feed and fertilizer, and the carbon emission is lower than aquaculture or fishing, making it a green, zero input industry. Some ecologists believe that growing large amounts of seaweed can effectively capture and store carbon. Vegetarians also advocate the high nutritional value of seaweed. This seaweed boom has left Lo wondering, if seaweed is as amazing as the Europeans say it is, why has not this industry been flipped over in Asian countries? Lo spent two years trying to understand how to grow seaweed and kelp in the Netherlands, as well as the official policy and position on kelp farms and coastal seaweed harvesting, in order to understand the local’s perception of seaweed. He visited seaweed farms along the Dutch coast to understand their beliefs and expectations. He also brought dried seaweed from the farmers and used it extensively making improved daily dishes from a consumer’s point of view. As his research progresses, Lo finds that there are also risks involving this seemingly fantastic kelp boom. Large-scale coastal transformation will bring changes to ecosystems, not only hindering sunlight penetration below ocean surface, but also disturbing nutrient balance, potentially causing eutrophication. Benign intentions do not always lead to happy endings.
The four-channel synchronized video in the exhibition includes Lo’s two-years of inquiry. The video narrative navigates through the physiology of kelp, people’s praise of kelp farming, expectations of carbon reduction agriculture, and the disastrous history of coastal eutrophication. The images contain the soundscapes juxtaposes mass media, voice over, and the sound of waves lapping on the shore symbolizing his questioning of these operations, and the waves seem to be a tug of war between different positions. There are also discarded fishing nets and marine waste hung in the exhibition venue, which were obtained from different local fishing associations. These dangling objects resemble kelp cultivated beneath ocean surface, long and short, dense and sparse; they exude a scent from the ocean and the pungency of the waste. During the exhibition period, these dangling symbols of kelp will continue to proliferate, and as the exhibition period progresses, they will gradually suffocate the limited space of the museum gallery and block the light from the video as well as the audience’s line of sight, making the exhibition venue increasingly uncomfortable and the works increasingly difficult to be viewed. This resonates with the title of this exhibition, everything is a matter of scale.
The idiom “guò yóu bù jí (ㄍㄨㄛˋ ㄧㄡˊ ㄅㄨˋ ㄐㄧˊ)” is used in Chinese to describe the negative consequences of doing something good. In addition to having a “timely” and “precise” connotation, the English word “just” also has another meaning, representing fairness and reasonableness. Despite deriving from different language and culture, they bear a common pursuit of balance amid all things. Seaweed and kelp farming are the new favorites in agricultural sustainability and circular economies, and while pursuing “just right”, they are also striving for expansion in scale, influencing and sculpting the intricately connected ecosystem through ebb and flow.
Time: 19:30-21:30 Fri. 19th Aug. 2022
Venue: Lightbox Photo Library (No.19, Lane 269, Section 3, Roosevelt Road, in Taipei’s Daan District.)
About Sheng-Wen Lo
Born in 1987 in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, currently based in the Netherlands. He received MA in Photography from AKV|St.Joost in the Netherlands, and MSc in Computer Science from the Computer Music Lab at National Taiwan University. His works investigate the relationships between non-humans and society, attempting to spark off debate.
His recent projects include “F/EEL”, a project commissioned by the Embassy of the North Sea and presented in 2020, which is based on the anthropogenic barriers imposed on the migratory lives of European eels. The project “Extendable Ears” was presented in 2019 at the Foam Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam, the Netherlands. In the project, Lo wore an ultrasound transformer around the clock so that he can experience high frequency sounds audible to animals. The project “Down”, presented in 2017 and participated in the 2020 Taiwan Biennial of the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, in which he collected goose down and made his own down jacket for a survival test in the High Arctic.
The creative projects of Sheng-wen Lo are full of imagination and experimentation, but through different forms of presentation such as video installation, photography or games, the audiences can reflect on their position as human beings in intriguing ways.
“Matter of Scale. Solo Exhibition of Sheng-Wen Lo” is supported by Cultural Ministry. The exhibition is hosted by Chew’s Culture Foundation, organized by Hong-gah Museum, and curated by Zoe Yeh with museum team included of Ho-Ching Fan, Daisy Li, Jing-shi Wang and interns Liang-Chu Lu, Tsai-Hsuan Lien, Pin-Hsuan Li, Hui-Zhong Kwo and Angela Tam. With on-site production by Ridge Studio, technical installation by Thousand Bird Arts, visual design by Yaode JN, and official projector supply of Optoma. Special Thanks to Tam-Sui Fisherman’s Association and Kee-lung Fisherman’s Association.
Artist: Sheng-Wen Lo