Melancholy in Progress, the curatorial concept of the third Taiwan International Video Art Exhibition, re-examines notions of progress in modern societies, which are characterized by quests for technology, speed, systematization, production and consumption. By exploring different historical and cultural contexts and their value systems, as well as the experience of modernization in different regions of the world, the exhibition also reflects on living situations in the age of biopolitics and envisages ways of constructing new value systems.
Taiwanese writer Lai He, when recalling his experience of progress brought to Taiwan by Japanese colonizers, once noted, “An era’s progress is often in stark contrast to the well being of its people.” Here Lai He echoes Rousseau’s critique of the Enlightenment concept of instrumental reason, which followed developments in the sciences and has been foundational in constructing mainstream notions of progress today. Intent on re-examining this foundation, Melancholy in Progress invited nine local and international artists to exhibit works, and selected sixteen works from a pool of submissions garnered through a call for entries. All works focus on concepts of progress through the lens of each artist’s unique experience.
Following the nineteenth-century, western-led age of imperialism, modernization spread to the far corners of the world. Since then, so called developing regions have both consciously and unconsciously emulated western modernism and, in a quest for accelerated progress, have risked losing their own histories. Today, this notion of progress knows no bounds, and economic growth and expanding markets have dominated the world such that many marginalized regions and third-world countries envision progress based solely on western modernization. At this point we must ask: Is there only one vision of progress? Should we pursue a mode of progress other than the one suggested by western models? Melancholy in Progress looks back at director Ming-Chuan Huang’s films which document transformations in the cultural landscape of Taiwan since the 1990s, and presents artwork by Chung-Li Kao, who is concerned with the history of image production extending back to the era before film, as well as reconstructing his own narrative image history.
Also included is an audio-video presentation about the architect Ying-Chun Hsieh, whose revolutionary architectural practices re-conceptualize human habitation with respect to consumerism, homogenization and cultural identity.
Also presented is the work of Venezuelan artist Alexander Apóstol which investigates utopian ideals in Latin American urban planning, the work of German artist Harun Farocki, who explores technological evolution and connections among the mechanical gaze, production and war. Farocki’s videos push us to reconsider latent ideologies by opening a discursive space between technological progress and the ethics of production with images of factories without workers and warfare without soldiers.
Spanish artist Antoni Muntadas’s two videos examine fear in the geopolitical or sociocultural ideologies concealed within borders, and how states of fear and these ideologies inform political and technological operations. Indian filmmaker Meghna Halder explores the psychological boundaries which cause one to reject something as filthy, or accept something as clean. In her documentary film, Indian artist Iram Ghufran describes states of madness and melancholy through a series of dream sequences, the presence of spirits and the disappearance of women; as the drama unfolds, a shrine becomes a site for the expression of both guilt and desire. The Kyrgyzstani duo Gulnara Kasmalieva and Muratbek Djumaliev, through a five-channel video installation, discuss how modern advances have influenced the lives of Kyrgyzstanis after the disintegration of the communist system, and also how economic and political disturbances have changed living environments, local economies and ways of making a living.
A total of sixteen works from Taiwan, China, USA, Sweden, Greece, Pakistan, Israel, Ireland, Spain, Germany, Portugal, Poland and Italy were selected by a jury through the open submission process. Various genres of video work are represented, from documentary and narrative cinema to experimental forms, and explore the exhibition theme from the multi-layered perspectives of history, memory, culture, economics and industrial development.
Curtors: Amy Cheng, Jan-lanGuo