Review Naked Life at MOCA Taipei

December 11, 2006 at 4:10 pm Leave a comment

Giorgio Agamben‘s state of exception is the theme of this exhibition and while Agamben’s ideas outside of politics are particularly influentional it has been his work State of Exception that has provoked the most dicussion (the wikipedia link above is almost entirely devoted to the subject of Agamben’s politics). Naked Life is the state Agamben postulates people are put in when their rights are removed when only the body can be used to resist. It’s a tad more complicated than what I said, but Naked Life is essentially existing with out choice and hence with out the complexities of morality and ethics that the rest of the world enjoys. It also refers to the state people find themselves in when their values systems are re-arranged and freedom and possibility are restricted to provide a new higher ideal of safety as Richard Posner has recently put it, the constution is not a suicide pact and individuals must rearranged their rights and values in an age of terrorism, but as Agamben is pointing out, this process inhibits our ability to entertain and engage in practices and thoughts that expand our realm of thought. Hence we have a good preface for an art show and certianly one that proves to be entertaining.

Ryota Kimura‘s piece S.U.I. relies on rfid smart cards to access a surviellance network of Japanese subway tunnels. It’s hardly the type of observation and alienation that leads to the existence Agamben is talking about (and the work seems a little bit cheesy with it’s synthetic robot voices), but it is a clear indicitator of the ways we have sacrificied privacy for convience, but Ryota’s work is also a bit hopefull, it does suggest that even though we are quantifying our lives with technology and making it more trackable, this doesn’t necessarily restrict the possibilities of our thought, if anything it seems to open up the possibilities of living with a more transparent sense of the public self one in which agents outside of ourselves might have a better vantage into what makes us ourselves.

Chen Chieh-Jen aka 陳界仁 is probably one of Taiwan’s better known artists and his piece The Route is a stand out in the show. It is perhaps most related to Agamben’s concept of a naked life in that the protestors are depriving themselves of choice by using their bodies and fortitude for their various causes, but it’s really the aesthetic and the world that Chen conjures up that makes it worth while. Fortitude and the suffering the protestors put themselves through becomes a ritualized act in which geometric shapes and other abstractions of the body are pleasant provocations and the cause of the prostetor’s discomfort remains obscured, their politics become a background for their bodies and endurance.

Wong Hoy-Cheong’s Re:Looking is fucking hilarious. In it Hoy-Cheong presents a fictional malaysia where in a sultan colonized Austria awhile back. Sprung (and perhaps parodying) modern day anthroplogy and it’s tendency to emphaisis the vitality and possible strategies the conquered could have used ( think Charles C. Mann’s discussion of organized bolo throwers taking out European ships) it’s a rather interesting film thst both questions the authenticity of post-colonial film making (Hoy makes extensive use of the worst areas of Austria to show the effects of colonialism on it’s people) the film follows around bumbling Westernes trying to become more muslim and assimilate in Kaula Lampur and other things. It fits with in the motif of the show, but Wong’s work is really more worth it for the effect it gives of a possible world in which the European colonists were effected the other way around, but it also provides an excellent repreive of guilt in which the colonized are gleefull to ensure their actions against the west were equally brutal and long lasting.

Adel Abiden, an iraqi artist based in Finland, contributes a few pieces and his work is definitely helped along by being from a country that is perhaps one of the best examples of the extremity of limitations of freedom that permeate this show. Adibin’s work is fairly deadpan, he dresses up in Islamic gear and then proceeds to read the lyrics of this land is your land before performing it with a certian country hilt. It’s dead on and the black humor of it remains, but the performance is hardly lasting, perhaps like the naked lives of Iraqis, Mr. Adibin’s statements will only persist in relevance untill his country’s rights are restored (something which is apparently being planned for 2008), but his humor is certianly subversive as is his stark commentary on Baghad in a series of fliers,one of them reads, “suicide bombers are the most active in the morning becuase they believe if they die they get to have breakfast with the prophet mohammed”, mocking the Western fascination with linking Islam and suicide and suggesting that suicide bombers aren’t as religiously motivated as first thought or maybe it’s just a joke… I don’t know.

Max Stretcher’s inflatable sculptures flapped around on the floor, Bik Van der Pol’s Loompanics a portable library of subverisve reading material accompanied with a xerox was also out there, Meen Erhabe provided a documentary about Palestianian rap groups, Frenando Sanchez had a nice little video art piece in which a roman like head is dragged around, dug up, and ultimately restored, suggesting that the west has temporarily buried it’s inherited greek values it will perhaps rediscover them again, Koken Ergun provides a genuinely interesting installation on the stair well called “The Flag” which features turkish children making fiercely nationalist speeches while a military envoy parades around which provides a rather disturbing look at Turkey or perhaps is a critiue of nationalism taken it’s stark and almost distrubingly clinical and a-moral feel of the proceedings.

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Entry filed under: art.

links for 2006-12-09 Politics List 12/14

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