On the Verge of Fiction features young and emerging artists from Japan and Taiwan and aims to contribute to the cross-cultural exchange between Japan and Taiwan and current discussions concerning the historical perceptions of the two countries. The exhibiting artists play out various fictions pertinent to memory, history, landscape, and everyday life. Contemporary art practice becomes a means to interrogate fictionality in our living world, a kind which is imposed as a system of social governance.
In his book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind historian Yuval Noah Harari claims that human civilization results from a cognitive evolution in 70,000BC that enabled the capacity for ‘fiction’ – what he describes as imagined reality and lying. Fiction is expressed in mythology and religion and allows for large numbers of people to cooperate. According to Harari, this distinctive ability of using fiction to form tribes and nations culminated in civilization. In this respect, what we perceive is formed by fictionality, and the reality surrounding us involves many fictional aspects. Despite a number of sensational and sweeping statements Harari makes about human history, his view of human behaviour in relation to fiction is a useful starting point for an exhibition that seeks to explore social geography, political and cultural history, and contemporary society in the global context.
Harari’s notion of fiction as a big narrative that governs a nation can be epitomised by the history of Taiwan and the economy of Japan. In Taiwan, democracy and freedom of expression was achieved after the long history of Japanese rule and the martial law enforced by the local government of Taiwan. Through the historical phases from colonial period to democracy, Taiwanese people experienced the instability of constantly changing social conditions. This can be compared to Harari’s view of fiction for social governance. Taiwan’s political climate under the current influence of the People’s Republic of China unmistakably raises issues concerning the country’s regional identity and international relations. Some of the Taiwanese exhibiting artists respond to this situation by exploring oral history and collective memory.
In Japan, there is a tendency to prioritize economic growth alongside the innovation of technology and financial engineering. The Japanese government actively promotes their products as the brand ‘Cool Japan’ to compete in the international market. However, the Great Tohoku Earthquake in 2011 revealed the side effects of capitalist production. Among other things, the myth of safety regarding nuclear power generation turned out to be full of fraud and hypocrisy: the nuclear power station in Fukushima was underwritten with huge subsidies from the government for the purpose of supporting the expansion of Tokyo. The fiction behind economic growth – the myth of ‘safety’ that allowed for the multiplication of nuclear power stations in Japan – was forced on rural areas such as Fukushima which now suffers the tragic consequences of radioactive contamination. Perhaps it’s not surprising that so many Japanese artists have focused on this event in the years since the Fukushima disaster.
In response to such big fictions in relation to social ideology and capitalism, the artists present differing fictions from their subjective standpoints, working closer to the Latin etymology of fiction ‘fictiō’meaning ‘forming’ and ‘feigning.’ Some artists prompt us to contemplate the being and non-being of the subject in question. In so doing, their work reveals the ordinary and real from different perspectives, which in turn provides us with a means to criticise and deconstruct social fictionality. Other artists distance themselves from reality as formed by social fictionality, imposed as it is on our humanity. The exhibition as a whole demonstrates both social and subjective fictions through mediums, and reframes ‘here’ and ‘now’ in differing perspectives in these ways:
- Representing ‘here’ and ‘now’ by using fiction.
- Hypothetically escaping or transcending from ‘now’ to past or future.
- Hypothetically escaping or transcending from ‘here’ to a different place.
In this show, fiction straddles reality and vice versa, as if gazing at the tide on the beach. The exhibition explores the themes of hypothetical escaping, history and memory, everyday fictionality, speaking bodies and changing fiction. The types of exhibited artworks range from painting, sculpture, video and performance to installation. Artistic concerns, including oral history, collective memory, everyday life and the flux of our consciousness, are brought together to create dialogues that speak pertinently of our current condition and the times we are living in. Viewers are invited to unpack stories, envisage landscape ‘on the verge of fiction,’ and reconsider the historical perceptions of Japan and Taiwan.
Atsuko Nakamura, Chen Fei-Hao, Chen Ting-Chun, Chen I-Chun, Chou Tai-Chun, HarukoSasakawa, Joyce Ho, Kenta Kawagoe, Li Cheng-Liang, Taku Hisamura, Teppei Yamada w/z Yuta Ogawa, Yuriko Sasaoka
Program Planner: Ho Yu-Kuan
Curator: Hayato Fujioka
Co-curator: Huang Pei-Wei
Lighting Designer: Tsai Min-Hau
Carpentry Executor: Cheng An-Shun
Transportation: JC Art Engineering Co., Ltd.
Mabel Wang, Hsu Fong-Ray, Lee I-Hua, Tsai Kuen-Lin, Chen I-Chun, André Chan, Sayuri Fujiwara, Tsukasa Doi, Takafumi Kageyama, Alison Green, Audrey Thomas-Hayes