Our current globalized society continually progresses and refines itself through the interrogation of the state of “things”— technology, the economy, politics, the environment, human welfare, and so on. In this exhibition, we begin by interrogating the body. In what states have the body and the self existed since the beginning of the 21st century? The contemporary proliferation of digital media, AI, data mining, and biometrics puts the physical body and its presence — and conversely, absence — into question. In the face of this dialogue, 在/不在 | Negation of You sets out to critically reflect on the notion of selfhood in an increasingly digital society. This exhibition engenders forms of presence and absence, as well as interpretations of identity across physical, digital and metaphysical realms. As we attempt to examine the state of the body, we look to the “self.” How do we negotiate having a physical body, especially when we consider that although the body manifests one’s presence, we continue to exist in its absence?
We, an international group of curators studying in Taiwan, all with unique cultural and individual identities, have unearthed a commonality between us—we have experienced firsthand the societal changes that have transpired to accommodate the Internet and its omnipresence. We have witnessed a shift toward life mediated by social and digital media, and as a result, we have seen our own social and societal behaviors evolve. Presence is no longer implicitly linked to physical existence. Our inhabitation of the Internet has given agency to digital presence. We are beginning to live out the effects and impacts that information sharing and instant accessibility have had on the human condition. More often than not, we engage with the world through altered realities mitigated by social media and avatars. These digital, nonphysical platforms for communication have become a primary mode of connecting, communicating with, and relating to one other, all in the presence of what is absent—our bodies.
在/不在 | Negation of You places the bodies of artists and audience members at the fore to confront, connect with, and interrogate 21st-century notions of presence and identity. The works presented and performed by HOU I-Ting, Florence LAM, LEE Kit, and River LIN work in concert to create a space for reflecting upon and discussing contemporary manifestations and interpretations of the body, presence, and identity. In HOU I-Ting’s work, Magic (2005), the artist contorts her body to emulate that of a projected 2D image of idealized femininity. I choose to sleep (2016), a performance by Florence LAM investigates the behaviors and ways that viewers conduct themselves in the social context of the gallery. LEE Kit has created a site-specific work titled Text on the wall (2019) for this exhibition . Drawing upon interactions with the spatial environment, he combines words, images, paintings, light, and sound to project the inexplicable, metaphysical essence of daily life into the gallery space. River LIN performs Invisibile Portraits (2019) by drawing portraits of gallery visitors while blindfolded. Eschewing visual cues, the artist documents his sensation of a person’s presence and names each interaction at its conclusion.
Altogether, the works of this exhibition confront and interact with the bounds of the “body” and notions of one’s “identity” by placing the viewer and their physical form at the center of interpretation. In turn, the audience brings with them reflections, questions, and considerations of their bodies in relation to the works and the artists.