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A Practice Built On Existing Mechanisms and Systems - An Interview with Artist Chou Yu-Cheng

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A Practice Built On Existing Mechanisms and Systems - An Interview with Artist Chou Yu-Cheng
Installation view. “Refresh, Sacrifice, New Hygiene, Infection, Clean, Robot, Air, Housekeeping, www.agentbong.com, Cigarette, Dyson, Modern People” (2017) - Encounters, Art Basel Hong Kong 2018. Image Courtesy of the Artist and Edouard Malingue Gallery.

At a glance, Taiwanese artist, Chou Yu-Cheng’s works do not the excite the senses with hypnotic neon lights, sounds or dazzling colours. Rather, it is amidst their humble, unassuming exterior that one discovers an unexpected web of critique and thought. Find out more the artist and his practice from our interview with him below! 

 

Within your artistic oeuvre, we noticed that your works resonate strongly with an exploration of society’s existing mechanisms and systems that produce them. Can you describe who or what are some the major influences on your artistic practice?

A part of my artistic oeuvre is built on existing mechanisms, systems or phenomenon in the society. Through adopting unconventional approach together with meticulous attention to detail, I hope to guide my viewers to different ways of seeing things. In the project “A Working History – Lu Chieh-Te” (2012), I initially posted a job advertisement on a newspaper seeking a temporary worker aged 50-60. However, the actual job nature was to interview this temporary worker (Lu Chieh-Te) about his working experiences throughout his life together with a writer. In addition to documenting the personal experiences of Mr. Lu, this book also illustrated the changes in Taiwan’s economic activities over time. In the subsequent month, Mr. Lu was hired as a security guard in the exhibition “A Working History – Lu Chieh-Te”. The cover of the book allowed viewers to better understand Mr. Lu’s presence and details of his new job. I was inspired by my personal experiences when creating this project. Inspiration for some other projects came from what I have observed from my surroundings and various situations. For example, the project “TOA Lighting” (2010) was created during a time of economic recession.

 

Artist Chou Yu-Cheng.
Image Courtesy of the Artist and Edouard Malingue Gallery.

At Art Basel Hong Kong 2018 this past March, you showcased a performance piece which is part of your two phase project entitled, “ Refresh, Sacrifice, New Hygiene, Infection, Clean, Robot, Air, Housekeeping, www.agentbong.com, Cigarette, Dyson, Modern People”  (2017) What were your thought processes and considerations when creating this work and what were you trying to convey?

A part of my artistic oeuvre is built on existing mechanisms, systems or phenomenon in the society. Through adopting unconventional approach together with meticulous attention to detail, I hope to guide my viewers to different ways of seeing things. In the project “A Working History – Lu Chieh-Te” (2012), I initially posted a job advertisement on a newspaper seeking a temporary worker aged 50-60. However, the actual job nature was to interview this temporary worker (Lu Chieh-Te) about his working experiences throughout his life together with a writer. In addition to documenting the personal experiences of Mr. Lu, this book also illustrated the changes in Taiwan’s economic activities over time. In the subsequent month, Mr. Lu was hired as a security guard in the exhibition “A Working History – Lu Chieh-Te”. The cover of the book allowed viewers to better understand Mr. Lu’s presence and details of his new job. I was inspired by my personal experiences when creating this project. Inspiration for some other projects came from what I have observed from my surroundings and various situations. For example, the project “TOA Lighting” (2010) was created during a time of economic recession.

 

Installation view. “Refresh, Sacrifice, New Hygiene, Infection, Clean, Robot, Air, Housekeeping, www.agentbong.com, Cigarette, Dyson, Modern People” (2017) - Encounters, Art Basel Hong Kong 2018. 
Image Courtesy of the Artist and Edouard Malingue Gallery.

For this same work, the Dyson brand is integral to the concept of the artwork. How did you approach the brand for the collaboration? How did you find working with a product, and assimilating it as a part of the artwork?

The earliest project involving brand collaboration was the exhibition “TOA Lighting” held in the Hong-gah Museum, Taipei, in 2010. I had absolutely zero budget for this exhibition. Through the transformation of the name of the exhibition and its visual image, TOA Lighting agreed to provide the art museum with a batch of new lightings, which were displayed at the exhibition. This unconventional mode of work paved my way towards collaborating with brands whereby I used readymades (merchandise) as the content for the projects. Recently, I am focusing on the theme modernisation and hygiene. Therefore, I hope to make use of the image of Dyson - purification and technology and introduce the image to the exhibition. To me, merchandises were indeed displayed at the exhibition in Shanghai. More importantly, I used the brand image to purify the gallery space, instead of defining the readymades themselves as artworks.

 

"Painting Gesture - Refurbish 1" (2017), Acrylic on Canvas, 150 x 180 x 5 cm. 
Image Courtesy of the Artist and Edouard Malingue Gallery.

As a multidisciplinary artist, your work takes many forms, combining traditional techniques like painting, sculpture with performance, installation and digital media among others. How has that helped you to achieve your artistic intentions?

On one hand, a combination of mediums provides more flexibility in terms of fulfilling different approaches of display criteria, it assists in expanding my personal aesthetics and avoid habitual ways of art creation;  On the other hand, if the type of medium can be depicted in terms of weight, I would say that I have a strong preference for using and switching between light and heavy and at the same time not to be constrained by the budget.

 

"Chemical Gilding, Keep Clam, Galvanise, Pray, Gradient, Ashes, Manifestation, Unequal, Dissatisfaction, Capitalise, Incense Burner, Agitation, Hit, Day Light, IV. Installation view at FIAC 2016. 
Image Courtesy of the Artist and Edouard Malingue Gallery.

The use of readymades is a recurring theme, appearing more in some of your recent projects. As you redefine the context and function of these materials, what are some of the challenges you face in transforming the norm of what is already known about these objects, to convey your messages?

Readymades often appear in my work.  Instead of solely displaying or defining the readymades as they are, I “make use of” the readymades.  The appearance of readymades often accompanies the context of the artwork, examples include the lightings in “TOA Lighting”, Dyson products, or the flowers and fruits mentioned earlier.  In addition, in the few “people” projects which I have collaborated with in the past, I have adopted a similar way of making use of the people. This can be used to comprehend the way I make use of “readymades”.  In simple terms, I need an object (person) to play its own role in my project script, and its content becomes my project script.

 

"Molyneux" (2014). Acrylic on Canvas, Wall painting, publication, 2 galleries etc.. Installation view of solo exhibition "Molyneux".
Image Courtesy of the Artist and Edouard Malingue Gallery.

Is audience engagement a consideration when developing your work? Do you think about how the viewers will react to your pieces or is there a particular experience you hope to encourage?

In terms of content, I do not take into consideration my viewers.  But in terms of planning the display, I would try my best to take into consideration all the details.  Apart from this, I seldom imagine how viewers would react to my artworks.

 

"A Man of Showa Era" (2013). Tatami on desk, 550 x 366 x 40 cm, Gouache on Silk, 30 x 40 cm, Booklet (Chinese), Slides, Sounds and Objects provided by persona. Installation view in the exhibition, "Are We Working Too Much?".
Image Courtesy of the Artist and Edouard Malingue Gallery.

We are excited to find out what you are up to next. Can you tell us more about any ongoing projects or ideas you are working on at the moment?

I am currently preparing for a solo exhibition to be held at TKG+, Taipei in May this year.  In this new project, I will collaborate with a traditional noodle drying ground (日曬手工麵線) located in the valleys of Taiwan to create a sculpture.  The theme of the sculpture is the relationship between food and the environment under modernisation and changes in the environment.  In addition, I will be publishing my first sketchbook at this exhibition, making one of my childhood dreams come true. Another ongoing project would be the Liverpool Biennial in July.

 


Any views or opinions in the post are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the company or contributors.


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