Taipei, Taiwan, 1976
Modified, shifted or transferred elements amounting to new relationships between status and object: herein lies the pulse of Chou Yu-Cheng’s (b. 1976) practice that builds, across multiple mediums, a subtle critique of mass media, institutions and the mechanisms that produce them. A graduate from l’Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris, and the research programme La Seine, Chou has gained international recognition for his dialectical interplay between the source and results of his creations. Through his selective conversations, Chou shapes a minimal yet deliberate set of intellectual and aesthetic tricks, which ultimately play on the properties of art, object and space. Running throughout Chou’s practice is the process of cooperation and display. Often borrowing objects from companies, museums or factories, Chou sets to make the mechanism of art production and organisation visible. For example, ‘TOA Lighting’ (2010), a site-specific installation for the Hong-Gah Museum, Taipei, presents itself as a delicate quadrangular ceiling-hung set of neon lights. As the title suggests though, they are lamps sponsored by TOA Lighting Company. Chou thus constructs a deliberate exchange between support for the ‘contemporary plastic arts’ and private enterprise, revealing through titular ownership the exhibition’s commercial element – an interaction that is once more turned on its head by the installation’s addition to the Museum’s permanent collection.
A further key element to Chou’s practice is relations with others and how he examines the underlying operations of daily systems, the communications between private and public spheres. ‘A Working History – Lu Chieh Te’ (2012), for which Chou engaged with Lu Chieh Te – a near sixty-year-old temp worker – is a key example. Part of a two-stage process, Chou first conducted interviews with him, posing questions on his history over the last 45 years, an exchange that was ultimately published in booklets. Displayed at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum as part of the final artwork, Chou then hired Lu as a security guard in the exhibition space. Chou thus placed Lu in charge of his own history, whilst adding an element of contradiction as the booklet’s ‘star’ stood, on a daily basis, surrounded by his sudden fame.
‘Molyneux’ (2014) is another example of exchange – a project created after Geoff Molyneux (b. 1951) whereby Chou reinterpreted works from different periods in Molyneux’s career, presenting the history of a Western artist’s formal development from the perspective of his personal identity as an Asian artist. Extending certain tones and properties beyond the contours of Molyneux’s original oeuvre, Chou interprets and appropriates Molyneux’s work in a manner that divorces it from its initial time and place, thus presenting the original to a new audience whilst extending its significance to touch on issues such as copyright, power balance and the definition of an artwork.
‘Chemical Gilding, Keep Calm, Galvanise, Pray, Gradient, Ashes, Manifestation, Unequal, Dissatisfaction, Capitalise, Incense Burner, Survival, Agitation, Hit, Day Light’ (2015) is a further series that exemplifies critical collaborative production. A recurring element is a bold slab of galvanised steel – a common metonymy of department stores and consumerism that simultaneously connotes characteristic elements of cheap housing – dotted by highly physical indentations initiated whilst conducting a residency at the Künstlerhaus Bethanien (Berlin) in 2015. The work as object as statement commenced as a clean steel plate, which members of the public were invited to throw rocks at. As such it evolved from a reflective surface to an interactive sculpture interrogating the act of protest.
Most recently, Chou has been developing a series addressing modernisation and cognitive faculties. “Refresh, Sacrifice, New Hygiene, Infection, Clean, Robot, Air, Housekeeping, www.ayibang.com, Cigarette, Dyson, Modern People” (2017-18) addresses this multifaceted topic through the lense of ‘hygiene’ reflecting the Taiwanese slang phrase “without knowledge and without hygiene” that refers to someone dumb, dirty, without standards. Relative to knowledge, hygiene is relatively abstract – yet, it seems to possess a yardstick by which we gauge modernisation. Through sculpture, performance and recital, this installation series aims to conceptually and formally explore the modern evolution of hygiene, offering the audience a multi-layered interpretation while creating a theatre of daily life.
Chou Yu-Cheng is a highly acclaimed artist who lives and works in Taipei. His notable solo shows include Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin (2015); Kaohsiung Fine Art Museum, Kaohsiung (2015); Taipei Fine Art Museum, Taipei (2014); Kuandu Museum of Fine Arts, Kuandu (2011); Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, Colorado (2008). Group exhibitions include Liverpool Biennial (2018); New Museum, New York (2015); Asian Art Biennial, Taiwan (2015); Queens Museum, New York (2013); Taipei Biennial, Taipei (2012). Chou held a residency at the Chinese Centre For Contemporary Art (CFCCA), Manchester in 2013 and received the Taipei Art Award, Taiwan in 2012 as well as the Taishin Annual Visual Art Award, Taiwan in 2011. Chou’s work is held in multiple museum collections including the University of Salford/CFCCA, UK; Taipei Fine Art Museum; Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Art.