Memory Palace In Ruins
Documentation of my contribution to the exhibition ‘Memory Palace In Ruins’ at the Taiwan Contemporary Culture Lab, Taipei, Curated by Yu Wei.
Jeremy DELLER & Nick ABRAHAMS
LEE Kan Kyo
LIAO Xuan-Zhen & HUANG I-Chieh
Andrew Norman WILSON
Memories of Disarranged Space and Time
C-LAB’s Annual Exhibition Memory Palace in Ruins opens today (June 9), gathering 25 local and international artists and showcasing 30 works across 5 exhibition spaces, including large-scale open-air architecture The Parthenon and public event series. With experimental artistic language, it takes audiences on an expedition through the contemporary faces of historical memories.
What Has Become of Those Tumultuous Historic Moments?
Memory Palace in Ruins expands on the themes of the annual forum A Future Slowly Cancelled this past March, exploring from the perspective of the medium how cultural memories have been transformed into tangible form and historical experiences into texts. The exhibition is an inquiry into the ways historical memories have taken hold in everyday life at the intersections of textual and material representations of historical memory. The audience relives collective memories of events across the generations through natural disasters, social demonstrations, genre films in popular culture, hit songs, and pop icons such as The Beatles and Nirvana.
These historical memories have been reworked into new experiences at the hands of artists, as curator YU Wei explains. The works seem familiar yet fall outside our recollections. The exhibition focuses not just on what has transpired, but more importantly, on what comes next, and how they are reinterpreted and reappropriated to exist in another form of cultural memory.
Monuments, Adaptations, and Tributes: The Multilayered Themes of Cultural History
Parts of the exhibit revolve around the imagery of monuments or memorabilia, discussing how historical experiences have become the subject of the gaze and the object of contemplation after taking on material existence. Some artists reprocessed the once turbulent historical moments, such as the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the Anti-Extradition Law Amendment Bill Movement in Hong Kong, and early-era propaganda of totalitarian states. Other artists meta-process the “historicity” of events, playing on period styles and stereotypes or appropriating historical segments through repetition, juxtaposition, or adaptation. Elsewhere, many works revolve around the impassioned cultural tributes by amateurs, such as exploring the creative practices of glam rock band KISS fans or documenting the fan subculture of the later Cold-War era sensation Depeche Mode. There’s also the artist who responds to contemporary streaming media with the practice of burning one’s own DVD or demonstrates the life force of the listener among Beatles fans, engrooved and amalgamated in the vinyl record set, bringing different ideas and experiences to the audience.
For this exhibition, artists LIAO Xuan-Zhen & HUANG I-Chieh’s The Parthenon gathers former Sunflower Student Movement protestors to build a temporary structure collectively in front of the Political Warfare Building at C-LAB, recreating scenes from the 2014 protests using paper architecture models. Lectures, screenings, and musical performances will be hosted on-site, recapturing the energy of the social movement and retracing the psychological state of the “post-Sunflower Student Movement”. Artist HSU Chih-Yu’s large-scale installation incorporates elements of skateparks and archeological sites, exhibiting a series of fictitious found objects and artifacts made from industrial materials. US-based artist Slater Bradley’s The Doppelganger Trilogy is a mock bootleg footage of a reenacted historical scene, invoking three tragic hero figures in popular culture. The exhibition also features 3 experimental short films by the late Japanese director Toshio MATSUMOTO, The Song of Stone, For the Damaged Right Eye, and Engram, whose exploration of the essential qualities of motion picture media and experimental mashup of period cultural snippets serves as the footnote of the overall exhibition.
C-LAB Takes Audiences Back in Time
Since its establishment in 2018, C-LAB has produced a steady stream of exhibition projects with future vision, focusing on the historical contexts and genius loci, or the spirit of place. Among these are artists’ experimental responses to C-LAB’s history as the former site of the ROC Air Force Command Headquarters. The 2023 annual exhibition, Memory Palace in Ruins, further delves into the historical memories, bringing us to historical settings through experimental artistic language. Through the translations of contemporary art, we gain a renewed perception of the historical memories we have amassed in cultural settings. The exhibition runs from June 9 to August 13