About the artist
Born in Taipei in 1976, Su obtained an MFA from Taipei National University of the Arts in 2003 and has remained active in the contemporary art scene ever since. The Taiwanese artist’s works are about exploring the connection between mass media, pop culture, memories of martial law, and the post-colonial history of Taiwan and East Asia. His work has been exhibited at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum, National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, Kuandu Museum of Fine Arts, Hong-Gah Museum, Jut Art Museum, Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts, Museo Jumex in Mexico City, Casino Luxembourg, Kunstmuseum Bonn, San Jose Museum of Art in California, Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University, and Power Station of Art in Shanghai. In 2017, International Film Festival Rotterdam dedicated a retrospective to Su’s video works, while his video work Super Taboo had its world premiere in the Tiger Awards Competition for Short Films. Su returned to the Tiger Short Competition in 2019 with The Glamorous Boys of Tang. In 2019, Su won the 17th Taishin Arts Award- Visual Art Award. Also, one of his latest productions Future Shock was awarded by Kaohsiung Short Award and premiered in Art Wuzhen in China.
Su’s recent exhibitions include 2019 PERFORMA biennale in NYC, Curitiba Biennial in Brazil, group show “Fuse” in Double Square Gallery(Taipei), Videonale 17 in Bonn, Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism Architecture(UABB) in Shenzhen, and “SPECTROSYNTHESIS”- the first museum scale LGBTQ show in Asia(MOCA Taipei and BACC in Bangkok). Su’s latest projects are now presented in C-LAB (Taipei), Double Square Gallery(Taipei), and will be in the Hague( the Netherlands), Winterthur (Switzerland) and Manchester(UK) in 2021.
The White Waters
Multi-channel installation/live art, 2019/2020.
“Critical Point Theater Phenomenon” was established in the late 1980s by TIAN Chi-Yuan and others.As the first publicly documented college student with AIDS, TIAN and Critical Point not only launched a new era of experimental theater in Taiwan, but also represented a significant moment in the history of gay culture. In 1993, Critical Point presented its seminal work, “White Water”—a contemporary reinterpretation of “The Flooding of Jinshan Temple” episode in The Legend of the White Snake, which explored themes of homosexuality, love, and political identity; and touched conceptually on the domain of the post-human and anti-anthropocentrism.
The White Waters uses TIAN’s classic as leverage in a return to the classic legend. The work focuses on imagery such as flood/fluidity, violence, sex, gender, illness/death, post-human, and antianthropocentrism, etc., so as to contemplate the numerous thoughts and fissures in both The Legend of the White Snake and“White Water,” hence enabling the cognitive structures of desire, life, morality, and identity to be laid bare once more. In form, the work utilizes colors to create structurally distinct segments, and showcases the artist’s many flights of fantasy regarding the above. The performance on video has been enacted by Instagram sensation JONG Yi-Ling and Popcorn, an active participant in Taipei’s drag community.
The Women’s Revenge
Multi-channel installation, 2020.
Prior to Taiwan’s lifting of martial law, a group of films influenced by the European wave of exploitation movie was produced in the 1980s, including Never Too Late to Repent, Woman of Wrath, On the Social File of Shanghai, Woman Revenger and Queen Bee. This filmic genre featuring the motif of “women’s revenge” would usually portray some severely oppressed heroines before culminating in bloody plots of vengeance. In continuation of Su’s creative context of “re-shooting” in recent years, The Women’s Revenge uses Taiwanese exploitation movies as a starting point to reexamines the problems of body regulation, seeking social novelty, modern discomforts and mediatized body. It also discusses how plots based on feminism have been turned into exploitation movies, reflects on the misunderstanding and exploitation of female sexuality in the system of image, and exposes how the contemporary body is manipulated by image technologies.
For the artist, these films point to a blackhole in history, in which a mixed bunch of images devours possible clues to explore the life politics of an entire generation. Formally speaking, the artist also takes part in the violent vengeance upon men by transforming himself into one of the avenging women – the box office guarantee for the 1980s Taiwanese cinema and the Best Leading Actress of the 20th Golden Horse Awards, Lu Shao-Fen, with a peculiarly proportioned body – through makeup and the technology of deepfake. The transformation also symbolizes an attempt to understand and experience women’s world with a man’s body.
#Exploitation_film #Cultfilm #Gender #Socialrealism #Deepfake
Black Film- The Women’s Revenge series (in progress)
Multi-channel installation/ AR+live-streaming performance, 2021
From the late 1970s, the so-called social realist films started to be produced and published in Taiwan while the country was still under martial law governance. In the whole decade of 1980s, subjects of the films focused on crimes, violence and even feminist stories. “Black Films- The Women’s Revenge” is one of the works of Su Hui-Yu’s newest Revenge series. The series re-visits movies history in Taiwan during the 1980s while the country was still under the military governance. The project will result in a multi-media piece by using a form of video installation and techniques of AR and live-stream. Dreamlike images and poetic scenes will be created by the artist base on the 1980s film scripts, all scenes could be considered as an extension of the creative spirits from the specific time.
In the performance, the audience will be asked to download a specific APP for creating animation/ movie effects on human performers’ bodies. In the meanwhile, audience will be able to live-stream the show on their social media account, and the video sources will be realtime collected to the console to construct a TV wall/multi-channel installation nearby the center stage, so eventually, the piece will have few layers- a human performance, a cult film on the audience’s smartphone, social media live-streaming, and a multi-channel installation. The work tries to use AR experience and real-time/self-media culture to recall the invisible link between the collective memories of the generations from the past decades and the core desire of human nature by approaching the violent essence of history, eventually to create body-politics and gender discussions.
Three channel installation, 20’00”, 2019.
In 1970, futurist Alvin Toffler’s iconic work Future Shock was published. One year later, a translation hit the market in Taiwan, thus introducing the writer’s theories to readers of Chinese. The premise of the book can be summed up as: “A future that comes too quickly creates more apprehension than that of a foreign land. Future society will be stricken with a plethora of choices, throw-away society, information overload, and unethical technology.” The video work was inspired by Toffler’s original, from which the artist adapted and developed Toffler’s theories. The artist decided to shoot the film in the southern city of Kaohsiung for its industrial facilities, modernist architecture, power plants, commercial institutions, and deserted amusement parks, which were driven by economic policies in the 1970s, but today evoke feelings of strangeness and nostalgia for the city’s golden age. This past which felt so futuristic 50 years ago is now both confusing and familiar. Future Shock leads audience members to revisit retro Kaohsiung from a contemporary perspective and look back as if in a dream at the influence of “modern” and “future” when they were completely new concepts in Asia.
#Alternative-modernity #Asian-modernization #Futurology
The Glamorous Boys of Tang
Four channel installation, 17’00”, 2018.
In 1985, two years before the end of Taiwan’s martial law period, the renowned poet and screenwriter Chui Kang-Chien’s (邱剛健) Tang Chao Chi Li Nan (trans: The Glamorous Boys of Tang) was first screened in Taiwan. The film is a homoerotic fantasy, and was therefore not well received due to the conservative atmosphere at the time. The film’s first scene is an inexplicable exorcism ceremony which includes dancing. Next, two pretty boys appear, and when their eyes meet, the scene is suffused with their mutual fascination. The plot also includes disturbing killings, death, and orgies accompanied by dissonant sound effects made with a synthesizer, bizarre and gaudy set design, and ill considered costumes. The combined effect is something like a cult film. Comparing the film to the script held in the Taiwan Film Institute archives, it is obvious that the film has been heavily edited or many sequences could not be depicted in detail. Perhaps the filmmakers could not fully present the radicalism and passion of the screenplay due to budget restrictions, censorship, or marketing concerns. More than thirty years later, with new funding and film technology, Su Huiyu has re-created the film to call together the differently gendered bodies and subcultures of Taiwan’s diverse society. The four channel piece can be seen as a re-shooting, a re-narration of the original 1985 version, or the next leg of its journey.
#Queer #Censorship #Cultfilm #1980s #Martial_law
Multi-channel installation, 18’00”, 2017.
As one of the active experimental theaters during 1990s, Taiwan Walker had been engrossing for its vernacular spirit-based theatrical aesthetics since its founding in 1992. Su Hui-Yu had watched the their performances on an irregular basis since his collage days. The theatre’s DIY ethos beyond institutionalisation and marketization as well as its ability in interfering in the highbrow art with popular cultures have substantially influenced Su’s artistic practices. In The Walker, Su ingeniously deconstructed three of the theatre’s plays, namely Mary Scooter(1993), Asshole Man(1996), and Our Top Horny Novels(2000). He extracted the character designs from these plays, emulated the theatre’s theatrical method, and asked amateur actors to improvise on site. Based on a multi-character narrative structure, this work re-interprets the velocity, prime-time, rebellion, physical pleasure and ethical minefield referred to in these three plays, recalling the artistic utopia ever pictured by the theatre; to wit, a polysemous, hybridised art world whose components range from the sublime to the ridiculous.
#Experimental_theater #1990s #Post_martial_law #Amateur
Duo-channel installation, 8’00”, 2015.
Ne Quan was inspired by a boxed-corpse murder case that happened in 2001, Taipei. Two men who met online went out for an erotic asphyxiation experience which resulted in death of one of the man. The body was abandoned and all traces were obliterated. Since this murder involved homosexual, online sex, SM and body of a man abandoned in a suitcase, the media had depicted it with a mysterious and dramatic perspective. The suspect, with his online nickname as Ne Quan, was heavily criticized by the society and the general public. The Ne Quan murder case reminds Su of dreams where he was involved in murder. Abandoning the corpse became a direct reaction following the sense of guilt in his dreams. This work has recreated the illusionized murder scene, by combining the artist’s personal dream and the murder from the news, to make the audience reflect on sex, self and moral justice in the modern society.
#Homosexual #Mass-media #Sadomasochism #Nightmare
L’être et le Néant (1962, Chang Chao-Tang)
Single channel video, 5’00” loop, 2016.
This work is an attempt to reassemble(not interpret) Chang Chao-Tang’s famous photo piece Being I (the translation of Chinese title is supposed to be Being and Nothingness). The atmosphere of 1962 was darkened by the shadow of martial law and the White Terror. It was an era when people’s thoughts and the feelings had nowhere to go. This sense of stifling and emptiness happened to resonate a little in tone with existentialism, the prevailing “trend in the world thought” at the time. While this resonance had very little to do with comprehension, and may have even been little more than a similarity in title (Jean-Paul Sartre had published his book Being and Nothingness in 1943), it still precisely captured the zeitgeist – a marginal zone of longing for freedom that was unattainable, longing for truth that lay out of reach. Today when revisit the scene of Chang’s Being I, we can’t help being abruptly shocked. That experience of being suffocated, being incarcerated, that sense of being tightly constrained or even a little terrified seems not so far away.
#1960s #Being_and_Nothingness #White-Terror
Duo-channel installation, 18’00”, 2015.
Adapted from historical texts, the narrative in the two-channel video artwork Super Taboo came from a pornographic publication, which was previously known as “a small book”, with the same title. In addition to illegal copies of pornographic photos from Japan and Western countries, the undisguised description of erotic scenes is now a mesmerizing vernacular Chinese literature. In this video, the renowned actor Chin Shih-Chieh(⾦⼠傑) guides the viewers into a surreal erotic scene by playing the role of an urban white-collar worker who mutters the plots of the “small book” in his hands. The work leads us back to the 1980s Taiwan. Pornographic content was then edged to the periphery of the audio-visual system and merely tolerated by late night shows, secret rooms in video rental shops, or inconspicuous corners in bookstores. However, banned pornographic content tended to put greater erogenous temptation in our way than that freely accessible to us did. Pornographic content holds its allure at the expense of being salacious, nasty, and immoral. Physically pleasant sensation seems to be perilous and ergo requires the endorsement by the transcendental love or a social context as the foundation.
#Pornography #Forbidden #1980s
A Man After Midnight
Multi-channel installation, 2020.
A Man after Midnight insinuates the variety show “Singing against the Wind” hosted by Frankie Kao (⾼凌風) between 1980 and 1983. This variety show was a rare spectacle at a time for its magnificent lighting wall and overwhelming dancer troupe, alongside two groups of chorus and an exclusive orchestra composed of a dozen members. Frankie Kao not only hosted the show, but also took charge of singing, dancing and playlet. It was not only the peak of Kao’s career in the 1980s but also Su’s most vivid childhood memory of Saturday nights.
As one of the pioneering performers who emulated the Western Disco and Rock style, Kao not only introduced a new form of pop music to Taiwan by adapting and covering Western songs, but also endorsed the straightforward, undisguised lust and corporality embedded in disco music. Nonetheless, Kao’s songs failed to pass the cultural censorship from time to time, since Taiwanese society was still under martial law in the early 1980s, an age when entertainment was demanded to be enlightening.
The magnificent spectacle of Kao’s early variety show served as a stark contrast to the miserable twilight years of his stage career, which is exactly the kernel image that the artist attempts to convey through the work A Man after Midnight. Su replaced the scene in this work with that of the only remaining red envelop club in Ximending — The Phoenix Grand Cabaret, and provided the instrumental accompaniment of Kao’s hit song The Annoying Autumn Winds. This song was adapted from the best-selling single Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man after Midnight) released by the popular Swedish band ABBA in 1979. The original lyrics depicted a woman who watched television for most of the night, expecting an ideal man to come out of the world of fantasy from the television and take her away from the suffocating reality. In Kao’s adapted version, the lyrics were modified to represent the call of a man to his lover who has gone away. What remains in the coda of this video are the instrumental accompaniment and the frustrated singer who seems disoriented on a step chair as if living in another parallel universe.
#Censorship #Martial-law #Asian-western-pop