——-Morgan Wong is a Hong Kong–based artist, whose “Dash Series,” 2016, deals with the so-called nine-dash line (also known as the ten-dash line and the eleven-dash line), a vague and disputed geopolitical border used by China and Taiwan to claim a major part of the South China Sea. Two paintings from that series and a commissioned video, The Proposed Boundary, 2017, are currently part of the group show “So Far, So Right: A Study of Reforms and Transitions Across Borders,” organized by the Taipei Contemporary Art Center. The exhibition is on view at the Kuandu Museum of Fine Arts in Taipei through February 25, 2018. Three canvases from Wong’s “Dash Series” are also featured in “Frontier – Re-assessment of Post-Globalizational Politics” at OCAT Shanghai until March 11, 2018. I’M INTERESTED IN THE TEMPORALITY OF SOVEREIGNTY, and how it can be examined or illustrated through geopolitical borders. For example, the ongoing debates that have been happening since the late 1940s about the commonly named “nine-dash line,” a territorial claim in the South China Sea that China and Taiwan have maintained over the years, have long intrigued me. Representing the South China Sea border as eleven separate paintings, my “Dash Series” partly taps into the psychology of how we can perceive a series of dashes as a continuous line. It’s a gesture of destroying the border and, at the same time, an act of rethinking the significance of each dash.
A solo exhibition that I had at KIGOJA Independent Arts Space Initiative in Seoul in 2016, “KIGOJA Standard Time (KST),” presented four installations featuring two steel rails, an open window, six unsynchronized clocks, and a television displaying a silent, spinning globe. With this fictional time zone I created, the works made up a stark tableau that spoke broadly to the role of time in nation building. The show revolved around North Korea’s decision, in 2015, to revert to a precolonial time zone. This setting up of Pyongyang time, on the seventieth anniversary of Korea’s liberation from Japan, created a new temporal border between the South and the North.
In 2013, I began the lifelong performance Filing Down a Steel Bar Until a Needle Is Made. The title references a Chinese idiom about determination, and the work evolved from my personal determination to become an artist. I am literally filing down a metal bar, which is the same height and weight as myself, by hand. It is also a metaphorical event, in a way. The project was presented as a video in the exhibition “Line of Times” at Mill6 in Hong Kong earlier this year, because I decided it should not be a public performance, but a daily ritual, for me. The metal bar project is already durational in that it’s going to take my whole life to complete, so I don’t feel the need to lock myself up in a room, just filing it every day. If I cannot be with the metal bar, because of work or travel, I just leave it. It also travels with me to residences and other long relocations.
I think it’s important not to recognize a project as absurd in the beginning, because that kind of defines its function and denies the nature of absurdity. Time has always been a concern of mine. Recently I have been looking into theoretical physics and whether the passing of time even exists. Repeating these actions and gestures almost allows me to create my own currency, my own unit of time.
— As told to Samantha Kuok Leese
“Frontier – Re-assessment of Post-Globalisational Politics”
at OCAT Shanghai, curated by Lu Mingjun
30th Dec 2017 – 11th Mar 2018
So Far, So Right: A Study of Reforms and Transitions Across Borders
Artists: Aleksandra Domanović, Chen Szu-Han, David Maljković, Kosta Tonev, Luchezar Boyadjiev, Morgan Wong, Phương Linh Nguyen, Phụ Lục (The Appendix), Syu Jia Jhen, UuDam Tran Nguyen, Wu Chi-Yu, Zbyněk Baladrán
Curator: Fang Yen Hsiang
Date: 2017.12.29 (Fri.) – 2018.02.25 (Sun.)
Venue: 1F, Kuandu Museum of Fine Arts, TNUA
Reception: 2017.12.29 (Fri.) 5:00p.m.
Artist Talk: 2017.12.30 (Sat.) 2 pm, 2018.01.27 (Sat.) 2 pm, Taipei Contemporary Art Center
Screening: 2018.01.13 (Sat.) 3 pm, 01.22 (Sat.) 3 pm, Taipei Contemporary Art Center
Since the balance of power shifted after the Cold War, a new proposal for global governance has been in the making. In the name of a new framework, this proposal is conceived by emerging great powers, where the alliance of startups across countries, the reconstruction of transnational resources and logistics systems, as well as the acquisition of new management technologies such as information technology, together allow the new governing powers to transcend borders and enter the realm of biopolitics all the more efficiently.
Project So Far, So Right is based on the concept of deforming and how it osmoses into the given framework of global governance. The project unfolds from the investigation and delineation of two post-communist narratives as well as their metamorphoses, interweaving relations, and tensions, proposing a possible method to re-entangle their histories and imagined futures, thus launching a new life story.
Set against the backdrop of two former socialist blocs and their political geography in the past, the project delves into the history of the trade and labor alliance of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance, the gradual process of the communist system partially or entirely transitioning into the market system, and how these countries transform into emerging economies on a global scale. The project also investigates the transmutations and contradictions in the ways marketization, democratization, and the construction of national identity confront these regions during their political and economic transition, as well as how they grapple with the regional political and economic alliance of which it is part, the delicate relations between great powers, and the undercurrents and volatile states of the individual, the collective, and society.
Through the manifestation and aestheticization of diaspora and cross-border experiences, portraying a unique state of passing through and interfering with conceptual or physical borders, this project attempts to trace a back-and-forth history of connection, a biohistory that transcends the governance of national planned economy and all-encompassing marketization and technologization. As we examine the biohistory from an external vantage point — whether it’s the bridging of political fault lines, or the tenacious force that resists and wrestles outside the system — we witness an opposition to the framework of national power and capitalist deployment, defying the governing force of the economization of life.
The project So Far, So Right is sponsored by the Production Grants to Independent Curators in Visual Arts of National Culture and Arts Foundation of Taiwan.
Organizer: Taipei Contemporary Art Center
Co-Organizer: Kuandu Museum of Fine Arts, TNUA Sponsors National Culture and Arts Foundation; Department of Cultural Affairs, Taipei City Government; RC Culture and Arts Foundation
Media Partner: No Man’s Land
Special Thanks: Nhà Sàn Collective, A+ Contemporary, Metro Pictures, Galerie Jocelyn Wolff
3 Yue Fung Street, 19/F Grand Marine Center
September 9, 2017–November 18, 2017
The presence of White Hole, 1979, a short, abstract film by Toshio Matsumoto, at the entrance to the gallery space not only attests to a certain curatorial wittiness (a white hole, in physics, being an area of space-time that matter cannot enter from outside) but also sets the psychedelic tone for the retrospective of this Japanese experimental-cinema pioneer. White Hole examines Matsumoto’s metaphysical quests amid his study of the Upanishads. Such Hindu connections can also be found in Everything Visible Is Empty, 1975, a boldly hued work that consists of meticulously planned intercuts of kanji from the Japanese translation of the Heart Sutra, Hindu imagery, and eventually even planes of pure color—all set to a sound track that subtly evolves from analog South Asian music into those of a pure synthesizer.
Matsumoto’s masterful cult feature film Funeral Parade of Roses (1969) is another reference throughout the two-floored show: Excerpts appear in For the Damaged Right Eye, 1968, Ecstasis, 1969, and Expansion, 1972. The former most effectively manifests Matsumoto’s expanded cinematic practice, via its three projections juxtaposed to form a live montage accompanied by flickering lights. The work also hints at social and political concerns in addition to aesthetic ones. The Weavers of Nishijin (1961) is Matsumoto’s seminal experimental documentary work; reflections on consumerism, labor, as well as cultural and financial capital come through in images of artisanal kimono fabrics being produced in Kyoto.
— Morgan Wong