Artwork

Chen Chieh-Jen
Friend Watan-5, 2013

  • Giclée-Print on Canson Infinity Baryta Photographique paper, Ed. 5 + 1/2 AP
  • 110,5 x 176 x 7 cm
  • Acquired in 2016

The Taiwanese artist Chen Chien-Jen reconstellates concrete historical, biographical, emotional, and (frequently) tragic or traumatic events and social upheavals. In his photographs, Chen positions individuals or ‘invisible’ groups of the population within the immediate environment that they interact with and impact on, and links his images to society as a whole, and to a legibly political context. Friend Watan-5 is from a six-part photographic series that was created to accompany a film of the same name. Watan is an Atayal family name, the Atayal being Taiwan’s second-biggest indigenous ethnic group. The picture shows the man standing silently on the collapsed, overturned roof; now, with light entering from above, it is the flooring of a light-filled atrium. In his hands, he holds a pile of items of clothing from the opened suitcase directly in front of him. He displays these items reverently, as if they were someone’s last personal possessions, but there is no indication as to their origins. The building looks as though it has been shaken by an earthquake; it contains damaged ladders with broken rungs that permit no ascent to or descent from the abandoned rooms (in the direction of the brightening light). This —almost religious looking—theatrical scene is intended to be decoded by the recipient: a number of different in potentia discourses can be read from it. Thereby the details of the photograph create a narrative, and the relationships between the individual elements in the picture create a drama. Watan, who is posed in the center of the picture like a Redeemer figure, transfixes the viewer with a direct gaze.

 

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