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Re-Base: When Experiments Become Attitude

Curator/ Wang Jun-Jieh

In today’s world, the context of civilization is written in the conflicts between the standardization of global knowledge and those who seek to escape that standardization. Institutions and spaces are no longer key components for the production of knowledge; contrarily, they have become types of shackles that stifle the development of creativity. Therefore, figuring out ways to break free from these increasingly rigid systems and to respond to creativity and culture with new possibilities has become an important task for contemporary cultural thinking.

The exhibition “Re-Base: When Experiments Become Attitude” references certain concepts from “Live in Your Head: When Attitudes Become Form,” a 1969 exhibition held at Kunsthalle Bern and curated by the esteemed Swiss curator Harald Szeemann (1933-2005). Szeemann inserted burgeoning art trends that were new to the 1960s – such as Post-Minimalism, Arte Povera, Land Art, and Conceptualism – into the stark white space of the traditional art museum. The juxtaposition created a chaotic aesthetic collision that catalyzed an important turning point for the concept of openness in the Western contemporary art scene. In comparison, Taiwan, whose culture is an interwoven mixture of Western, Japanese, and local influences has a far more complex historical background and even murkier politics. Yet, we have never been able to escape the complex panorama of history, culture, identity, and environment.

The Taiwan Contemporary Culture Lab is located in a site that was formerly known as the Industrial Research Institute for the Taiwan Governor General’s Office. The facility was founded during the Japanese Ruling Era in response to a growing need for developmental research in order to advance agricultural, forestry, medical, and chemical industries as well as the military. After WWII, the Defense Department took over the site and used it as the Air Force Commander Headquarters until 2012. When the Air Force Commander Headquarters moved to a new base, the site, having borne witness to history and change, has now returned to its historical roots as a base for experiments for arts and culture. We, as the new inhabitants, must re-examine its cultural significance. “Re-Base: When Experiments Become Attitude” will explore the meaning and possibilities of experimentation in the contemporary context of standardization repression. The project will marry the opened-up old space to the reconstructed new one; the newly resurrected base will then serve as a platform for dialogue as well as a place for convergence. The pre-established functions of the space will be broken through and a new network of inter-connectivity will be regenerated.

The value of contemporary art is not just in its final visual presentation, but also the experimental constructs and the concepts that give birth to the work. Art courses through the context of history and through memories; from its inception to its realization, art guides our thoughts and becomes intimately connected with the viewer and the site in which the art takes place. “Re-Base: When Experiments Become Attitude” aims to return the essence and meaning of the project to the site itself, which has evolved from a heavily-guarded military base to an open space for cultural experimentation. The exhibition examines the fundamental essence of art and thought as constructs of contemporary civilization and identity. The future is always tinted with a hue of uncertainty, but it is with confidence and resilience that art forges forward. This exhibition invites visual, conceptual, performance, literary, and new media artists as its participants. These artists come from a wide range of disciplines and create new contemporary possibilities through their shared qualities and anachronistic convictions. All the works featured in the exhibition are site-specific and are inspired by the space. Diversity will be achieved by incorporating installations, collaborations, performances, viewers, and forums into the project; these elements will both interfere with and inform the prototype of the exhibition without being a restriction. As we examine the issues of art, civilization, and historical construct, we must also take into consideration the peripheral issues of environment, space, actions, and life and ask ourselves: are we consciously changing or re-creating civilization? The moment in which experiments become attitude is the moment that we declare our openness and freedom and return to the fundamental examination of our surroundings, a quest that requires a limitless source of critical thinking and creative energy.

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