chaomingtengstudio at gmail dot com
The title of the piece, Familiar Catastrophe, comes from the English title of the seminal Taiwanese modernism fiction Family Catastrophe (finished in 1972) by novelist Wang Wenxing. The narrative structure of the novel intertwines 12 Missing Father notices and the stories of searching the father, with 157 recollections of the family memories of the growing-up of the protagonist: the son. Familiar Catastrophe takes the structure of the novel and write 12 narratives. Each of them consists of three elements: one Missing Father notice (the time-span of the 12 notices is approximately three months in the novel), the front page of a local newspaper during the exhibition in Taipei, and an interpretation of the growing-up fragments rewritten by the artist using diagrams, text and drawings. These 12 narratives bind time lines of different density, form an narrative experiment that is central to TENG’s artistic practice for the past five years.
Family Catastrophe was one of the major figures fighting at the frontline of the debate of Modernist v.s. Social Realist literature in the 70’s in Taiwan. In Familiar Catastrophe, TENG firstly pushes both sides to the extreme by structuralizing the stories and juxtaposing the results with journalism writing practices, then combine the two in one space. Through the 12 panels in the form of reading spaces, the artist offers the viewers a reading experiences that go back-and-forth between highly abstract/personal and the concrete/social realistic writing. This piece also foregrounds the institution and its mechanism that is the “family.” The family as a nurturing machine, and the emotional binding and even blackmailing among family members, are the main processes that form our thinking and bodies. TENG transforms Wang Wenxing’s sharp and close examination of a family catastrophe into numerous frames of different scales, and constructs an interactive structure consists of the viewers, mechanisms of family dynamics, and currents events/news in the exhibition space.