chaomingtengstudio at gmail dot com
After All These Years, (2014, 2017)
119 mirrors (as of 2017 and growing in numbers) with UV prints, stainless steel shelves, posters, 14 min recording continuously played in space, custom made carpet.
TheCube Project Space is pleased to present artist TENG Chao-Ming’s solo exhibition After All These Years, an installation developed by TENG Chao-Ming from his previous piece To Sing or Not to Sing (2014) that was commissioned by TheCube and the exhibition ALTERing-NATIVism: Sound Cultures in Post-War Taiwan. To produce the work the artist dug into the records and documents of the iconic Taiwanese folk song, Rainy Night Flower (Listen to it on youtube), compiled them into its chronology (you can read it here (in Chinese only)), and materialized the result into narrative experiments that foreground the tight networks of agents and processes involved in its development over the past 83 years.
About the exhibition
Rainy Night Flowers tells the unfortunate story and feelings of a depressed young woman using the metaphor of a delicate flower. It was released in 1934 during the burgeoning (and very short-lived) period of Taiwanese-language pop songs under Japan’s colonization. This song has been released in records by more than 30 singers and songwriters (most recently in 2016), with nine different versions of lyrics written in Taiwanese, Japanese and Mandarin Chinese. It was performed at numerous political campaigns, memorial and religious ceremonies of all kinds, and wherever some dose of Taiwanese nostalgia/solidarity is in need. The song once earned its -ism status—Rainy Night Flowers-ism—coined by people in the 80s who think of it as a mentality that is stopping Taiwan’s true independence. It was used by writers to title their books, including a biography of the famous female Taiwanese communist leader, and an examination of Taiwan’s economy in the 80s. It was banned several times and rejected (still) by many, while also transformed into theater plays, movies, novels and most recently the main puzzle to be solved in a video game. It was studied by theorists from a phenomenological perspective, condemned openly by an Ex-President of Taiwan and (after two years) chosen by the Spanish tenor Placid Domingo to perform at his concert in Taipei.
The artist reads this rich history of the song by reversing the conventional mapping of the network of agency. Rainy Night Flowers, under this view, has been actively fighting for survival using all possible strategies and tactics for all these years and has finally achieved immortality. After All These Years, materializes this view of song’s life into a physical space that invites viewers to be part of it. One major component of the show consists of over 100 mirrors (printed with names of people who have been “involved” in the life of the song) that structure the space for reflecting, identifying and positioning the audience. A recording of a “voice over” of the song is played, and several diagramming and drawings made by the artist are displayed throughout the space. Together they present Rainy Night Flowers’ life-long ups and downs and lessons learned: how it mobilizes people and institutions from all sectors for such a long period of time, allies with different socio-political-economic environments/thoughts, and raises itself to the status of the representative of Taiwanese folk songs.
TENG’s practice for the past four years has been experimenting the possibilities of narratives, using Taiwan as his main examples and inputs. To the artist, our sense of subjectivity and individuality has a lot to do with the stories we tell and stories we were told. We are always interacting with stories and constructing narratives, which shape our understanding of agency, causality, indeterminacy and time. He views this story-exchanging system like a network that is constantly being sculpted. TENG’s work provides us with tools and metaphorical concepts that help us mold the network: adding/deleting nodes, building and stretching links. In his own words: “The challenge of making healthy selves and societies is keeping such flowing networks of narratives as lively, open, and energetic as possible. Human beings live by narratives.”
Voice over: TSAI Pao-Chang