Sylvielin's Blog

History of the Photographed – The Age of Provocation. Interview with Chen Chieh-Jen

Posted in about Art, about Photography, about Video Art, Interviews with Artists by sylvielin on December 8, 2012

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Film set of Happiness Building I: Apartments

(Courtesy- Chen Chieh-Jen Studio)

Chen Chieh-Jen is the most renowned Taiwanese artist in the international art scene. His work focuses on the situations and psychological states of exploited social classes such as that of workers. In his works, he explores issues of colonization, globalization and capitalism in history and the contemporary world. In the second half of the 1990s, he made photographic works by means of computer imaging techniques, based on archive images of tortures or massacres before focusing on making video works. The interview with the artist traces his youth and education during the era of martial laws as well as his action art projects on the streets at the time. He also talks about the ideas of his photographic work and how, through his own practice, he attempts to construct a perspective on photography and cinema that distinguishes itself from its western counterparts.

(Extract from the Interview Made & Edited by Sylvie Lin, 2012, Taipei.)

Q/ Can you talk a little bit about your schooling and working experiences?

I studied art and designs in school. Back in those days, the education system was very stifling, hindering people’s imagination. Therefore, I often skipped the lessons in school to read in the library instead. I was unable to hold any exhibitions in school because I was actually not too good in my studies, and also because I was deemed weird by the school. The school trained me to be able to draw fast, but I felt that “art” should involve “imagination”. In those days,however,  if you try to venture out of the system even a little, you’ll be singled out by the school as problematic. If you wanted answers, you could only seek them by yourself.

In those days, there were not too many books about the arts, so I also read lots of other books. Some things were just ingrained in my mind then. I developed a habit of independent thinking. I often went to the City Public Library, Dao Fan Branch at Roosevelt Road and read a lot of art books then. There was a huge collection of painting albums in the library, but as I didn’t know English, I just looked at those pictures and let my imagination roam free. From age 17 to 23, I engaged in lots of action art and installation art out of curiosity, without any guidance from any teachers. I didn’t have a chance to make experimental films until I had some savings later on.


*Note of publication : First published on Voices of Photography, Issue 6, July/August 2012 (Taiwan).


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