write up: viewpoints and viewing points – 2009 asian art biennale

I had two objectives in mind today. One: take a gander at Viewpoints and Viewing Points, the 2009 Asian Art Biennale, currently exhibiting at the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts. Two: try out a couple of the awesome new free bus routes that Taichung City have kindly supplied public transport users with.

Yes, you read it right, tons of art combined with free public transport. What a day! You can read all about then new free bus routes here.

So, onto the exhibition.

It was just wonderful to start my day knowing that I would soon be surrounded by artwork spanning three galleries, created by 56 of Asia’s best artists. And what a show it was. Every sense was stimulated as there was every kind of art form on display, from painting and sculpture to film and photography and everything in between.

Viewpoints & Viewing Points - 2009 Asian Art Biennial, National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts

My favourite pieces, in no particular order, included: Takehito Koganezawa‘s Propagation of Electric Current, all the works by Mia Wen-Hsuan Liu, a Taiwanese artist, and Bloated City and Skinny Language by Hung Keung.

The latter struck me with its beauty when I first entered the space and looked across to see what I assume to be stylised Chinese characters floating across the wall via projection equipment.

However, it became a whole new experience when a man and his very small daughter realised that if you stand at a certain point in the room the characters gently swarm around you and move with you as you move. It was beautiful to watch them interacting with the piece.

He picked his little girl up and they swung around the room together; she was giggling away the whole time. Then, as she was placed back on the floor, she reached up both her hands until they were just visible at the bottom of the wall. The characters clustered around her hands and she grasped for them like they were bubbles floating in a park.

Hung Keung


Propagation of Electric Current left me gasping for breath. A huge wall was covered in evenly spaced fluorescent light tubes; all were lit up when I came upon the piece. I stared at it, wondering if the few bars that weren’t lit had some significance.

Suddenly, there was a slight hum and all the lights shut off. It happened so quickly that I was left gasping for breath, my heart pounding, waiting. Again the short hum and the lights flicked on, not quite simultaneously, and I basked in the safety of that neon light once again.

Being plunged into semi-darkness is unnerving.

Takehito Koganezawa, Propagation of Electric Current, 2009


Mia Wen-Hsuan Liu‘s pieces were numerous and delicate. Wheels or circles, both large and small and constructed of folded Guggenhiem Museum tickets, revealed patterns and body parts which shifted in shape and design as you moved around the pieces.

From what I could tell, the patterns were created entirely by a folding and cutting process, ensuring the words on the tickets matched to create lines and shapes. Tiny hands and feet made, I assume, from white paper, stretched out from the folds ghoulishly and beautifully.

Her works reminded me of those snowflakes you can make by folding paper and cutting shapes into the folds. When you open the paper out again after cutting you find you’ve created your very own snowflake. Not to belittle her work in any way as her pieces were far more intricate and outstanding than any snowflake I made when I was seven. I did enjoy the nostalgia, however.

You can watch a video interview with Mia Liu Wen-Hsuan here.

The piece I found most disappointing was Australian artist Jon McCormack’s Eden. It promised in its description to be a work detailing the minute goings on of a self-generating, artificial ecosystem at a biological level. With its smoke machine fumes, soft projections of cellular structures and banal sound technique it was reminiscent of a mediocre VJ show.

I have read Impossible Nature: the art of Jon McCormack and found his work stimulating but this piece was a bit of a let down. Looking at the photographs on the Eden page of the Monash website I feel distinctly cheated. Why couldn’t I have had that experience?

Perhaps the virtual creatures were not very healthy or happy today. Would you be, with a ton of people a day watching you grow and develop?

Eden, Jon McCormack


I found the work of the Korean artists represented in the show reflected what I have heard stereotyped about Korean society. Their pieces seemed to contextualise the hypermodernity of Korean life or utilised it directly.

For example, Airan Kang’s The Space of Book – the Sublime.

The Space of Book – the Sublime, Airan Kang, 2009


I had actually seen a couple of the exhibited films before.

I really can’t remember where I’ve seen The Chess, a stop motion creation by Taiwanese filmmaker Po-Chin Chen. Perhaps it screened at Show Me Shorts? I wonder if the artist lived in Australia or New Zealand at some point? There was nothing in the credits to suggest this.

And a real treat for anyone who hasn’t seen it is the 90 minute film Waltz With Bashir. I saw this about a year ago at my friend’s cinema in New Zealand so I didn’t watch it again. However, it is an incredibly moving film that I would suggest everyone takes the time to go and see.

Waltz with Bashir, Ari Folman, 2008

I found myself viewing the exhibition from an outsider’s perspective, which of course is the way I view much of my daily life here in Taiwan.

It was a strange feeling, as most of the art I’ve been involved with in the past has been produced by my peers or artists from my own culture or one similar to my own. Therefore, I feel I had a greater cultural connection with their work.

Here, I felt somewhat alienated from the pieces that related directly to Asian cultural heritage and the changes Asian societies are currently undergoing. Of course, Asian society can’t really be bunched into one entity as the Asian region is hugely diverse. I’m sure there were other visitors that felt the same way while viewing works in which the motivation was outside their realm of experience.

I really appreciate and value highly this new insight and could also recognise international themes in many of the works. The organisers of the exhibition are living up to the expectations brought about by the title of this year’s biennale and highlighting the fact that everyone views the world differently and has different “ways of seeing.”

“…[this] encompasses our faculty of understanding, empathy, thinking and judgement, a complex process of using various senses to experience the world and make interpretations. The angle of seeing is always selective.” (source: museum exhibition pamphlet)

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5 Responses to “write up: viewpoints and viewing points – 2009 asian art biennale”

  1. A perspective on Viewpoints and Viewing Points – 2009 Asian Art Biennale « Art Radar Asia Says:

    […] Read the complete article at Kate Nicholson’s blog, jar of buttons. […]

  2. Ivan Ferrari Says:

    Dear Kate,

    nice post, thank you for sharing your views with us.
    I’d have a question, since I’ve been to Taiwan only once, few years ago.. Would you be able to recommend me some interesting, young, emerging art galleries?

    Thank you so much in advance and best regards!

    • jarofbuttons Says:

      Hi Ivan,

      I’m glad you enjoyed the article. I don’t know any galleries off hand but I will do a quick hunt around and try and send you some info soon. I’m actually doing some research now for Art Radar on the top Taiwanese dealer galleries so I can keep an eye out while I’m doing that. Sorry I can’t help more at this stage. Stay posted!

      JoB x

  3. Ivan Ferrari Says:

    Thanks a lot JoB, or Kate (I’m not sure which name you prefer but I assume JoB) I’ll stay posted for sure. I also always check the Art Radar newsletter, so I’ll probably read more of you in the future..

  4. mia Says:

    Hey Job, thanks for the post! it’s kidda hard to see the report of Taiwan art scene in English. btw, you can always get more info from Asian Art Archive (http://www.aaa.org.hk/) if you wanna know more about art dealer in Taiwan. good luck with your research and thx again!

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