Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Artwork: Consulting the Supernatural《不懂就問神》, 2009

A collaborative work with Michael Lee Hong Hwee, showcased at the exhibition Whose Exhibition is This? at Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taiwan, 19 September till 22 November 2009.
Curated by Fang-Wei Zhang

Artwork Concept

Consulting the Supernatural brings together two cultural institutions—art and the supernatural—to investigate their functions, processes and limits. This work takes two forms: The first is an infographic that analyses the personalities, relationships and spaces among the key personnel of the exhibition Whose Exhibition Is This?. The second is a live consultation session with three masters in different realms of the supernatural, namely Tarot, Fengshui and Western Astrology, during the opening evening of the exhibition on 19 Sep 2009. By relating the supernatural with contemporary art, the work seeks insights among the debates in identity, relationship and space.


The following is an unedited dialogues that relates to our work:
I: Synopsis of artwork Consulting the Supernatural

For thousands of years, art was a conduit of the supernatural. It provided human beings a means to communicate with the ‘other’ world, variously comprising the gods, deities, spirits, ghosts, angels, demons, perhaps even aliens, among others. These usually invisible but powerful beings and forces were believed to reside in physical objects such as icons on the altar, possessions belonging to or touched by the deceased and works by artists. With the rise of the Western modern world in the last few centuries, ideas of secularism, individualism and instrumental reasoning have separated supernatural beliefs from the discussions of public affairs. Even though Asian modernity continues to have close relationships with traditional beliefs and practices, the supernatural exists in the background of contemporary debates about art.

Consulting the Supernatural relooks at the relationship between art and the supernatural in the contemporary contexts of art-making, exhibition production and audience experience. This project focuses on investigating ‘cosmic’ links among people and space. To be more specific, it asks if there may be invisible and otherwise unknown connections amongst key personnel of Whose Exhibition Is This?, as well as between each of them and specific sites in the host institution, namely the Taipei Museum of Fine Arts.

This project took two eventual forms: infographics and performance. The process of arriving at the infographic component began with the collection of basic biographical information (birth place, date and time) of the participants and organisers of the exhibition. The data collected were consolidated for analysis by a supernatural consultant, Ee-Me Khoo, and then forwarded to a design consultant, Hong-Guan Tan, for data visualisation. The analysed data exist as a large-scale (300cm high by 800cm wide) vinyl graphic consisting of a main chart that presents personality traits of each personnel and affinities among them; two versions of layout plan for each artist (one by the curator, and the other by Our Great Curator, God); and sidebar charts that compile statistics on favourable directions as well as distribution of gender, zodiac signs (Chinese and Western) and Day Master (of Bazi).

The performance component (which took place on the opening night) involved three masters in the respective realms of Fengshui, Western Astrology and Tarot, providing free-of-charge consultations to members of the public based on a lucky draw. By inserting fortune-telling popular among the general public in Asia into the museum space, this project brought together two highly powerful cultural institutions to investigate their respective functions, processes and limitations.

II: Conversation with audience and technician

For their text contribution to this post-exhibition publication, artists Michael Hong-Hwee Lee and Ling-Nah Tang engaged in conversation with a member of the audience and a technical staff member of the exhibition. The audience member is Ms. Lu-Fang Hsiung, a Singapore-born Taiwanese artist-writer who saw their work in the exhibition. The technical staff member is Mr. Chien-Wen Chen, who is from a Taipei-based advertising engineering company, and assisted the artists to set up their infographic artwork. Engaging in dialogue is an important aspect of the artists’ creative and reflective processes. Not only is this a critical reflection on their collaboration, the artists also hope to engage voices and perspectives usually excluded from contemporary art discussions.

The following conversation between Hsiung, Lee and Tang was conducted over a series of emails.

Lu-Fang Hsiung (H): Consulting the Supernatural is likely the first artwork I've come across that comments on belief systems such as Fengshui, Bazi, the Chinese zodiac and Western astrology, among other things… and all at the same time! May I ask: Why did both of you decide to tackle such a subject matter?

Michael Hong-Hwee Lee (L): The supernatural is one of those areas in contemporary life that all of us—whether as believers, detractors or skeptics—have some relationship to but rarely address critically. For the believers and the detractors, the supernatural needs no questioning (either way) about its existence and influence. However, for the skeptics, material for scholastic study and critical reflection on the topic is rare.

In art, the supernatural is bound by silence mostly due to the fear of embarrassment. The artist who openly shares about having consulted a Fengshui master or being a regular reader of astrology columns runs the risk of being labelled old-fashioned, superstitious or ridiculous.

Ling-Nah Tang (T): In fact, tackling the topic of the supernatural was not our initial response to the question in the exhibition theme, “Whose Exhibition Is This?” We began with the desire to relook at our individual practices and collaborative relationships as fellow artists and curators. When none of our initial ideas led to anything exciting or magical, Michael suggested we sought divine help, and suddenly we felt something clicked.

L: Taiwan, like many Asian and Chinese-diasporic countries, has a strong cultural base for traditional beliefs and rituals. Just think of the ongoing craze with astrology and, recently, Tarot reading among youths. To some extent, the mass media responds to and feeds back into the popularity of the supernatural among the locals in Taiwan. Yet this popularity has not been incorporated or related at great length or depth in contemporary art discourse here. So we decided that our mission in this exhibition is to make the links.

L: There is also an autobiographical element to this: Both Ling-Nah and I have a half-skeptical attitude towards things supernatural, at times swearing by it, especially in moments of stress or serendipity, while being mostly secular about anything to do with the spiritual, religious or supernatural.

H: “…at times swearing by it”? Could you give an example?

L: During heated arguments, we would say things like “Our star signs really clash!” At the lowest points in our moods or careers, we sometimes feel we are the only two who can understand each other’s struggles. Ling-Nah’s very disciplined lifestyle is something I admire and associate with the ritual of shamans and soldiers alike. I also notice I have many serendipitous encounters especially with books: For instance, while walking on the street, I may “hear” books calling my name from a nearby bookshop….

H: Me too! And I suspect this is a phenomenon that many book lovers can identify with or relate to.

L: … I would oblige, visit the shop, browse the collection slowly and often discover something useful which I have not intended to find in the first place. This has happened to me many times before. Speaking of recurrences and rituals… Ling-Nah, did you engage in any ritualistic behaviours when you were young?

T: I used to need to say goodnight to all my dolls, and in a particular order. Otherwise I would not be able to fall asleep.

L: Haha! I remember having a whole range of “personal superstitions,” such as stepping only on alternate tiles,…

T: Hey! I did that too! For me it was more like a game. The rule was to step on alternate tiles without touching the edge!

L: … and secretly tapping on walls. Freud would call these neurotic symptoms of obsessive compulsion due to unresolved mental conflicts. There was often a powerful need to abide by these (self-imposed?) rules and rituals, for fear that something bad might happen. I don’t practise these behaviours anymore, at least not in their original forms. But perhaps they have developed into other neurotic ways,… in my art?

H: The striking part about Michael's practice is his use of paper, the architectural element, text, and the body.... Ling-Nah's is charcoal and transitory spaces…. So it would seem as though architecture might be something that is already there in common based on your past works as compared to the 'supernatural'....
T: Architecture is indeed our common interest. But I must say the human body too. In both of our earlier works, the human figure features strongly. Interestingly, they disappear or become suggestive in our later works. I find Michael's latest models getting more clinical, and his research is really in-depth. He is also interested in text-based works, and the ‘mind-mapping aesthetic’ has recently become his signature style as well. For example, his work for the Baba House in Singapore.
L: In general, both Ling-Nah and I are fascinated with architectural forms as well as the stories and relationships happening within and around them. As mentioned, I observe that Ling-Nah harnesses a lot of her interests and strengths towards her research and practice, and I particularly enjoy it when they develop into strong visual compositions, detailed textures and immersive environments. There is a sense of continuity from her very disciplined life and orderly home/studio environment to her highly structured work.

T: My solo exhibition in 2007 had a little link to the supernatural. Titled Send Me An Angel it was initially a personal call for an angel to help me get out of my painful condition of a slipped disc. Then I realised this angel could be a metaphor for the human presence that is seemingly absent in my work. It represents the audience lingering in my drawing installation, which is an illusion of space.

H: That’s an interesting statement—the part about the angel representing the audience, and the audience lingering in an illusion of space… Could you explain that a little further? Does it stem from any particular sort of personal philosophy?

T: I hope through this sort of installation the audience is able to stay longer in the physical space, ‘feel it’ and take the time to study the lines, textures and drawn space, and maybe even contemplate on their surroundings. Thus, it is not just a superficial interaction with the work, where you look hastily and leave the exhibition space. As the audience moves through the space, they become part of the installation, and hence there is no need to draw human figures in my work.

L: For me, the most important part of a work is usually not the main subject matter. Whenever human figures exist in my architectural models and installations, they appear to be in different types of dramatic actions, but really their more important purpose is to establish a sense of scale and to get the audience to look more closely and discover little details in the surrounding spaces: the textures of the objects and architectural materials, the mood evoked by micro-spaces…. Conversely, when void of human figures, such as in this current work, the human presence, reference and involvement are already implied. Our infographic not only features information about the organisers and participants of the exhibition, it is also aimed at getting the audience to reflect on their own personalities and relationships.

T: I think Consulting the Supernatural presents a very strong suggestion of human presence (even though not exactly in a physical sense). The inclusion of names of the curator, artists and museum personnel highlights their presence in the exhibition-making process. This kind of experience is usually absent from our 'usual' work. The exception from among my works is MY ARTISTS, 2007, a work made for an exhibition Whose Playground is This? (Coincidentally, that exhibition had a similar title and nature to this exhibition Whose Exhibition is This?). In MY ARTISTS, I asked my contributing artists to provide their information and photos of themselves. I wanted the artists to be visible to the audience who usually does not get to meet them.

H: Was there anything else that you might have presented for Whose Exhibition is This??

L: In response to the exhibition’s aim of addressing issues in exhibition-making and the artist-curator-audience relationship, both of us could have proposed re-presenting or developing a few of our existing works. For example, my Consolations of Museology project proposes that museums can start consoling people, roles usually performed by religion, medical science and literature. We also tried thinking along the lines of what Ling-Nah had done for MY ARTISTS, which she just mentioned. In that work which examines the artist-curator relationship, she assumed the role of a ‘curator’ and selected her ‘artists’ based on two criteria: They had to be her friends; and they could not have been participants of the 2006 Singapore Biennale or selected for other biennales yet. Our gut feelings for this exhibition, however, were pointing us towards doing something a bit riskier—to test divine boundaries and rules.

H: So have you found where and what these divine boundaries and rules are?

L: We embarked on the project with only a half-hazy vision of its eventual outcome. Along the way, we discovered that, in certain quarters of Chinese philosophy, sharing astrological analyses with the public, like what we did, is akin to “revealing heavenly secrets.” Given that we proceeded nonetheless, we could be considered as knowingly crossing divine boundaries. We are, of course, prepared to bear any consequences of our transgression.

H: That sounds pretty serious. May I ask why did you still decide to go ahead?

L: Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Actually this possibility of transgression triggered further excitement in me for the project.

T: We felt the responsibility to pursue the investigation because we wanted to bring to light the possible connections that are rarely explored.

H: There was mention earlier on that you had wished to place two powerful cultural institutions—art and the supernatural—on the same platform to investigate their respective functions, processes and limits. What are your observations so far?

L: Most supernatural schools of thought tend to be deterministic and prescriptive, which do not gel well with the sense of openness and criticality of contemporary art. The approach adopted by our supernatural consultant is a “cross-disciplinary” and open-ended one. With it, we were alerted to certain limitations of the institution of the supernatural. For one, the analysis for one’s “Ideal Directions” to face is often limited to four main desirable pursuits: wealth, health, love and education. We addressed this limitation by inserting another four: beauty, rightness, honesty and originality. In addition, we questioned conventional gender division with our addition of the “intersex” category. Finally, our proposed exhibition layout based on Platonic philosophy was an attempt to mix the supernatural with reality and fiction. In these ways, we highlighted the gaps overlooked in conventional ideas and categories in the realms of the supernatural. Finally, our insertion of supernatural consultation within the museum space served to highlight points of similarity and difference.

Lu-Fang, do you think our work has a more “Western” or “Eastern” framework?

H: The overall framework for Consulting the Supernatural feels more “Western”, especially when the work is shown and seen in the context of contemporary art as we currently know it, which has distinct roots in Western art history. The rigorous manner in which you approached the subject matter, almost like a “Western” scientist in a laboratory who places emphasis on accuracy and specificity; the implicit commentary and underlying questions in the artwork regarding the supernatural and art—these characteristics feel more “Western”.

But a good portion of the subject matter is also distinctly “Eastern” or “Oriental”, such as the references to Fengshui, Bazi and the Chinese zodiac.…

H: Is Consulting the Supernatural your first collaborative artwork with each other?

L: Yes, it is. Though we have worked together in various contexts—for example, as co-curators, and supporting each other's exhibitions and publication projects—this is the first time we worked together as artists on a rather more equal manner. Despite, or because of, our individual differences (such as Ling-Nah’s methodical approach versus my procrastinating nature), we eventually developed something that, I suspect, neither of us would have the inspiration, desire, courage and perseverance to pursue alone.

H: Sounds like there were challenging moments…. So what were your best memories from doing this project?

L: Witnessing the audience staring at and scrutinising our infographic! That was a high point for me.

T: At the opening ceremony of the exhibition, some members of the audience jumped when they won the lucky draw for a free consultation with one of three masters. Seeing their joy and having successfully organised the consultation session in a fine arts museum were gratifying.

Frankly, if it was not a collaborative work, I would never have employed "supernatural means" as an approach or subject matter in my art-making. And very interestingly, I would not have asked my ex-classmate (we studied pharmacy in the university), Ms Ee-Me Khoo, to be one of the “supernatural masters.” 真的机缘巧合! A beautiful coincidence! I only learnt that she is a part-time tarot reader when she gave me her biodata for the publication Drawing Out Conversations: Eight Slangs. She helped me to translate the English texts to Chinese for that project. It was during one teleconversation with Michael discussing the possibility of dealing with the supernatural in our work that I thought of Ee-Me, and asked her to be our consultant. She has given us insight into our personalities and working relationship. And it was great that she was able to come to the opening night performance!

L: Before I forget, the exhibition committee also adopted the officiation method we proposed, by doing buah-buei (literally gamble cup) instead of the usual ribbon-cutting ceremony to determine whether or not to open the entrance to the exhibition. It was actually something that one of Ling-Nah’s Taiwanese friends had mentioned casually over lunch—another example of serendipity!

T: In short, hard work alone is not enough. All five, even six, senses have to be at work to be alert to incidental occurrences that may contribute to the creative process. Discussion and negotiation are crucial especially in times of disagreement, to ensure that conflicts do not overshadow the project’s progress.

T: During the research process for our infographic, we were advised by our consultant that the Bazi analysis potentially reveals “too much information” about people, such as times of death. To protect their privacy, we decided to only use information related to personality traits, mainly because we are interested in this work to make connections between personalities, relationships and spaces. In a way, our seeming “self-censorship” was based on knowledge of the limits of the supernatural and respect for our fellow participants in the show.

L: There are also other issues of copyright and privacy that our work examines. In a way, the artists had 'contributed' important personal information, without which our work would not materialise.

H: Yes, definitely! What about the personal information that both of you contributed? How did you feel about that? I must say that I quite enjoy the fact that this artwork when compared to both your past works seems to reveal a more personal aspect about both of you.

L: Ling-Nah is a more private person than I. So, you are right that this work allows the audience to see more of her motivations and personality traits. This work, given that our personal data went through ‘blind’ analysis, also allows me to confront my strengths and weaknesses, which is eye-opening. The cosmic connections among the exhibition’s key personnel, as reflected in our work, also offered starting points for discussing possible collaborations in the future.

H: So what sort of feedback have you received for Consulting the Supernatural so far?

L: Quite a few artists expressed amazement at the accuracy of our analyses. We understand that our work was one of the talking points of the exhibition. I think we have made a work fitting for the gods, if I may say so.

H: Would you like to elaborate on that?

L: One of our common concerns is the issue of craftsmanship, which we both place in high regard, especially in this age of machines and the internet. For me, craftsmanship is nothing more than doing something well, not just “for show” (to fellow human beings), but also because some “higher being” is able (and interested?) to see. In a way, making art involves developing our personal philosophies of life and art, whilst meeting other people with similar outlooks.

T: Indeed, we have also been fortunate to have met interesting people who supported, and offered feedback on, our work. One such individual was Mr. Chen, the technician who helped us set up our large vinyl sticker on the wall. Not only were we amazed by his technical skills, we were happy that we received some copyediting comments from him on our work. This is why we decided to conduct an interview with him to find out more. We feel that, despite being very much “behind the scenes,” a supporting personnel like Mr. Chen nonetheless has something important to share.

L: As we discovered, Mr. Chen has interesting experiences and insightful views on artistic vision, the supernatural, work ethic, respecting elders, flying saucers and aliens, the Japanese way of doing things, craftsmanship, and the role of art in public education.


The following is a text transcript of an interview with Mr. Chien-Wen Chen, a technician for the exhibition. The main questions were drafted in English by the artists over email and conducted in Mandarin at Taipei Fine Arts Museum. It was recorded and transcribed by Ms. Kat Siao, a curatorial assistant at the museum, and finally translated back to English by artist Ling-Nah Tang.

蕭琳蓁 (S):這個展覽接下來將出版專輯,兩位藝術家想做一些訪談,將談話內容轉為文字記錄放在專輯裡。由於兩位藝術家對您印象很深刻,佈展時他們的作品輸出做了兩次,他們一方面很感激您的幫忙,一方面也對您的工作態度很欣賞,覺得這次工作經驗跟他們在新加坡與其他廠商合作的感覺很不一樣,….

Kat Siao (S): Later on for this exhibition, a publication will be produced. The two artists would like to conduct an interview with you, which would be transcribed and documented in the publication. Besides being very grateful to you for helping them to put up their work twice, the artists were deeply impressed by your working attitude. They felt that the experience of working with you was rather different from working with other contractors in Singapore….

陳建文 (C):因為他們的作品有很多地方要重疊,如果用白色背膠,重疊部分會有痕跡,我當時建議下次可以用灰膠,重疊部分會比較不明顯。另外,因為我本身有上過命理方面的課,對命理有點研究,我當時一邊貼輸出就一邊看內容,所以就發現‘天干地支’部分有問題,於是跟他們說好像有幾個錯誤。我們一般在公司做事時,也要兼顧品管,看有沒有什麼錯誤,一心要好幾用,貼東西也是一樣,要大膽假設、小心求證,膽大心細去完成工作。

Chien-Wen Chen (C): That’s because their vinyl artwork consists of many overlapping areas. So I suggested to them that in the future, they could use grey instead of white adhesive as the backing. This would make the overlapping areas appear less visible from the front, for a more perfect finish. In addition, because I had attended classes on divination and have done a little research on fortune-telling, I was attracted to the content of their work while putting it up. As a result, I found that there was some typographical problem at the section of tiangan dizhi (the statistical distribution of Day Master of the key personnel), and I informed them. Usually, while working in the company, we have to do quality control—to check if there are any errors. We have to multi-task. Similarly, when putting up the vinyls, we have to make bold assumptions, carefully obtain verification, and do the job boldly but meticulously.

In and outside the museum

S: 聽說您已經幫臺北市立美術館工作了 20年了!請問您是如何開始從事這項工作的?

S: We heard that you have worked with the museum for the past 20 years! How did you get started?


C: Probably not yet 20 years. I worked for this company (Lung Hsin Advertising Engineering Co., Ltd.) for over 10 years. When I joined the company, it was already working with the museum. Before this, I was doing installation work at event venues in Hsinchu.


S: What kind of event venues?

C:開會或剪綵等。這邊的工作性質跟新竹不太一樣,就像每間公司的工作性質及文化都不太一樣,但對我來說這點還好,像「輸出」也是這幾年才有,我就是一面工作一面學習,遇到不會的事情就去問別人,例如: 利用休息時間去問木工跟水電工一些問題,因為工作上都用得到,如貼輸出時遇到一個插座,就必須把插座拆掉,所以必須知道點水電的東西,又比如要補漆,也得知道點油漆的技巧。

C: Venues for meetings or opening ceremonies. The work here (in Lung Hsin) is somewhat different from that in Hsinchu, just like how the nature of work and the culture in each company differs. I am fine with this. It is only in recent years that the ‘digital print-out on vinyl’ has gained popularity. I learn on the job, and would ask people when I don’t know. For instance, I would make use of time during breaks to ask the carpenters, plumbers and electricians questions as such knowledge is useful for work. Say when encountering an electrical socket while pasting vinyl, we would have to remove the socket. Thus, we would need to know a little bit about plumbing and electrical matters. Say if we need to touch up paint, we would also need to know the right technique of applying the paint.


S: How is it like putting up vinyls for the museum? Is it any different from setting vinyls outside the art context?


C: Deadlines are tighter in the museum, and we cannot make errors.

S: Yes, because the (exhibition) opening time is fixed.


C: Outside of the museum, it is more flexible, and we do not need to be so particular about details as compared to working in the museum. In the museum, there are many “creators.” Each has his/her own thought, therefore it is more challenging. For retail businesses/shops, their concern is not so much about quality but affordability and legibility.


S: They do not request for such high standards?

C:對,看業主。但是如果到電子大廠,或是跟日本的廠商,他們要求又更高!所以我們在做的時侯,我們都覺得要把日本人對品質的要求帶到美術館,這樣才OK。像我們有做「清水建設」(日商),他們就是一分一厘都很計較 。

C: Yes, but it depends on the client. If it is some giant electronics factory, or a Japanese manufacturer, the requirements will be even higher! Therefore, when we work in the museum, we all feel that if we employ the standards of quality set by the Japanese, it would be OK. Like when we worked for Shimizu (a Japanese company), they would be very particular even for a centimetre or a milimetre.


S: The working attitude of the Japanese involves intensive labour and attention to details.


C: Yes, they are very cautious. That’s why our boss told us to learn from the spirit of the Japanese, to be even more careful especially when it is not visible. For the Japanese, when it is something that the general audience cannot see, they will take it even more seriously. Just like how the bridges constructed by the Japanese are very strong, such as the ‘glutinous rice bridge’. Even though these bridges were built during the Japanese colonial period, they were not damaged by the 88 flood (Floods caused by typhoon Morakot when it hit Taiwan around 8 August 2009). I feel their (Japanese) quality is very good. As we have worked with several Japanese companies, the museum’s expectations are still quite OK for me.


S: Have you encountered any interesting stuff or memorable situations?

C:記得有一年雙年展,有一個作者要整個牆面都貼輸出,他覺得 ‘你可以隨便亂貼’,就是隨便貼上去,不用貼的太漂亮。..我覺得那還滿有趣的,可以不用很仔細,沒有壓力的貼 ,又可以紓解壓力。

C: I remember setting up for one Taipei Biennale, there was an artist who wanted to paste the whole wall with vinyls. He said, “You can paste in any way you want.” That is to say the vinyls could be pasted on in whatever way I liked—no need to paste it too prettily. I thought that was quite interesting, no need to be too careful, no pressure pasting it, I could even de-stress.


S: Could be pasted in any way, would that mean it was even more difficult for you?


C: Yes! It would.


S: Because in the beginning, you thought you would have to do it perfectly, but then he told you….

C:對呀,他就說不用貼的那麼完美,只要貼起上去,像小孩子那樣貼,我就覺得 咦~!!滿好玩的,可以隨便貼,後來就沒那麼訝異了。所以我一直記的這件事情,覺得 哇~都不用很仔細,不用抓水平,也不用貼的很平,只要貼上去就好了,他有很多圖案,就隨便拿起來,你喜歡貼哪一張就貼哪一張,我覺得那滿好玩的。

C: Exactly, he said that it did not need to be perfect; just paste it on like how kids do it. I thought, hey!! that’s fun. But later on I did not feel so surprised by it anymore. So I still remember this incident, I felt wow—no need to work very carefully, no need to check the level or whether it was pasted perfectly. The artist had many patterns, which I could choose and paste as I fancied. I felt that it was rather fun.

Interaction with artists

S:兩位藝術家記得,您敏銳的觀察力幫他們看到了一個錯別字。 請問您在幫藝術家佈展時都有機會與他們談作品嗎?如果有的話,可以談談您的經驗嗎?

S: The artists Michael and Ling-Nah remember that you were so sharp as to spot a typo error in their artwork. Do you usually get the opportunity to speak to the artist(s) about the artworks you assist in setting up in the museum? Please tell us your experience if you have.

C:天干地支,那時候‘己’是寫’木’,’己’應該屬’土’不是屬’木’,‘木’是屬‘甲’跟‘乙’,‘丙’‘丁’屬‘火’,‘戊’‘己’屬‘土’。那時候看到他‘己’是寫’木’,就覺得好像不是這樣 。

C: The tiangan dizhi (attributes) section of their artwork: At that time ji was written as ‘wood’, but ji should belong to the ‘earth’, not to ‘wood’; wood is associated with jia and yi, while bing and ding are associated with ‘fire’, and wu and ji to ‘earth’. When I saw ji was linked to wood, I felt that there was something amiss.

S:所以他們很感謝你,..一般我們如果沒有學過,內容看起來都一樣。 那平常你在幫跟藝術家佈展的時候,你會跟他們談嗎? 譬如說:給他意見,或是聊一下他的作品內容,或是應該怎麼樣呈現?

S: Therefore, they are very grateful to you.… Typically if it is a new and unfamiliar subject, we would not be able to spot any mistakes. So normally when you are helping artists to set up their work in the museum, would you have the chance to speak to the artist(s)? For example, would you give them your suggestions, or chat about their artwork’s contents, or how to present the work?


C: Yes, I will also do that. I think artists should still have their own styles. If you do not have your own style, then you are only a craftsperson. There is no life, no creativity, no views of your own. When you have to rely on others’ guidance, then it will feel as if the artwork has no life, as though it does not belong to you (the artist).

S:那你有沒有什麼 在你印象中 你記得的 跟他們(藝術家)談作品的經驗?

S: So what are some of the experiences that you remember, of talking to artists about their works?


C: As there have been so many artists, I cannot possibly remember all.


S: No worries, you do not have to talk about the artists, just the experience of chatting about the artworks.


C: I remember more of the Japanese artists. They have more demands—shifting up or down, left or right, they are very careful. It gets challenging when the artist wants to change the position of the artwork after it has been put up. I would have to change it without damaging the artwork.

Supernatural Encounters

S: 此圖表主要利用了風水學和西方占星術來分析《這是誰的展覽?》中關鍵人物的資料和展覽製作的關係。您覺得展覽可能涉及超自然元素嗎?或者,您覺得我們這兩個藝術家的腦袋有問題?

S: Consulting the Supernatural by Michael Hong-Hwee Lee and Ling-Nah Tang looks at the relationships between key personnel in the exhibition and exhibition making, using mainly Fengshui and Western astrology. Do you think it is possible that an exhibition involves supernatural forces? Or do you think they were just crazy!


C: I do not think they are crazy, since astrology has existed in China for more than 5000 years. I think they are playing the role of passing on an important tradition. Because if you do not pass it on, it would be forgotten, and there are many charlatans, swindlers nowadays, so it is also not a bad thing to let people know more about fortune-telling. I think the artists should create awareness about it, and I feel that they (Michael and Ling-Nah) are rather creative. This is one of the more creative works I have seen so far.

S:這個作品裡頭所用的名字都是參與這個展覽主要的一些人---策展人跟藝術家,他們從不同的國家來,聚集在這個地方,然後做了這個展覽 ,這之中可能有一些‘巧妙’、一些我們無法去解釋的力量,藝術家就想那會不會是一種超自然的力量? 所以朝這個方向去呈現。

S: The names in this work belong to all the key personnel in this exhibition—the curator and artists. They come from different countries, but they have gathered here for this exhibition. In this regard, are there perhaps some unexplained forces at work, which the artists may consider as some kind of supernatural force? Thus, the presentation of their work in this direction.


C: I feel that such supernatural forces are probably present, like flying saucers or the buildings that some people describe as having been constructed by aliens…, If it is a matter of being sincere, focused and determined, then things would happen. I think that things in life have more or less been pre-determined.


S: So you think even for an exhibition, there are supernatural forces at work, guiding and leading (the chain of events)?


C: Yes, just like how I was asked to put up their vinyl. Perhaps, there was a force that knew that I could help them point out the error. I feel it is probably due to such a reason, because there is a sort of affinity between them and me. It is very difficult to explain. I feel they are rather creative, and it should be promoted, and passed on. If more people know, less people would be cheated by dubious fortune-tellers.

S:那你在美術館工作時,有沒有遇過什麼靈異事件? 或是’神秘’事件也可以,不一定要靈異..,就是你無法解釋、常理無法解釋的那種?

S: So, while working in the museum, have you had any supernatural encounters? Or any mysterious thing, not necessarily of the supernatural, that is, anything that is unexplained, that cannot be explained by logic?

C:我覺得應該是有這種事情。我之前在新竹做事的時候,那時候我剛退伍,我到新竹的榮民之家工作,那時候是蔣經國逝世一週年或兩週年(about 1990A.D.) ,他們要放一個先總統 蔣經國的銅像,我當時在幫他們佈置,佈置的時候後,銅像還沒放上去,我很調皮,跑到總統銅像的底座上講:「總統都還沒坐,我先坐!」一講完,我就覺得冥冥之中好像旁邊有一個人把我推下去,我就摔的四腳朝天,雖然那個底座只有像一般桌子這麼高,沒有很高,但實在不曉得為什麼會摔下去,我覺得應該是對他(先總統)不敬吧,結果回家後,半夜骨頭很痛很痛,去看醫生都沒看好,過了一兩個禮拜之後,我突然想是不是那天講一些對他(先總統)不敬的話,再過一兩個禮拜,剛好又回到榮民之家做事,我就跑到銅像前面懺悔,病痛就突然間好了,後來就覺得還是要對老前輩或鬼神尊敬一點。

C: I think there was. When I was working in Hsinchu, I had just completed my national service. I went to work at this residency for retired solders. That was around the time of the first or second death anniversary of the late President Chiang Ching-kuo (about 1990 A.D.). They were erecting a bronze statue of President Chiang. I was helping them to install. Before the statue was installed, I was very naughty as I ran to the base of the statue and said, “The President has not sat on this, let me sit first!” Once that sentence was out of my mouth, I somehow felt as though someone was standing next to me and pushing me down. I fell head over heels even though the base was only about the height of a normal table. It was really not very high, and I really did not understand how I could fall down like that. I felt it was probably because I showed no respect for President Chiang. After I got home, my bones were in pain all night. I didn’t get well even though I went to consult a doctor. After about one week or two, I suddenly wondered if it might be that I had spoken disrespectfully of the President? Then after another week or two, coincidentally I had the chance to return to the residency to do some work. So I ran back to the statue to repent. And the pain suddenly disappeared! Thereafter, I felt that it is better to be respectful of our ancestors or spirits and gods.


S: So have you had such supernatural encounters in the museum?


C: There was once a work that talks about the sick and was presented in the form of a sick bed. It was eerie. Every time I passed by the work, I had goose pimples. The artist showed a sense of death and the presentation included a sick bed with a hospital drip. It looked like a mortuary. Usually, volunteers would guard the artworks in the museum, but for this work, no one dared to go near. I felt cold each time I passed by.


S: In Chinese philosophy, seeking and sharing divine information like what the artists have done is tantamount to the criminal act of "revealing heavenly secrets." What are your views on this? Do you think the artists are revealing ‘heavenly secrets’?


C: I do not think this is revealing ‘heavenly secrets’. I think it can be regarded as a formula. It is like solving a mathematical problem. You use a formula and you would get the answers. Divination is like a formula, you enter your date of birth, and your Bazi, and you can see all your tiangan dizhi (attributes). Just that for fortune-tellers, they would have to talk to you to understand what you need. Based on their experience, they would judge your fortune. But then again, this is not absolute. There is still the possibility of change because a lot of things are not fixed; they are dependent on various external factors. Take for example, when we drive a car to Kaohsiung. We may like to arrive there at a certain time, but along the way, we may encounter traffic jams or punctured tires. There are things that cannot be predicted. Many people say that it is more accurate to use fortune-telling to reveal the past rather than to foresee ‘the future’ because in the past there is already a certain track that can be traced, but it would be harder to do so for the future.


S: So, this is your view on fortune-telling?

C :對呀。還有可能有一些算命老師會跟你講「天機不可泄漏」,這樣他才可以多收一點費用。現在沒有什麼天機,有很多書、很多老師都在敎命理,就像數學一樣,你要解三角函數,那你把公式帶進去,答案就出來了,至於要怎麼去解釋,就像醫生在看診一樣,就算我是一個名醫,也不可能不問診就知道你的病情,一定會問你最近覺得怎樣,才會去開藥。我不覺得這是天機洩露。

C: That’s right. There may be some fortune-telling teachers who tell you, “The heavenly secrets cannot be leaked”, so that they can charge more fees. Now there is no secret. There are many books, and teachers who teach fortune-telling. Like solving trigonometric functions in mathematics, you just need to use the equation and you get your answers. As for how to explain these answers, it’s comparable to a doctor giving a diagnosis. Even if I were a famous doctor, I would still have to ask the patient the symptoms and conditions before I could diagnose and prescribe medicines. I don’t think it is about leaking ‘heavenly secrets’.


S: Then do you help to read the fortunes of others?


C: No, but I do have friends who ask me to help them look at their fortunes, as well as do a bit of divination.


S: So would you also read your own fortunes when you face some problems?

C:也會呀,卜一下掛,看一下今天怎麼會這樣,但這只是一種參考,也不能完全相信。我的老師曾說:「有一個媽媽拿兒子的命盤給算命師算,算命師說:『哇!你這個兒子很好命,茶來伸手、飯來張口』,媽媽聽了說:『怎麼會這樣!他是一個智障兒。』算命師解釋:『沒錯,他不是很好命嗎? 茶來伸手、飯來張口,妳什麼都幫他料理。』」這只是算命師對「好命」的另一個解釋,所以我覺得這些沒什麼好洩漏天機的,如果洩漏天機我可能洩漏很多了(笑),想有些人幫別人算命會收個紅包,這樣是OK的,應該不至於犯了什麼「天條」,太嚴重了。我們以前在學命理的時候,一群人跟著老師跑到墳墓去看風水,都不覺得恐怖,一個人可能就會覺得,很多人就OK。

C: Yes I would. I would check to find out why certain things happen on a particular day. But it is only a reference. We cannot totally believe in it. My teacher once said, “There was once a mother who asked a fortune-teller about her son. The fortune-teller remarked, “Wow! Your son has a good life. Everything will come to him without him making any effort.” The mother said, “How can it be! My son is mentally handicapped.” The fortune-teller explained, “That is right, does he not have a ‘good life’? You will have to do everything for him.” That is what the fortune-teller defined as ‘a good life’. So I don’t think there are much ‘heavenly secrets’ to reveal here. If this is ‘revealing heavenly secrets’, then I may have revealed too much already (laughs). It is OK for some fortune-tellers to receive a red packet. I do not think they have committed any ‘heavenly crimes’. That sounds too serious. When we visited the cemetery with our teachers to study Fengshui, we were not fearful. Maybe one would feel afraid going there alone, but with many people, it is OK.


S: Or could it be that your attitude is very positive and upright?


C: Yes, yes, exactly. So I think the artists could continue to push and present this idea.


K: Continue to promote it and do it better?!

C: :對呀。

C: That’s right.

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