Curator: Chun-Yi CHANG

Can contemporary art, coexisting up to now with the postmodern multiculturalism,  fulfil the conditions to create a new era? Or does it still hesitate between the historical conditions of linear progress and repeat loop, falling thus unconsciously into a slumber in the embrace of normative thinking? Or does it indulge itself endlessly in the nostalgia of fetishism? By observing the practical domain of contemporary art, Nicolas Bourriaud pointed out that the postcolonial discourse urged some sort of leap transformation which, by unifying in return modernism and postcolonialism, would put an end to the postmodern era and give birth to the formation of the “altermodern” (altermoderne): a new modernism first-ever based on global dialogue in human history(1). To elaborate on the concept of altermodernism, Bourriaud adopted “radicants” as a botanic metaphor to describe a constantly changing formation of contemporary art: fresh roots growing continuously from the stem and flourishing in different directions(2). A radicant reached outwards in various ways, a growth mechanism very similar to what Gilles Deleuze called a “rhizome”: all end points were able to connect to each other(3). However, Deleuze emphasized a rhizome’s diversity developed out of the expansion, whereas Bourriaud took a radicant as a single subject in relation with the environment, and focused on an active radicant’s shapes derived progressively both on the path and in the process of evolution(4).

As a botanic metaphor from the Bromeliaceae, the Air Plant signifies a free, active subject of art creation and attempts to present an abundant field of art practice. Similar to radicants, air plants are able to cling and to adjust their growth mechanism in response to the environment. However, different from radicants, air plants can survive even “without roots.” With roots, air plants become earthbound; without roots, they grow independently by absorbing “nutrients” through their leaves. Air plants are incredibly resilient even in barren surroundings. If ever exists a field of art creation or a cultural vein of ore from which an artistic subject can absorb, just like the “nutrients” to air plants, it should not be confined in the primary soil and does not come from the “identity of culture” firmly held by the traditionalism and multiculturalism. Instead, the nutrients should come from the “fecundity of cultures” (la fécondité des cultures) springing from the gap (l’écart) between cultures, as François Jullien proposed (5). Like air plants capable of thriving without roots, a slight distance between subject and mother culture implies neither a clear break-up with roots, nor a departure from the mother culture where a subject has been bathed and shaped, nor a subject suspended in the imagination of a-historical culture. Rather, it indicates a stepping out of the native land where a subject has been living and relying so as to create a gap from the things taken for granted. If people have to think outside the box in order to catch glimpses of the unobserved, deep-rooted ideas inside the box, then only by this distance can a subject of art creation observe the thinking out of the unthinkable before now, in other words, observe the creative thinking itself serving simultaneously as both condition and boundary. A more creative individual will come to light in dialogue with others as well as by nutrient-absorbing in the environment.

All possibly passable spaces provided by dialogists to each other render a dialogue probable whose continuation depends on the “commonness of the intelligible” (le commun de l’intelligible) among dialogists engaged(6). In the field of art practice, the Air Plant offers for the participating artists a platform of dialogues: any preliminary concept of artworks before finalization can be a source of inspiration to each other so as to get a glimpse of what the exhibition might be in the future. In other words, at the moment when the commonness of the intelligible is triggered, unlimited possibilities will occur at the same time in all concepts of artwork. By reaching towards the others can an artist explore the unknown dimension in his/her own creation, and thus revitalize, in a chaotic state, the creative efficiency as art practice. Through the dialogues of art practice, the Air Plant hopes to demonstrate the ability of contemporary art as well as various possibilities lying in all art forms which travel between different, interwoven contexts of creation. The exhibition is therefore made out of round trip traverses—between object and stage prop, behavior and performance, installation and landscape, and unfolds itself as reconstruction of body, object and space, as interpretation of body movement and video language, as friction between imagination and reality, and as pastiche of daily objects as blueprint of others’ lives, and so on. Spectators are thus invited to experience the intricate and extending ability of contemporary art by observing human (body), event (behavior/performance) and object (sculpture/item/installation) in rotation. The performance ability is unfinished, but will extend via dialogues to the infinity.

(1) Chun-Yi Chang, “After Modernism and Postmodernism”, ARTCO Monthly. Taipei: ARTCO, Jan. Vol. 196, p. 54.
(2) Nicolas Bourriaud, Radicant : pour une esthétique de la globalisation, Paris, Édition Dénoël, Paris, 2009.
(3) Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari, Mille plateaux, Paris, Éditions de Minuit, 1980, p. 13-14. 
(4) Ibid., p. 62.
(5) François Jullien, Il n’y a pas d’identité culturelle, Paris, L’Herne, 2016. He believes that the fecundity of cultures is created by the gap between cultures. He advocates that the so-called identity of culture does not exist because of the changing nature of culture. The fixed, identical culture could exist only in the diseased cultures. Therefore, what we should defend lies in the resources or fecundity of cultures rather than in the identity of culture that results in different cultures cuddling up in their own differences.
(6) Ibid., p. 91.

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