Kao Chung-li: The Man with the Film Projector

On 24/04/2015 by CFCCA Network

Kao Chung Li.jpg

23rd April to 5th May

The Peltz Gallery

Birkbeck, School of Arts

43 Gordon Square, London WC1H OPD

Monday –Friday: 10am–8pm

(Tuesday 5th May, closes 5pm)

Saturday: 10am–5pm

Sunday closed

‘The  Man  with  the  Film  Projector’  is  Kao  Chung-­‐li’s  first  solo  exhibition  in  the  UK.  Kao  is  one  of  most   important  artist  working  in  Taiwan  today,  and  his  practice  combines  filmmaking,  painting,  photography,   sculpture  and  installation.  The  artist  is  undeniably  influenced  by  the  impact  of  European  avant-­‐garde   cinema  (when  works  by  auteurs  such  as  Alain  Resnais  and  Jean-­‐Luc  Godard  were  introduced  to  Taiwan   by  Theatre  Quarterly  in  the  1960s),  but  he  has  also  created  his  own  aesthetic  languages.  In  particular,  he   has  modified  a  variety  of  cinematic  devices  in  order  to  reflect  the  socio-­‐economical  complexity  of   contemporary  Taiwan  (which  he  describes  as  the  ‘audio-­‐visual  underprivileged  of  the  Third  World’).   Reflecting  on  the  way  in  which  cinematic  mechanisms  of  the  West  have  been  transformed  and   interiorized  by  the  visual  culture  of  Taiwan,  Kao  modified  8-­‐mm  film  and  slide  projectors,  renaming   them  ‘photochemical  mechanical  mobile  images’  and  ‘slideshow  cinema’  respectively.  Adapting   cinematic  devices  in  this  way  is  a  critical  gesture  for  Kao,  since  he  notes  that  ‘film  history  in  the  West  is   created  by  the  film  camera  [which  represents]  the  viewpoint  of  filmmakers’. Kao  focuses  his  attention on  the  role  of  spectator  whose  film  experience,  he  feels,  is  often  informed  by  the  film  projector,  which   in  turn  impacts  upon  the  way  identity  and  ideology  is  formed.  In  order  to  initiate  critical  viewing,  Kao   consistently  employs  such  machinery  as  emblems  of  systems  of  power,  obsessively  collecting  and   transforming  out-­‐dated  audio-­‐visual  equipment  that  poured  into  Taiwan  from  the  ‘First  World’   (especially  the  US).  He  is  an  autodidactic,  media-­‐archaeologist  perpetually  creating  his  own  idiosyncratic   histories  of  cinema.

Born  in  Taiwan  in  1958  to  a  second-­‐generation  family  of  Chinese  immigrants,  Kao  uses  his  work  to   investigate  the  complex  relationship  between  history  and  personal  biography.  ‘The  Man  with  the  Film   Projector’  showcases  My  Mentor,  Chen  Yingzhen  (2010),  a  film-­‐diary  based  on  the  memories  of  Chen   Yingzhen,  one  of  the  most  important  writers  in  post-­‐war  Taiwan.  Chen  was  an  intellectual  who  devoted   himself  to  leftist  ideals,  and  often  clashed  with  both  the  right-­‐wing  authoritarian  government  and  the   mainly  liberal  intellectual  community  in  1960s  and  ’70s  Taiwan.

The  exhibition  will  also  present  Slideshow  Cinema 1 :  Taste  of  Human  Flesh  (2010–12),  an  audio-­‐visual   installation  that  tells  the  story  of  Kao’s  father  (who  was  shot  during  the  civil  war  in  China  in  around  1948)   through  the  key  motif  of  the  bullet  travelling  through  his  father’s  body.  The  exhibition’s  archival  section   presents  historic  materials  of  the  avant-­‐garde  in  Taiwan  including  the  pioneering  Theatre  Quarterly   (1965–7),  Kao’s  early  experimental  film  That  Photograph  (1984)  and  stills  of  the  artist  performing  in  Hou   Hsiao-­‐hsien’s  film  A  Time  to  Live,  A  Time  to  Die  (1985).

In  conjunction  with  this  exhibition,  there  will  be  an  exclusive  film  screening  event  and  panel  discussion   on  14  May  at  LUX,  an  international  arts  agency  that  supports  and  promotes  the  moving  image.  George   Clark,  Assistant  Curator  of  Film  at  Tate,  will  chair  the  event,  which  aims  to  explore  the  experimental  film   history  of  Taiwan  as  well  as  Kao’s  specific  film  aesthetics.  The  screening  will  showcase  many  rare   experimental  films,  all  never  before  shown  in  the  UK,  including  Zhuang  Ling’s  Life  Continued  (1966),   Chen  Yao-­‐chi’s  The  Mountain  (1966)  and  Chang  Chao-­‐tang’s  Face  in  Motion  (1970).  The  screening  will   also  include  Kao’s  early  experimental  film  Home  Movies  (1988),  which  inspired  Yu  Wei-­‐yen’s  film  Gang   of  Three  Forever  (1989).  The  panel  will  also  include  Chang  Shih-­‐lun,  a  PhD  candidate  at  the  Centre  for   Cultural  Studies,  Goldsmiths  College,  and  Chou  Yu-­‐ling,  the  curator  of  this  exhibition.  Topics  under   discussion  will  include  Kao’s  media  politics  and  the  relationship  between  home  movies  and  early   experimental  films  in  Taiwan.

‘Kao  Chung-­‐li:  The  Man  with  the  Film  Projector’  is  curated  by  Chou  Yu-­‐ling  as  a  part  of  the  Taiwan   Spotlight  Project,  presented  by  both  Birkbeck,  University  of  London,  and  the  Taipei  Representative   Office  in  the  UK.  LUX  Artists’  Moving  Image  also  supports  the  screening  and  panel  discussion.  The   Taiwan  Spotlight  Project  is  funded  by  the  Ministry  of  Culture  (Republic  of  China,  Taiwan)  and  the   generosity  of  the  Taiwanese  entrepreneur  and  philanthropist,  Dr  Samuel  Yin.

About the Artist  

Kao  Chung-­‐li  (b.1958)  lives  and  works  in  Taipei.  He  began  working  with  8-­‐mm  film  in  the  1980s  and  his   early  works  received  five  Golden  Harvest  Awards  (Taiwan’s  pre-­‐eminent  short-­‐film  awards  of  the  1980s)   between  1984  and  1988.  Kao  also  worked  as  a  photojournalist  for  China  Time  Weekly  in  1984  and  later   became  an  editor  for  Sunday  Comics  (1989–91),  a  cartoon  periodical.  Edward  Yang,  one  of  the  leading   figures  in  Taiwan  New  Cinema  and  co-­‐founder  of  Sunday  Comics,  considered  Kao  to  be  one  of  the  most   talented  experimental  filmmakers  of  the  period.  In  1986,  one  year  before  the  lifting  of  martial  law  (an   order  promulgated  by  the  exiled  Republic  of  China  government,  who  had  taken  control  of  Taiwan,  and  in   effect  since  1949),  Kao,  Chen  Chieh-­‐jen,  Wang  Jun-­‐jieh  and  Lin  Ju  organized  a  series  of  underground  and   avant-­‐garde  exhibitions  called  ‘Living  Clay’  that  took  place  in  abandoned  apartments  and  filmmakers’   studios  in  Taipei.  The  aim  of  these  exhibitions  was  to  challenge  the  ‘official’  version  of  avant-­‐garde  art   that  promoted  largely  ‘formal,  self-­‐contained’  Modernist  abstraction.

Kao  developed  his  hybrid  artistic  language  both  through  his  artistic  practice  and  his  everyday  life.  By   making  8-­‐mm  home-­‐movies  in  his  spare  time,  Kao  documented  his  family  life  as  well  as  an  array  of   unusual  and  eccentric  sub-­‐cultural  activities.  These  recordings  all  became  source  material  for  his   experimental  film  creations,  and  therefore  it  is  almost  impossible  to  place  the  artist’s  practice  into  one   genre.  His  art  reflects  his  everyday  life,  but  also  presents  Taiwan’s  cultural  or  media  history.  He  filmed   his  father  with  an  8-­‐mm  camera,  he  photographed  cultural  events  as  a  journalist  and  later,  when  he  left  his  journalist  job  to  take  care  of  his  son,  he  converted  children’s  toys  into  what  he  called  a  ‘Palm-­‐Sized   Physical  Mobile  Imaging  Device’.  Now  in  his  mid-­‐50s,  Kao’s  failing  eyesight  means  that  he  is  no  longer   able  to  draw  or  make  films.  He  now  plays  the  role  of  an  archivist  and  has  begun  to  collect  amateur   photo  slides  for  his  latest  project:  ‘Slideshow  Cinema’.

Kao  participated  in  the  Taiwan  Pavilion,  ‘The  Spectre  of  Freedom’,  at  the  51st  Venice  Biennale     (2005);   the  Taipei  Biennale  ‘Modern  Monsters/  Death  and  Life  of  Fiction  in  Taipei’  (2012);  the  Kuandu  Biennale   ‘Recognition  System’  in  Taipei  (2014)  and  at  the  Shenzhen  Independent  Animation  Biennale  in  Shenzhen,   China  (2014).  His  most  recent  solo  exhibition  was  ‘Kao  Chung-­‐li:  Watch  Time  Watching’  (2010)  at  Tina   Keng  Gallery,  Taipei,  and  ‘Kao  Chung-­‐li:  At  Present’  (2007)  in  the  Artists’  Space,  National  Hsinchu   University  of  Education,  Taiwan.


Exhibition  Launch  Event

23rd  April  2015,  7.00pm

The  Peltz  Gallery     Birkbeck,  School  of  Arts

43  Gordon  Square   London  WC1H  0PD

Film  and  Panel  Discussion

14th  May  2015,  7–  9.00pm

LUX     3rd  Floor   Shacklewell  Studios

18  Shacklewell  Lane   London  E8  2EZ


Film  screening:  ‘Little  Cinema’:  Early  Experimental  Films  in  Taiwan

Life  Continued  ∣  1966  ∣  Zhuang  Ling  ∣  14  min

The  Mountain  ∣  1966  ∣  Chen  Yao-­‐chi  ∣  19  min

Face  in  Motion  ∣  1970  ∣  Chang  Chao-­‐tang  ∣  3  min

Panel  1:  Taiwan’s  ‘Little  Cinema’:  Home  Movies  and  Experimental  Films  by  Chou  Yu-­‐ling

Film  screening:  Kao  Chung-­‐li’s  home  movies     Home  Movies  ∣  1988  ∣  Kao  Chung-­‐li  ∣  20  min

Panel  2:  In  Defence  of  Lost  Causes:  The  Media  Politics  of  Kao  Chung-­‐Li’s  Film  Works  by  Chang  Shih-­‐lun

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