Taiwanese artist Hsu Chia-wei (許家維) launched his new creation, "Black & White — Malayan Tapir," in New York on Oct. 30. The work, which consists of a video recorder with four screens, was first displayed at Taipei Fine Arts Museum this July. This is the first time that the work has been exhibited internationally and had a joint opening with 5533, an Ottoman art institution. It attracted hundreds of people to the exhibition.
Hsu participated in the residency program of ISCP in New York after being selected by the Ministry of Culture in 2010. Because of this, being backed by ISCP with his new creation is significant. Kari Conte, director of the department of exhibitions at the institution, and senior staff were surprised by his activity and growth in recent years. Susan Hapgood, the supervisor, called him "an outstanding alumnus" and admired the fact that many visiting groups and residency artists were attracted by the video recorder when it was been tested.
Hsu made "Black & White — Malayan Tapir" about historical issues of personal interest, but gave the leading role to an endangered animal and switched the background to Southeast Asia. He explained that when the European empires colonized Asia, they developed overseas trade while studying indigenous animals and plants. William Farquhar, a first officer assigned to Malacca by the British East India Company, once hired Chinese painters to sketch and document the wild species of Malaysia.
The relationship William Farquhar and Thomas Stamford Raffles, the governor-general of Singapore, spread from political competition to scientific disputes. Their collections and records of animals and plants reflected colonial dominions and maritime superpowers. Hsu has explained that there are many ways to know history. For example, he produced "Drones, Frosted Bats and the Testimony of the Deceased" when he came upon frosted bats while studying Japanese colonial history, and this aroused his interest in exploring history from the point of view of animals and plants.
In "Black & White — Malayan Tapir," Hsu wants to deal with the equal relationship between human and nonhuman, human and nature, by using the format of encyclopedia entries. The work is displayed with a big screen composed of four smaller ones, and the appearance of the scene switches between fragmented and linear.
The frame shifts between the National Gallery Singapore, National Museum of Natural Science, and Singapore Zoo, discussing the political relationship between the history of Southeast Asian zoos and colonialism, then showing scientific paintings, biological makeup, urban zoning, and local tales of the Malayan tapir, and investigating changes in the way that people watch images.
The exhibition, which is supported by the Ministry of Culture with cooperation from the Taipei Cultural Center in New York and ISCP, will be displayed at ISCP for three months, until Jan. 25, 2019.