Cheng-Tsai Chen

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Article

Confronting Selves to Find the Angel in You

Cheng-Tsai Chen works in video installations to create pieces that explore the uncertain divide between illusion and reality and that seek to unbalance the relationship between the holder of the gaze and its object.
‘In my artistic creations I always try to combine my technological skills with ideas dealing with the spirit of humanity. My main inspirations stem from my studies into the philosophy and poetry of the East.’

Cheng-Tsai Chen specialises in video installations. In early works such as Love and Dreams (1997) and Well of Dreams (1998) he tests the indistinct, shifting line that divides illusions from reality. In recent works, Chen appears to have begun exploring the equally uncertain boundary that separates those who enjoy mental health and those who suffer from learning difficulties. Yet in Portraits of Angels (2001), a three-channel DVD video installation, the attention is focused less on the subjects of his 30 minute videos than on the viewers of his work. The three people who suffer from learning disabilities may be shifting somewhat nervously in their seats as they suddenly find themselves in front of a camera, but by confronting his audience with their image, Chen seeks to unbalance the usual relationship between the holder of the gaze and its object. During an uncomfortable viewing, the viewers become the viewed.

In 2002, Chen displayed this work for his first exhibition in the UK, ‘Dream 02’, a show organised by the Red Mansion Foundation in London and supported by Visiting Arts. As the accompanying catalogue explains, Portraits of Angels may turn out to provide a mirror to the viewer, who, at a moment of vulnerability, may seek solace in a transformation of the self: ‘Not only do these photographs portray an unfamiliar image of the “self”, but they also display numerous incarnations of the “self”; at some point during the uneasy process of staring and observation new selves are formed. Maybe the only way that we can find the real meaning of existence is by continuously destroying our other selves.’

Bio

Cheng-Tsai Chen was born in Taipei in 1966. He studied philosophy at Donghai University in Taiwan until 1985 before training in art at the same university and graduating with a degree in Fine Art in 1990. He then won a German Art Exchange (DAAD) Scholarship in 1992 and went to study at the Institute of New Media in Frankfurt. From 1994 to 1997, he attended the Hochschule für Gestaltung Karlsruhe, Germany and was awarded an MA in New Media Art in 1997. A year later he began teaching as a lecturer in mixed media at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum and was also a researcher for the Foundation for Research on Open Space in Taipei. In 1999, he became a lecturer at Hsuan Chuang University in Hsinchu, Taiwan before leaving to teach at Wen San Community University in Taipei. He has exhibited mainly in Taiwan, though has also participated in shows in the UK, Hong Kong, Japan, Germany and the USA.

Works

SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS

Exhibition / Installation,
2003
2002 ‘Dream 02’, The Red Mansion Foundation, the.gallery@oxo and the Bargehouse, London, UK 2001 ‘The Gravity of the Immaterial’, Inaugural Exhibition of the ICA, Taiwan 2000 ‘When Habits Become Form’, Hsinchu Municpal Glass Arts and Crafts Museum, Hsinchu, Taiwan 2000 ‘Centrifugal Vision’, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong 1999 ‘Art, Technology, Recycle’, Fubon Art Foundation, Taiwan 1999 ‘Magnetic Writing/Marching Ideas’, IT Park Gallery, Taipei, Taiwan 1998 ‘Mechanical Image’, IT Park Gallery, Taipei, Taiwan

SOLO EXHIBITIONS

Exhibition / Installation,
2003
1999 ‘Bedroom-Window’, performance, Society of Contemporary Art, Taipei, Taiwan 1998 ‘The Well of Dreams’, Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taipei, Taiwan

PUBLIC COLLECTION

Exhibition / Installation,
2003
1996 ZKM (Center for Art and Media), Karlsruhe, Germany

Merits

2001 Artist in residence, ARCUS studio, Ibaraki, Japan
1997 SOCA Emerging Artist Award
1995 Best Experimental Video Award, Golden Wheat Film Festival, Taiwan