Piazza Vittorio Veneto 9
December 12, 1995 – February 25, 1996
Mali Wu enters the international art scene as one of the most representative artists not only of Taiwan but of the whole of South East Asia. Her artistic idiom develops in the context of post-conceptual international art and represents an important renaissance of Chinese-Taiwanese culture in the current phase of world globalisation. Her work is primarily concerned with investigating the concept of time and space in their interaction with our systems of communication and creating a link between the great culture of the East and the West.
Her field of enquiry, rich in cultural identity and metaphysical references, is a ‘place of language’ that operates in a zone where diverse cultural spheres can meet and dialogue. Hence her interest in communication and information media such as newspapers, books and written texts.
To live in Taiwan today, means to inhabit a fragmented and segmented world where traditional cultures in part coexist with new western ways of life, in part disintegrate, and where one’s sense of identity is constantly tested and sometimes lost in an infinate accumulation of different behavioural models. Hence the need to preserve memory as an encounter of identities and the necessity to retain fragments of culture and knowledge. Elements which however, should not become islands of separate life, but a call for new energy, for a new reality in which aspects of the past are united with an unprecedented level of technological progress. The art of Mali Wu moves within this complex cultural context and retains in its making a profoundly transgressive force deriving from the social, economical and political issues of her country’s current history. All of this generates the energy for new potential forms of expression, fresh outlooks and points of view.
In the exhibition at the Giorgio Persano Gallery in Turin, Mali Wu focuses her attention on the culture of the Old Continent and, setting herself at ‘the Zero Point’ of a new knowledge of the world, through her photographic images of world-famous personalities, as well as her plexiglass books containing authentic fragments, she posits the cultural foundations of a new global credibility.
Indeed through her own artistic practice the artist constructs a new expression that is generated when shifting and altering our cultural models of reference.
The photographic images exhibited, in fact, do not show these famous personalities in the years of their maturity, but represent them in their early childhood.
The artist, having carried out a bibliographical research to identify the most prominent personalities in the different fields of culture, thus releases into the art system a series of unedited images, a group of icons that generate, by their analogy and juxtaposition, a real visual transgression: memory assumes in Mali Wu’s art the weight of a veritable category, in which the origin of culture is expressed somatically not as a flow that runs from the present to the past, but rather as an actuation of the past that leaves an imprint on the experience of the present. This undoubtedly creates an emotive tone in which the people represented in the years in which their memory is not yet formed (long term mnemonic systems develop around the age of two and a half) become the visual symbols of a new metaphor: in this way real interactions develop between the subjects represented, such that the system of specially constructed implications related to the term applied metaphorically acts as a means for organising and selecting interactive relationships that create a new referential context.
In this vast work by Mali Wu we therefore find represented philosophers such as: Adorno, Wittgenstein, Sartre; physics such as Einstein; artists such as: Picasso, Kandinski, Van Gogh, DalÏ, Warhol, Paik; politicians such as: Roberspierre, Ghandi, DeGaulle, Hitler, Gorbaciov, Brandt, Thatcher; writers such as: Kafka, Joyce, Musil, CÈline, ValÈry, Brecht, Jaspers; movie producers and actors such as: W. Disney, Visconti, Fassbinder, Wenders, M. Monroe and so forth.
The culture of images is thus taken back to its ‘Zero Point’, in so far as the iconographic language, stripped of the exterior characteristics that make these personalities mythically recognizable, transforms itself more and more deceptively into objective perception capable of presenting itself as immediate reality. In the exhibition Scriptura the mythological system, which consists in placing mythical man within a universe of his own, loses its symbolic function, through the images tied to puerility, where mythical and poetical attributes are altogether absent. Hence the various images become configurations outside of time, that can converge and interrelate as simple words or signs. In this work Mali Wu, by invalidating the power of myth, globalises world culture opening it up to new and infinite realities of the present and the future. Having removed the value of archetype and mythical substance from the material of history, she allows them to converge and fluctuate among themselves in their objectiveness.
Her art thus becomes an infinite journey inside of the global temporal-spatial dimension, where time is not conceived simply as a continuum that links past, present and future, but becomes instead the ‘rooting’ of a past that must be continuously processed and of a present that should be considered representative of a future full of new linguistic possibilities. It is for this reason that her work represents a ‘place of language’ where different cultures, that will undoubtedly have to homologate more and more, can interact. The fragmentation and shredding of the great classics of Chinese and Western culture visualizes on the one hand the need for a constant exchange between different traditions, and on the other it proposes a new vision of the world as a common shelter for all of humanity. Mali Wu shreds into small pieces the great literary classics of East and West reducing them with violence into a mixture of particles which are then repackaged into plexiglass containers and reshelved. The culture of the past is thus deconstructed of its authority to become a coagulum of identity capable of retaining fragments of historic memory and knowledge. Therefore with her own plexiglass books, containing in full the original text and displaying on the back the exact title of the bound volume, she can compose open shelf libraries to propose to museum and art gallery visitors. At the Giorgio Persano Gallery the artist exhibits in the entrance hall, two large shelves on which one finds the erotic literature of the East and West and on the wall opposite a new structure with five books that contain as many ‘Flash Art’ art magazines.
The artist through her own artistic and intellectual practice lays the foundations for a new kind of project: to fight against the extinction of mankind and at the same time to become promoter of the birth of a new humanity.
The artwork becomes the place where the shredded fragments of the books mix and lose their identity, but not their differences. The knowledge of the world as world, once it has lost its specific identity, becomes at once intellectual and vital. This reformation of thought that underlies Mali Wu’ s work, on the one hand produces a cancellation of the spatial visibility of different knowledges, on the other hand promotes their new contextualisation in the global world. All this requires, of course, a richer and more complex classification of knowledge.
The sectorial and reductionist intelligence that breaks up the aspect of the wholeness of the world into disjointed fragments is replaced in the work of this artist by an open and flexible cognitive ability that can understand and resolve problems in their interrelatedness and complexity. This new global rationality, that breaks with the typically western illusion of being the sole masters of reason and that does not imply the idea of deterministic progress, is better suited to understand the terrestrial identity of man in his complexity.
In The Zero Point of Literature that consists of a voluminous heap of shredded printed paper occupying the entire third room of the gallery, Mali Wu wants to express and represent, in the tactile and indetermined visibility of a great accumulation of atomised literature, ‘the planetary horizon’ where indeed the relationships of interaction and retroaction, as global elements, are indissolubly linked together.
The Zero Point of Literature thus becomes the place of organizing thought that ensures that the part (the individual, the nation) finds its place in the whole (the planet) and that the whole finds itself inside the part. Amplified to its planetary dimension, thought can thus refer us from the part to the whole and from the whole to the part through an association of the elements of the global system.
In this way the opposition between the universal and the concrete, the general and the particular, typical of the old rationality, no longer applies. In the new paradigmatic planetary thought all is shared and contextualised: the universal becomes unique and concrete in the terrestrial universe. The Zero Point of Literature is the paradigmatic place of this contextualisation of art.
The exhibition ends in the fourth room where a suspended layer of tightly compacted crumpled magazine papers conceals the ceiling so as to form a real strata of information that looms over the visitors to the exhibition: a warm metaphor that indicates that the real protagonist of today’s cultural and political world scene is none other than communication and its media variants.
The global village can thus materialize from the fragmentation of cultural identities that converge with one another while retaining their differences.
Translation by Marcia Wallace