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SYNAPSE Workshop 2015 | June 30 – July 4, 2015

Speculative Dust

30.04.2015 | Blog

Elevage de poussieres; didn’t we raise the dust, though, old boy”

-Man Ray

The above mentioned quote is by the artist Man Ray in response to his photograph, “Dust Breeding”, which he took of Marcel Duchamp’s “Large Glass” as it was a work in progress. In his New York studio Duchamp elevated the then plate of glass flat across two horse pegs by the window so it would collect whatever matter blew in from the street. Duchamp inserted a sign securing the sanctimony of his activity, “Dust breeding, to be respected”.

Duchamp, of course, is most well-known for entering a urinal into what was in those days the rarified space of a museum. But his collaboration with Man Ray was perhaps a more subtle but also notable insurrection into the value-making system of his time. One could argue that dust is the enemy of the museum, a space where objects are preserved and their boundaries are guarded and secured. The museum breeds the illusion of permanence while dust always has the last word.

In the deadened present my mind again turns to dust. I don’t use the word “deadened” flippantly, but we encounter surely today a landscape of exhaustion, of exhausted ideas and forms; and the growing redundancy of the dominant cultural arbiters of value. Once a museum like MoMA decides to mount a retrospective of a Pop star like Bjork, it cedes some of its authority in art. It is an entertainment bargain which does not come without a cost.

It is not original to say that art has in effect become fashion. We have a revolving cast of styles and categories which circulate in the huge but vacuous arena of contemporary art. To turn back to dust for a moment, here we are presented with infinity in the face of the limited and thus exhausted range of possibilities in the cultural hegemony of the moment. There is surely some philosophical secret hidden within the material reality of dust. It is force meeting matter and I don’t even wish to reduce it to the category or capture of “time”. Redundancy, no matter how over-abundant it is the contemporary art world, is a totally foreign concept in relation to life and life force. All around us are signs of decay, fragmentation, matter on its way to becoming dust. Maybe  here there is a different story being told, some clues to a way out of the mire in which we are cast.

This essay was published on the exhibition Speculative Dust at Corner Art Space in Seoul. Curated by Wang Chun-chi, the art in this exhibition is marked by its disparateness but also its immersion into concrete material reality; a willingness to stare into the unknown.Speculative Dust features work by Ting Chaong-wen, RohwaJeong, Joon Kim, Mirai Jeon, and Kuo I-chen.

Speculative Dust

MAY 8 – JUNE 5, 2015



No One River Flows 無河不流, 有河必流

08.12.2013 | Blog

“No man (sic.) ever steps in the same river twice…” Heraclitus 6th Century BC

The preceding quote is something that was reputedly said by the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus, though everything we know about him is from second-hand accounts. If Greek thought was about to flourish and dominate for the next three millennia, continuing on into our own tenuous and exhausted present, Heraclitus was  in its earliest days the sharpest voice of dissent, attacking its foundations with his philosophy of flux. One hundred years later he would be criticised by Plato, and then Aristotle, for violating the first principle of the law of non-contradiction, without which, they claimed, scientific knowledge would not be possible. But while stating from the outset that humans are too stupid to understand his theories, Heraclitus propelled forward an alternative strain of thought that has survived but never prospered. 

Perhaps a wayward son of the aristocracy, Heraclitus described himself as being “self-taught”. He attacked Pythagoras, the founder of Mathematics, as a fraud. Whereas Pythagoras and his secretive cult-like following worshipped numbers whose harmony they believed to be the basis of nature, Heraclitus stated that there are no stable entities. “Nothing endures but change”. Instead there is the ebb and flow of matter which connects and forms into constellations, but only momentarily, before separating apart. Not only could one not step twice into the same river – as the moment one has stepped into the river it is already no longer the same – but also, one would not be the same person. Heraclitus allowed no stable unitary identity. Rather than a philosophy of objects and being, it is a philosophy of process and becoming.

Heraclitus appears to have been extremely isolated. He was frequently derided, called “The Weeping Philosopher”, as a commentary on his melancholia but also as a slight on his famous river aphorism. Raphael, in his famous fresco “School of Athens”, figured Michelangelo as Heraclitus, separate and aloof from the other philosophers, moody and alone. And yet his philosophy could not be ignored. Plato often referred to it and in a sense agreed with Heraclitus but worked around his theory by stating that while the material world is in flux and full of illusion, behind this world is another plane of pure forms where true reality resides. Plato famously uses his cave analogy to describe slaves inside the cave watching the flickering shadows on the walls generated by a fire they cannot see. This illusion is the closest they will get to reality and they can never know the pure forms. Only the philosopher through reason could escape this enslavement and begin to understand reality and truth. Plato’s pure forms posited a transcendental human subject but formed a foundation for human knowledge in the face of Hericlitus’ radical challenge.

When Marcel Duchamp exhibited his urinal, he threw the status of the object, which was so important to the culture of industrial capitalism, in question. Its meaning appeared not as an inner or innate quality but more determined by its multiple relations and position as inserted into a network of signs. Dada disrupted the composed centered human subject that had been developing since the Renaissance , and introduced chance and non-rationalism into the equation. Throughout the twentieth century there was a drive towards countering the fetishised art object and the position of spectator within the logic of exhibition. Fluxus, conceptual art, Happenings, and process art, were among those strains challenging the hegemony of the reified art object; even if these experiments rarely impacted beyond the art world and its institutions.  By the eighties though the large neo-expressionistic canvas was back in vogue, with once-radical expressionism now codified for the market, and art has in a general sense got bigger, more expensive, typically veering towards the spectacle that is at the heart of this publicity age.

Enter economic collapse, major global power shifts and the other side of optimism in regards to ideology, and process can be seen to be tugging its way to the forefront of possible relevancy again. If social media has hollowed us out and turned our most intimate connections into publicity stunts and promotional activities, then more process-based art and events conjulating disparate and ‘”purposeful yet purposeless” activities could be an anecdote to the pimped-out-ed-ness we feel from the management of the abstract self-image we produce, maintain and administer through the digital manipulation mechanisms we call home. There is a calling  in these times for an art of the event, the unpredictable channelling together of multiple incommensurate flows.

This essay has been produced to accompany the exhibition No One River Flows at Kuangdu Museum in Taipei. Curated by Wang Chun-chi, the exhibition features work dealing with process more than the immediacy of the  retinal, veering towards the ethemeral, by Ting Chaong-Wen, Kuo-Wei Lin, Fujui Wang, Ting-Ting Cheng, Olaf Hochherz, RohwaJeong and Chihiro Minato. These works invite the exhibition attendee to enter into the fray, and consider themselves beyond the mere relation of visual spectator in the art they are experiencing.

No One River Flows

DEC 27, 2013 - FEB 27, 2014


DEC 27, 2013 – FEB 27, 2014






KAO Chung-Li 高重黎// Ah-Q

21.09.2013 | Blog

KAO Chung-Li 高重黎 KAO started working with photography and experimenting filmmaking (Super 8 mm). Though he had no official training in these areas, he made a name for himself in the circles of photography and experimental short films in Taiwan in the 1980s. KAO‘s work featured an 8 mm projector he made out of different objects. He hand-drew a series of paintings using a pencil, and made them into an animated short film. The animation was integrated with actual objects to form what he calls „Photochemical Mechanic Animation“. The new type of art developed by Kao has much significance. In this era swarmed by digital image technologies, KAO brings image production back to the primitive stage. He exposes the power struggles behind the image technologies through a creative process that can almost be described as handcrafts. KAO puts together recycled materials, a self-altered 8 mm projector and film cases to make a sculpture-like projection installation; each frame of his animation is one of his paintings in pencil. He does not edit, or carry out post-production. From hardware to software, KAO firmly steps towards his ultimate goal— „to liberate the visual world—the world of the ‚audio-visually‘ disadvantaged.“ KAO believes that the control of Western powers (First World) on the third world countries is being transmitted via audio and video technologies; this process is unnoticed and is even welcomed at times. KAO wants to take apart and expose the steps of the production line, so that the viewers can understand and participate in the production. Ultimately, the viewers will be more aware of the mechanism on which images are produced.

Preview Berlin art fair 2013 


VENUE : Opernwerksatten

SEP 19-22, 2013




20.03.2013 | Blog

The technical definition of synesthesia is a state in which one sensory or cognitive pathway crosses over into another. It has also been described as a kind of hidden sense as many synesthetes are unaware that their sensory perceptions are unusual; or they may lack the terms in which to conceive of them. A synesthesic ability may be lying dormant due to its underuse, but remain as a latent sensory power. The term synesthesia comes from Ancient Greek, syn (“together”) and aisthesis (“sensation”). The discussion of synesthesia goes back to the beginnings of Greek philosophy when there was a debate over whether color, like pitch, could be considered a physical property of music.

The scientific psychological diagnosis of synesthesia, as an involuntary condition, should be contrasted to the artistic concept as an active investigation into the crossover potential, or bleeding over, between different realms of sensory faculty and experience. Commonly reported instances of synesthesia include seeing individual numbers or letters in different colors, or of visual motion and flicker triggering different sounds. But the range of reported instances of synesthesia is so dispersed and divergent that it runs counter to the notion of “common sense”, which has it roots in Aristotle and his idea that behind the exterior senses there is a sensus communis. The phenomenon of synesthesia contradicts the rational ordering of the senses into a group of five distinct senses, each related to an individuated exterior organ.

There has been a resurgence of interest In recent decades in synesthesia as a subject for study, but between the years 1930 and 1980 research into the area fell into a virtual oblivion, due to the rise of “Behaviourism” and the inability to measure and quantify subjective experience, which was distrusted. In recent years, Cretien van Campen has written frequently on synesthesia, often in relation to art and science. In his article “The Hidden Sense: On Becoming Aware of Synesthesia”, Campen writes that presumably everyone is born with a kind of synesthetic ability, but when we begin to learn cognitive skills and analytical thinking, somehow these perceptions subside into the background. They are considered deviant or abnormal, but yet remain uncodified in the system of representation.

Campen points out that young children do not have the same sharp sense of boundary between the self and surrounding environment. But in the process of education one learns to distrust the senses, and the body, but to instead trust rational and logical thinking. The abstract self becomes separate from the environment and other individuals. Not only do we live in a language system in which the senses are ordered into five distinct categories, but, as Marshall McLuhan has written, since the Renaissance these senses have been in a hierarchical relation, with sight at the top; but not unbounded sight, but, rather, sight as constructed and experienced through linear and central perspective. Campen writes, “Synesthesia is hidden in the senses. To experience it consciously, you will have to explore and go looking for it.” To bring out and develop this synesthetic ability requires “exposing oneself to new sensations, expressing one’s synesthesia, not being ashamed [and] being able to experiment with it”.

The city is a site with the potential for unbounded synesthesia when approached from an artistic perspective, in a kind of wandering. As a new form of nature, the variability contained within the city provides the opportunity for full immersion of the senses into a crossing over of states and language streams, once one has dislodged themselves from the subject position of busy utilitarian consumer bee. Construction in the city is invariably carried out in rational fashion, with utilitarian objectives, geared towards facilitating the most efficient capacity to produce and consume goods and services; and yet the city remains a contradiction with its tension between renewal and decay, and the ruptures created by historical discontinuities, shifts in power operations and structures. When a build first appears in its pristine condition it stands strictly positioned in a network of ascendent power. But as nature works its effect on the construction and the surrounding exterior environment changes, the meaning, and guarantee of its meaning, begins to fray, it’s utilitarian use begins to subside. Wayward signs are produced which cannot be traced back to referents. If one allows oneself to lose themselves in the sensory disarray, new perceptions and ways of experiencing can be uncovered.

Walter Benjamin often chronicled subjective city life, including his early childhood in Berlin at the turn of the century. Benjamin’s writing on Berlin was inextricably connected to the nature and production of memory; as an exile in Paris during the Nazi era, he knew that what he was describing in his writing would soon otherwise be irretrievable. His writing, based on experience, but through the subjectivity of a child, at least as far as that could be approached from his position as an adult writer, aimed to use experience to short-circuit history, redeeming that which would be occluded in as much as the future contains the past. Benjamin believed that the imprint the city leaves on the child is in the form of images, it’s physical materiality or form. In the posthumously published “Berlin around 1900,” Benjamin wrote that “the man who merely makes an inventory of his findings, while failing to establish the exact location of where in today’s ground the ancient treasures have been stored up, cheats himself of his richest prize. In this sense, for authentic memories, it is less important that the investigator report on them than he mark, quite precisely, the site where he gained possession of them.” Art taken from the approach is as much about the process of discovering these aberrant textures or aesthetics as it is in translating these sites to an audience. In terms of locating these deviant sensory perceptions, art for this kind provides a map to a hidden trajectory. At best it will stimulate the audience member into a full immersion of their own, a crossing over of the threshold of the self and distinct sensation into a becoming other, a becoming one with the environment, and the hidden sense of understanding the world through the body, to think through the body and the environment, beyond the the blinkered Vitruvian man of Western perspective.

This essay was published on the exhibition guide book “Urban Synesthesia” at ARKI Gallery in Taipei. Curated by WANG Chun-chi, the exhibition features work drawn from various urban landscapes by the artists Che Onejoon 崔元準(KR), TING Chaong-Wen 丁昶文(TW), LIU Ho-Jang 劉和讓(TW), Chihiro Minato 港千尋(JP), Rumiko Hagiwara 荻原留美子(JP), and George Chang 章森(CN). The works deal with sensory experience in aberrant textures of the urban landscape, often in chance discoveries or encounters.